John F. Walter is a life-long resident of Seneca County and a retired farmer. He and his wife, Julie, have four children and 11 grandchildren. With his son and a grandson taking care of the family farm, he has adopted a new line of work as a permanent deacon for the combined St. Patrick and St. Andrew parish in Bascom. Walter's ordination took place Sept. 18, with two of Walter's grandsons as altar servers for the ceremony at Rosary Cathedral in Toledo.
"It's almost indescribable. It was beautiful. It was probably one of the best days of my life, to have my grandchildren there to serve at the Mass," he said.
Over the years, Walter has been active at St. Patrick, including teaching classes and attending retreats with Julie. He said the call to the diaconate was a gradual process.
"It was just a flow over my lifetime, of getting closer to God. ... I've always taught religious education in the church. It was our (former) pastor, Father Art Niewiadomski, who asked me if I wanted to become a deacon," Walter said.
In 2002, Walter enrolled in the four-year lay ministry program. Because there were no other candidates, the diaconate program was not available for two years. By the time he put in four more years to become a deacon, Walter had invested 10 years in training. During that time, he formed ties with other men in the program.
"There were nine of us, and we've been together every weekend through the winter for the last four years, so we've grown close as a group," Walter said.
The Diocese of Toledo, established April 15, 1910, encompasses 8,222 square miles in a mixture of urban and rural areas that spans 19 counties across northwest Ohio, serving 322,523 Catholics in 126 parishes. The diocese includes Allen, Crawford, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, Wood and Wyandot counties.
His main responsibilities for the parish are to preach a homily every other month, teach high school religion classes and distribute communion to the sick. With recent consolidations, the current pastor must oversee All Saints Parish, which encompasses Frenchtown, Alvada and New Riegel, in addition to Bascom St. Patrick and Liberty St. Andrew. Although lay people can help with many parish duties, they cannot cover baptisms, funerals and weddings, as deacons are allowed to do.
"Father Tim Kummerer is lucky. They doubled his work load with New Riegel. ... he's got five parishes to handle, but he's got (Deacons) Floyd Hohman and Louis Reinhart at New Riegel. Then he's got (Deacon) George Miller and me at St. Patrick and St. Andrew," Walter said.
The new deacon said his receptions Sept. 24 and 25 at St. Patrick and St. Andrew were well-attended. He said he appreciates the support he has received from the congregations and clergy.