GREENVILLE — The Holy Spirit has taken Brian Albers out of his comfort zone and on a most fulfilling journey into the diaconate.
Albers’ journey included a Catholic school education, some skepticism, a timeout from regular churchgoing, raising a family and a conversion, which helped him fall in love with his church. It is a journey to which many Catholics can relate. He will be sharing their journeys at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish after his May 12 ordination as a deacon.
It is an exciting time for Albers and his wife, Kelly, as they complete his seven-year formation period for the diaconate. Albers’ journey began in Green Bay. He graduated from Abbot Pennings High School, De Pere. His wife, a De Pere native, graduated from St. Joseph Academy, Green Bay. They will celebrate 25 years of marriage in June and are parents to four children: Brook, 19, will be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Superior; son George, 14, will be a freshman at St. Mary Catholic High School, Neenah; Brendan, 8, is in second grade at St. Mary School, Greenville; and Sam, 5, is in kindergarten at St. Mary, Greenville.
Albers is a mechanical engineer and director of engineering at Galloway Co., Neenah. He graduated from Michigan Technical University in Houghton, Mich. His wife is a clinical laboratory scientist with Ascension.
“Most of my life until 15 years ago, I was a nonpracticing Catholic,” Albers began. “I grew up in the church, but I stopped attending when I was in college. When I married Kelly, she was more faithful than I was and I started going back to Mass. When our children were born, I felt the Holy Spirit start calling me deeper. I wanted to be a good role model for my children. The Holy Spirit put challenges in front of me to make me commit,” he said.
The family has lived in Greenville for 20 years and went through some trials with their faith community as the parish struggled with divisiveness and a leadership crisis. “Some of the things that were going on offended me,” Albers said, “but Bishop (David) Zubik gave witness to how to handle it. That impressed me.”
He continued, “The biggest turning point for me was the new belief in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Through the presence of Christ, I came to the point where I lived Ezekiel 36:26,” which says the Lord will replace a heart of stone. “That’s exactly what I felt. It was the first time I felt love and grace through the Eucharist.”
The first time he went to confession after this experience, he said, “Kelly looked at me and said I looked 20 pounds lighter.” He became more involved with his parish. As he traveled around the country and the world with his work, he attended Catholic Masses and found adoration chapels. A Cursillo “cemented all this for me and I asked, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ In my heart, I heard, ‘Be a deacon.’”
Albers, who is German and Polish, traveled to Poland for work. “I forced coworkers to go with me to the shrines and Auschwitz. Twenty years ago, I never would have done that.” The travels made “me realize how big the church is. Wherever we are in the world, Christ is the same for all of us. That always gave me a lot of comfort.”
As the call persisted, Kelly said he asked God for signs. “He is funny about signs. For Brian, signs need to be right in your face and I remember people randomly coming up and saying, to him, ‘Are you a deacon?’ or ‘You should be a deacon.’”
When the time was right, about seven years ago, Albers completed the application process for the diaconate. Since he was working in Oshkosh at the time, he volunteered at Father Carr’s Place 2B and then went on to help with prayer services at Brewster Village in Appleton.
“It’s interesting because Brian does not like hospitals,” Kelly said. “This really took him out of his comfort zone. There were moments of humor, but also moments when he felt the presence of Christ.”
“I did it because I had to,” Albers said, “but I soon realized this is what I should be doing.” He has been leading prayer services there for seven years and will continue after ordination.
He also has taught faith formation, finding that teaching high school students is a good fit for him. “I learn with them,” he said. “I try to incorporate Scripture in my lessons.” He teaches Old and New Testaments and ecclesiology.
“This, and the diaconate formation classes, helped me to grow and understand what faith and community are,” he said.
“Part of the equation,” his wife added, “was watching our daughter become part of CYE (Catholic Youth Expeditions) and her experience with the sisters and Fr. Quinn (Mann, CYE co-founder). We all went on one of their camping events.”
“I am excited for this next step,” he said. “I’m excited to use my gifts for the church officially, and to use my management and organization skills for the church. I’m excited to get more involved in care ministry — outreach to the sick, hospitals and the homebound. It’s the same ministry I did before, but being ordained steps it up a notch.”
Other deacon candidates include: