ALLOUEZ — Dan Gray expects to feel the presence of Franciscan Sr. Margaret Mary Halbach on Saturday, Aug. 1, when he is ordained to the diaconate. Sr. Margaret Mary, his seventh and eighth grade teacher at Holy Cross School in Mishicot, planted the seed for his vocation.
“When we were in eighth grade, she met with each of us individually to talk about vocations,” explained Gray, who will serve as a deacon at St. James Parish, Cooperstown, and St. Joseph Parish, Kellnersville.
“I remember the conversation very well. She asked me if I ever thought about being a priest. I said I wanted to be married and have children, and make a lot of money.
She then asked if I had ever thought about becoming a deacon. I had no idea what she was talking about. I remember parts of the explanation, mainly that a deacon could be married and have a job, and I think mostly just to get out of the meeting and back to the playground, I said, ‘That would be interesting.’”
That question in 1976 somehow stuck with Gray. Following many years of discernment, he decided to pursue the diaconate. He contacted Sr. Margaret Mary to share the news. She told him that she had been praying for him for 40 years.
“We visited her at the convent (St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Bay Settlement) a few times and took her to lunch,” he said. “Last December, we got a Christmas card from her and a few days later we received a call from one of the sisters at the convent that Sr. Margaret Mary had died.”
Gray was born in Two Rivers. His family moved to Denmark when he was 3 and then to Mishicot when he was in second grade.
Following high school, he joined the Air Force but was discharged because “I am blind in one eye and color blind,” he said. He returned to Wisconsin to work at a greenhouse in Denmark, where he was reacquainted with Patty Skubal, whom he married in 1986. They have two adult children, Sarah and Eric.
“We bought a home in Denmark shortly after Sarah was born,” he said. “We intended this to be our starter home. Apparently we are slow starters because, 32 years later, we are still in the same place.”
Gray has worked most of his professional career as a respiratory therapist with Aurora Health Care, primarily in home care. He worked with adults with breathing issues and babies on home ventilators, and treated patients with sleep apnea and hypoventilation. Two years ago, he switched positions to serve as the hospice outreach specialist for Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, based in Sheboygan Falls.
Ministry involvement for Gray at St. James Parish has included trustee, pastoral council member, lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. For the past three years, he has taught confirmation in Cooperstown and recently added confirmation in Kellnersville. He also has been assisting with livestream Masses at St. James Church.
“What began with my iPad on a music stand has evolved into an integrated streaming audio and video program with a new camera, computer and sound board,” he explained. “We are fortunate to have a parishioner with a degree in sound design and theater from Michigan Tech. We are finding that this ministry has helped parishioners to stay connected to the Mass and to stay connected to the community.”
In addition to Sr. Margaret Mary, Gray lists Deacon David Scheuer, a fellow product of Holy Cross School, Mishicot, and Deacon Mark LeGreve, his deacon mentor, as role models for his ministry.
“I wish to continue to explore innovative ways to evangelize,” said Gray about ministries as a deacon. “I enjoy teaching religious education. I am also looking forward to expanding the ministry that I started to those who are victims of human trafficking.”