This is the next in a series I will be posting on the candidates for the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Knoxville. My hope is that these brief introductions to the men preparing for ordination to the diaconate will help introduce them to the people of the diocese.
Today, we hear from Wade Eckler from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Chattanooga.
Tell me about your family. My wife, Denice, and I met while in college, through college and Navy friends. We married in 1997 and have four children: Camden 22, Luke 20, Gretchen 19, and Heidi 16.
Are you from east TN? What brought you here? I’m originally from Poland, NY, which is north of Utica. We lived in Knoxville when we first married. We liked the area and the people. The geography is similar to upstate New York. We attended All Saints Church then. Fr. Chris Michelson was the pastor when the church was being built and we became involved in activities in the parish community. Denice, who came from a non-denominational tradition, entered the Church in 1998. Cy Henke was her sponsor. We moved back to New York in 2000, but in 2011 my workplace in Syracuse was down-sizing, which created a choice to move. I took a position with TVA and we moved to Chattanooga.
What work do you do? I’ve been an electrical engineer for 24 years and am currently working as a power systems engineer.
What brought you to OLPH? When we moved to Chattanooga we made contact with parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who spoke highly of the parish and school. We like the parish and all of our kids attended the elementary school and then Notre Dame High School.
What service have you done for your parish? I’ve taught 7th , 8th , 9th , and 10th grade CCD. I serve as a lector and Eucharistic minister, including bringing the Eucharist to patients at Memorial Hospital. I helped start a Saturday morning men’s group using the Mark Link, SJ series of books, as well as others, such as Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. We have about 6-8 men who have been meeting for about six years now.
What drew you to the diaconate? I’ve always been drawn to serving something bigger. I served on the student council in high school and later joined the Navy. I’ve often been asked by my pastors to help at the parish, such as teaching Confirmation classes. I’ve loved the Mass since I was a kid and there was a desire to serve at Mass. After a while, someone asked if I would be interested in being a deacon. Initially, I thought not, then thought that maybe it was something I should at least consider. After Mass one day someone said they loved the way I did the reading and asked if I had ever thought of being a deacon. Then my priest asked me and advised me that I should, that I have gifts, but that I should wait until my kids are older. I had been discerning since then. Once I started thinking about it, I read things differently with the diaconate in the back of my mind. When the diocese called men to meet monthly for the discernment process, Deacon Dennis Meinert said that I should consider it, so I started attending the monthly discernment meetings. One of the things that helped me during the initial discernment period was learning not to focus so much on how worthy or unworthy I was. The main question is, “Am I called to serve God as a deacon?” If I am called, then it’s a matter of following and cooperating with my formation.
What has been most rewarding about the diaconate program? The way that I pray now. I was given a “Christian Prayer” book by Deacon Dennis. I had never committed to consistent prayer until I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
Have there been any challenges for you during the diaconate program? My biggest challenge has been balancing the diaconate training with everything else, my responsibilities to my family and to work. One of the things I’ve noticed is the increase in my prayer. There is a re-prioritization going on. Besides seeing things in my own interior life I have to change, I started desiring changes in my life in general. I was working a lot and the more I reflected on life as a deacon I started dreaming of a job where I was working less and not working nights. It’s difficult being in this program and knowing what’s really important and not allowing the non-important stuff to have a role in my life.
What are your hopes as a deacon? My hopes are that, when people do see me, hear me, or encounter me serving, they leave that encounter more hopeful and encouraged. Encouraged about life in general, encouraged to come back to Mass, and to be closer to Christ. I hope that I bring the Gospel of Christ to those people who I interact with and serve.
Please pray for Wade and his wife, Denise.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.