For the past several years, Ryan Pope has served the community in a healing capacity as a physical therapist at the Redwood Area Hospital.

Now he has taken on an additional role in helping people as they focus on their spiritual side.

Pope was ordained April 21 as a deacon of the Catholic church and is now serving within the New Ulm Diocese.

That role, said Pope, is a multi-faceted one, as he focuses on teaching, proclaiming the Gospel, offering the sacraments, serving the church and serving the community. That, he added, could mean doing anything from assisting the priest during a Mass to visiting someone who is homebound.

As a deacon, Pope said he is serving the local priests and the bishop of the diocese doing what they ask of him. He is serving in an area faith community that includes the churches in Redwood Falls, Morton, Wabasso, Lucan, Seaforth and Wanda.

While he does not conduct the Mass, as that role is limited to the priest, he can offer the homily during a Mass and can perform the rites of baptism, as well as witness weddings and serve at funerals.

“We are all called to serve in the church,” said Pope, adding what he is doing as the deacon is taking the service he was already doing as a church member to the next level.

Pope works with Father Anthony Hesse and Father Bob Mraz, who are serving as the priest and assistant priest respectively in the six area parishes.

Pope said he considers what he does as more of the behind the scenes service for the church, adding that is where he believes he has been called to serve.

Pope grew up in a Christian home, but he was not Catholic. He calls himself a convert to the Catholic faith, adding his wife has grown up in the Catholic faith who helped to open his eyes to what it meant to be part of the Catholic church.

“My folks brought me to church,” said Pope, adding he feels privileged to have been raised in the Christian faith. 

Pope said when he agreed to further investigate the Catholic Church no promises were made. He added he never felt pressured to convert to Catholicism, although in the end he believed the Catholic Church is where he is meant to be.

“It just felt right,” he said.

So, Pope went through what is known as the rite of Christian initiation.

Along the way, Pope began serving in ministry and had the chance to speak with a deacon in the church. That exposure prompted him to think further about how he might grow in his faith through service. That led him to the decision to consider becoming a deacon.

“All along the way my wife was extensively involved in the decisions that were made,” said Pope.

After all, he added, his first vocation is that of husband and father, adding his role as a physical therapist comes next. It allows him to provide for his family. The role of deacon follows that.

No, he added, he is not putting Christ in last place.

What he is doing is growing in his faith, as he continues to demonstrate what it means to be a Christian through his role as a husband, father, physical therapist and deacon.

The process of becoming a deacon is an extensive one, said Pope, adding it requires several years of study, with time spent on weekends and during the summers at retreats and in the classroom learning about the role and about his faith.

“We met at least once a month,” Pope said, adding rather than having to go to a college setting the diocese brought the seminary education to them.

Pope called the process formation, adding as he continues in his role he is still learning and growing.

Pope said he enjoys the chance to offer the homily during a Saturday night or Sunday morning Mass, adding he appreciates the privilege of being able to take words offered thousands of years ago and apply it to today for the people who are listening.

Pope and his wife, Erica, have five children, and she is currently serving as the director of worship at St. Catherine’s.

Pope said that does pose a bit of a challenge during Mass when both of them are serving. However, the church has become one big family and others have been able to serve the Pope family by having their kids sit with them.

Pope enjoys the chance he has to work with the staff in the area faith community, adding he is looking forward to the upcoming church year and the celebration of Advent and then Lent.

“It is interesting to see it from the clergy side of things,” he said.

Pope said he is enjoying his new role of service and the privilege he has to share Christ with others. Pope believes he has been called to serve in the role of deacon and the chance he now has to help lessen some of the challenges the local priests face as they serve six different parishes in the area.

“I want to be able to help wherever I am needed,” said Pope.