ALLOUEZ — Dave Denby has taken an unlikely journey to the diaconate for the Diocese of Green Bay. He was a longtime member of the Episcopal Church and moved to the diocese only 10 years ago.
Denby and his wife, Kathy, converted to Catholicism in 2007. They were previously members of an Episcopal parish in Lexington, Ky. He explained that a very liberal bishop took over and “kicked my parish out.” Ninety percent of the parishioners left.
Denby’s decision to join the Catholic Church was spurred by his upbringing in suburban Chicago. He said that he was surrounded by “Anglo-Catholic” churches while growing up in the 1970s. Denby added that he made a second conversion “to the one, true football team” (the Green Bay Packers).
In 2010, the couple moved to Marinette and became members of Holy Family Parish. Denby’s ministry involvement included lector, usher and Alpha facilitator. He also taught classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), assisted with parish events and was active in the Knights of Columbus. In 2013, Deacon Jerry Thetreau of Holy Family Parish mentioned that Denby should become a deacon. He consulted Fr. Joe Dorner, pastor at the time, who instructed him to call Deacon Paul Grimm, then director of the diaconate.
“We had a high school age nephew living with us at this time and the diaconate got put on hold,” said Denby. “Deacon Jerry could not always be at Mass and I kept hearing a thought during Mass when he was out, ‘You could help up there. You should help up there.’
“The nephew left for college in 2015, and almost simultaneously, Joe and Sally Faucett (parish members) came into my office one afternoon and told me that I should become a deacon,” he added. “We had not previously discussed this matter. Kathy and I went to see Fr. Celestine Byekwaso (pastor), who agreed.”
Denby credits Kathy for her support throughout formation. They have been married for 37 years and have three adult children.
“She went to classes with me, proofread papers and has almost gone deaf listening to me practice homilies,” he said.
Denby is thankful for many positive influences in his ministry. Deacon Chuck Schumacher of SS. Joseph and Edward Parish, Walsh, and St. Mary Parish, Peshtigo, is his deacon mentor.
“He is determined that I learn to sing, which will require a miracle,” said Denby. “However, singing is irresistible when he is singing.”
He added that Deacons Schumacher and Thetreau have been good role models because “they know and love their work, and are delighted to train me.”
Denby also points to his recent pastors. He lists Fr. Byekwaso as a role model because of “his unfailing sense of calm humor in the face of conflict, his ability to correct with kindness and his enormous knowledge of all things liturgical.”
He credits Fr. Dorner’s example of “the ability to apply theology to life.”
St. Thomas the Apostle also helps guide Denby, who has spent most of his professional career working as a trust officer.
“By his example, we know that we may question and yet are still loved and found useful by God,” he said.
Denby will assist at Mass as a deacon and do funeral vigils and committals. He plans to continue helping with Alpha and other teaching, and visit the homebound.
“Holy Family Parish is in many ways a typical small-town parish,” he said. “It functions to some degree like a very large family. This can be very good in terms of taking care of each other, but can be difficult for quiet personalities to break into. It is an extraordinarily generous group of people, both financially and in terms of their prayers and words.”