Leuwer embraces deacon's call to serve

Mary and Joseph Leuwer are preparing for Joe's ordination to the permanent diaconate.


Mary and Joseph Leuwer are preparing for Joe's ordination to the permanent diaconate.

June 27, 2016

Joseph Leuwer read a Western Catholic Reporter newspaper article several years ago and thought to himself, "I can do that."

"That" refers to serving as a deacon.

His Catholic faith has always been close to Joe. The third of seven children, he attended Catholic schools right through high school. He was also an altar server, a service that enthralled him.

Joe easily explained this childhood spiritual devotion. His duties as altar server took him into the separate areas of the church, and he embraced their mystery and sacredness. "I really quite enjoyed it."

A trip to Europe after high school opened his heart to his faith. In fact, his future wife Mary thought, given his letters to her, that Joe was intent on entering the priesthood.

Not so. His call was to marry her.

Now Joe, 57, having four years of study for the diaconate tucked in his heart, is taking another step in his faith and will be ordained a deacon July 9.

Along the way, the spiritual nudges have been many. In one instance, Joe and Mary travelled to Rome and were given tickets to a Mass to be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

The blessing is given in a multitude of languages and when the pope gave the blessing in English, Joe felt as though he had been hit in his heart - "that he was blessing me."

In his business life, Joe is an IT consultant. He and his wife Mary, a dental hygienist, have two children, Emily, 24, and Daniel, 16.


Married in 1985, the couple chat with a loving, companionable ease that comes with years of rich marriage.

The desire to become a deacon "sat for a year on my mind," he said. Then he mentioned "what I was feeling" to his pastor, Father Frank Kuczera of Edmonton's St. Charles Parish.

Joe points to Kuczera as a "living example of the faith" and as one of his touchstones in the journey to the diaconate.

His son Daniel was concerned that his father's diaconal duties would intrude on their family life. But Joe has already taken care of that by assuming a less demanding position with his company, a position that allows him time for his duties as a father, husband and deacon.

Now there is space in his life to take the next step on his spiritual journey.


As he progressed though the diaconate program, Joe drew on the wisdom of various writers. The Jesus of Nazareth trilogy and Light of the World by Pope Benedict XVI delighted him. C.S. Lewis' writings and Fulton Sheen's A Preface to Religion were also helpful guides.

His studies enriched Joe as did his increased spiritual life such as morning and evening prayer.

Joe has been to East Africa and feels that social justice work will satisfy his natural compassion for this part of the world.

Kuczera applauds the talents Joe brings to his blossoming calling.

"He embraces the deacon's call to service," says Kuczera. "When you look at Joe's faith journey, you can see that God is really present in his life."

Kuczera notes, "The whole family is greatly supportive to Joe, encouraging him even in difficult times when one needs the presence of family and also the parish family."

The priest talked about the showy type of deacon who "wants to show others how things are done."

Joe will not be that kind of deacon, says Kuczera. "He has the good quality of humanity. He has the gift of empowering others."