SHAWANO — Dressed in a white acolyte’s robe, Todd Raether stood after daily Mass in the gathering space at Sacred Heart Church in Shawano and greeted people, laughing with some, hugging others.
Looking on several feet away, Mary Raether said she is sure that her husband will make a good deacon.
“He’s got a good heart. People in the parish are drawn to him,” she said.
“Todd’s always been a person of service,” Mary added. “Helping others has always been part of our marriage, right from the start, and that fits with the ministry of service of the deacon.”
Sacred Heart Deacon James Lonick said that both he and fellow parishioner, Deacon Mark Fuller, were already in the diaconate formation program when Raether began the journey toward his ordination to the permanent diaconate, set for Saturday, May 12, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.
“For as long as I have known Todd,” Deacon Lonick said, “he has been involved with youth ministry and service. His commitment to sharing our Catholic faith and community with the youth of our parish has been a mainstay of who he is.”
He said he’s seen Raether serve as a catechist, help facilitate the Alpha faith development process with the parish staff and chaperoned students on retreat trips to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio for many years.
“It is in these efforts that he brings his love and commitment to our Lord to those he encounters,” Deacon Lonick said, “and it is comfortable and approachable, while devout at the same time. Many deacons are strong in the liturgical elements in the role and develop the outward service in time. Todd has had the outward service identity of a deacon first and well-established as part of his life.”
That service commitment has shone in Raether’s more than 20 years involvement with the Shawano Optimist Club, Deacon Lonick said. “Todd has always had an eye open to where there is a need in the community,” he noted. “It is his genuine care and interest in serving others and the way that Mary and Todd make themselves available for others, that I see Todd already living the life of a good and faithful servant.”
Raether, 51, is the son of Dan and Judy Raether, who now live in Suamico. He has lived in Shawano and been a parishioner at Sacred Heart since the age 5. He’s a financial planner with an educational background that includes the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
A partner in the firm of Sovereign Financial Group with offices in Shawano and Green Bay, Raether has no trouble connecting his work life with faith life.
“We have a cross in our company logo for a reason,” Raether said. “We try to help people do the right thing with their money, realizing it is a gift from God and offering them opportunities for sharing.”
Along with teaching in Sacred Heart’s religious education program, he restarted youth ministry.
“I had a great experience in the youth group when I was a teen,” Raether recalled, “and I wanted to give that experience to others. I’ve always said that if I could help make a difference for one kid for God, then I’ve done my job.”
He admitted feeling burned out after doing youth ministry for many years and, on retreat, asked God, “Where do you want me to go next?”
“I heard very clearly, ‘I want you to be a deacon,’” Raether said.
Mary called experiencing the diaconate training program with her husband “a great journey” where she grew closer to Jesus and grew in the desire to help others.
Raether described the five-year discernment process as “not short, but a great blessing in my life. Every course takes my faith life deeper.”
At Sacred Heart the Raethers have served as lector and commentator at Mass “since we were first married,” Mary noted.
Together the Raethers raised four children, with the youngest graduating from college this year. Mary has served on committees at church, and together the Raethers led a small group when Sacred Heart offered the RENEW spiritual renewal program.
“We loved it,” Mary said. “Our group included people of all ages, and it was so cool with all those people sharing where they were in their faith journey.”
Both are deeply committed to SAM25 (Shawano Area Matthew 25), the homeless shelter started a few years ago by people from nearby churches of a variety of denominations.
Mary Raether is on the board of directors, and Todd volunteers taking staffing shifts and working security and building maintenance “with a great crew of maintenance volunteers,” he interjected.
“It’s unfortunate that there is such a need,” Mary said, but she’s comforted that volunteering at the shelter fits the mission of which Pope Francis keeps reminding people.
“I’m glad we can be there for those who need it, and in a nonjudgmental way,” she said.
Asked how he prays best, Raether answered, “Through music.”
Song is an integral part of human life, he explained, and he finds it easy to pray along with contemporary Christian praise and worship music and artists like Matt Maher and the group Mercy Me and their powerful messages.
He’s also excited by the Alpha program that is being taken up by Catholic parishes.
“My hope as a deacon,” Raether said, “is to help the parish grow in discipleship in the New Evangelization.”
Other deacon candidates include: