Journey to diaconate spans entire life, says Rotherham

ALLOUEZ — Greg Rotherham was recently asked how long it takes to become a deacon. He replied, “About 62 years.”

For Rotherham, who will be ordained a deacon on May 12 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, his faith journey to the diaconate spans his entire life, supported by the people who have influenced him along the way.

Greg Rotherham

“I had so many priests, teachers, family and examples in my life,” he said, “and so many blessings, especially Ann (his wife), that I owe God my best to pay it back.”

During formation, Rotherham was asked to think about his mission. He chose “All that I am, I owe” as his motto to guide him in passing along the gifts he has received to others. The first to provide the gift of faith was his parents, Joseph and Mary Rotherham.

“I was really blessed to have two parents — they have since passed away — who brought us up in the faith,” he said. “My dad was in the seminary. He left to go to World War II. When he came back, his first job was in Pueblo (Colorado), where he met my mom. My dad was a very devout Catholic. I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. I’ve always loved the Catholic Church. I grew up around priests. All four boys in my family are named after priests.”

The Rotherhams were members of St. Leander Parish in Pueblo, the diocese where Bishop David Ricken was ordained a priest in 1980. The bishop and the soon-to-be deacon have discussed the connection.

Rotherham, who was an altar server in Pueblo, moved to Green Bay with his family at the start of high school. He is a graduate of Premontre High School, Green Bay, and St. Norbert College, De Pere. His involvement in the church continued in northeast Wisconsin, including serving as a lector as a young adult and as a catechist.

“I’ve always been in love with the Eucharist,” said Rotherham. “Most of my life, I have been a daily Mass-goer. In formation, I really fell in love with the Gospel. The honor of proclaiming the Gospel is something I have really come to appreciate.”

Rotherham is president of The Elite Group, a marketing company in De Pere, where he works with two of his brothers, Kurt and Gary. He was previously an executive at Humana and Schneider National. Other than stints in Kentucky and Minnesota, Green Bay has been home during his adult life.

He is a past parish member of both St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Agnes, and a current member of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish. He will serve as a deacon at St. Agnes and at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion.

Rotherham said that he fought the call to the diaconate for a decade. He credits confession with Bishop Robert Banks for prompting him to answer.

“He, out of the blue, asked if I was a deacon,” explained Rotherham. “I said, ‘No, I’m not worthy of that.’ Bishop Banks said, ‘Get over that, none of us are worthy of this call.’ That bluntness woke me up. The deal I made with God is I will start moving down this path and stop me if it’s not the right call. He hasn’t stopped me yet.”

Rotherham, who earned a master’s in theological studies from St. Norbert College, looks forward to serving on the altar and assisting Fr. Patrick Beno, pastor at St. Agnes.

“I’m willing to do whatever he needs,” said Rotherham. “We’ve talked about preaching once a month.”

He plans to continue in some current ministries as a deacon. Rotherham leads a Communion service at Odd Fellows and Rebekah Home in Green Bay. He also serves in jail ministry. Norbertine Fr. Jim Baraniak invited him to assist in ministry at the Green Bay Correctional Institution 12 years ago. He now serves at the Brown County Jail.

“I have probably met a couple thousand guys over those years,” he said. “It’s been really rewarding. I arrange for the priests to come once a month for Mass and confession. It’s an unbelievable experience seeing the power of confession with those guys. We also do Bible study and one-on-one visits.

“I feel that I can help them find their way back to Christ and not give up hope,” he added. “My inspiration for that has always been Pope John Paul II. I can really feel the Holy Spirit when I’m with those guys. Some of the letters I have received from them are so inspirational.”

Rotherham has known his wife, Ann, since they were both 15. They are the parents to three sons: Kent, a television writer; Paul, who works with adults diagnosed with autism; and Kevin, who is employed by Humana. Rotherham describes his mother-in-law, Judy Schumacher, as “my idol.” The two attend daily Mass together.

“She is 84 and still plays tennis with 40-year-olds,” he said. “She is very young at heart. For 35 years, she has been doing service at Rebekah and Odd Fellows. She has been a spiritual inspiration. She lives her faith.”

Reflecting on his path, Rotherham is thankful to Deacon Tom Mahoney and Fr. John Girotti, who both asked him to consider the diaconate. He credits Deacon Paul Grimm, former director, and Deacon Tony Abts, current director of the diaconate, for their guidance.

On ordination day, Rotherham expects his thoughts to turn to his late father-in-law, Urban Schumacher, and his parents.

“I know my parents will be looking down on me,” he said. “I can picture them smiling.”

Other deacon candidates include: