ALLOUEZ — Michael Valenta was living a good life with a “great family, lots of friends, a good job,” but something was missing.
“I was asked to go on a retreat and that is where I found the missing part, a relationship with Jesus,” he explained. “Over the next 10 years, my relationship with Jesus grew stronger and so did the call to serve my sisters and brothers in my community.”
That call was not initially to the diaconate for Valenta. He didn’t feel that he “fit the mold.”
“It took me some time to realize that God was calling me to be me, exactly the way he made me, not like anyone else, just me,” he told The Compass. “That is when I truly felt the call (to be a deacon).”
Valenta, who grew up north of Mishicot, will serve as a deacon at Holy Cross Parish, Mishicot, and St. Anne Parish, Francis Creek. His ministry experience includes serving at Mass as an acolyte, lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. He is a catechist for confirmation and assists couples with baptismal preparation. Valenta currently chairs the parish pastoral council, facilitates the parish mission planning team and is a member of the cemetery committee.
Valenta’s involvement with MOP (Missionaries of the Poor) in Monroe, N.C., is a part of his outreach outside the parish.
“A group of people have been visiting the brothers at their monastery (Guardian Angels) for seven years,” he explained. “It brings me great joy to serve with them in that community. The love the brothers show to all the people they serve is amazing.”
Valenta credits Mick and Joyce Rolland and Lakeshore Ecumenical Outreach for introducing him to MOP. He is thankful for many faith models during his journey including his in-laws, Joan and John Hutterer, Deacon Gary Wilhelm of St. Gregory Parish, St. Nazianz, and Holy Trinity Parish, School Hill, and his grandfather, Clarence Bonfigt.
“He was a quiet example of how to live a faithful life in service to others,” said Valenta about his grandfather. “He seemed to be there for anyone in need. He died just after receiving the Eucharist, as if he was waiting for nourishment for his journey home.”
Valenta is also thankful for the support from Fr. Jeremiah Cullinane, his spiritual director, and Deacon David Scheuer, his deacon mentor. He has been friends with Deacon Scheuer for more than 35 years.
“We have walked together through both of our journeys to the diaconate, so he has been a mentor for me a long time before it was made official,” said Valenta. “He has shown me that we need to roll with whatever comes our way because our plan is most likely not God’s plan.”
Valenta has been married to his wife, Karen, for 25 years. They have a daughter, Olivia, who attends Roncalli High School in Manitowoc.
“They have both been so patient and supportive throughout my formation,” he said.
Valenta, who has been employed as a journeyman electrician for Manitowoc Cranes for 31 years, describes the parishes at which he will serve as “small village parishes with the desire to grow and bring Jesus to our communities.”
He looks forward to new ministry opportunities.
“For most of my life, I did not understand the importance of being part of a community,” he said. “Now my community is one of the most important parts of my life. It is obvious to me that God wants me to work with his people to bring them closer to him.
“I will continue to be involved with religious education, look to add some connection to adult groups, and I would like to reach out to people who are lost and forgotten from our parishes and the greater community,” he added.