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 Michael Gray from St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Elizabethton.
Tell me about your family? My wife, Renee, and I have been married for 25 years. We met through her twin sister when she was dating my room mate. We have four children, Michael 24, Matthew 23, Emily 20, and Sarah 18. Matthew and his wife, Ollie, have been married for two and a half years.
What brought you to east Tennessee? Renee and I were both born in Buffalo, NY. I am the youngest of ten. My father lived in Oak Ridge when he was young and my sister, who is the oldest, lives in east Tennessee. We were looking to leave New York state and fell in love with east Tennessee on a visit to my sister. We moved to Elizabethton in 2013 and still live there.
What work do you do? I worked for an insurance company in federal compliance for 20 years. I am now in law enforcement, working as a Sheriff’s corporal in Carter County. I work at the Carter County Detention Center. Renee is a Registered Nurse working as a peri-operative nurse at Franklin Woods Hospital.
What brought you to St. Elizabeth’s? We were worshipping at St. Mary’s in Johnson City, which already has deacons and a deacon candidate, so Deacon Tim Elliott, director of deacon formation, recommended putting roots in another parish. St. Elizabeth’s is very close to where we live. We have been parishioners at St. Elizabeth’s for three years now. My hope is to also assist at the Catholic Center at ETSU after I am ordained.
What service have you done for your parish? I taught grammar school at St. Mary’s part-time for a year before starting at the Sheriff’s Department. I also served there on the school board, with the men’s group, the youth ministry and Adult Faith Formation, including Christ Renews His Parish. I am currently in prison ministry.
What service have you done for the diocese? When at St. Mary’s, I reviewed the insurance program for the parish at the request of the pastor and finance board. I also assisted with the Home Campaign for Sacred Heart Cathedral.
What drew you to the diaconate program? I had been discerning the diaconate for many years. Renee and I looked at the diaconate while in Buffalo, but my call at that time was to my family first and I thought it better to wait until later in life, when our children were grown or I was able to better meet both family and diaconate responsibilities. I attended the year of discernment when Bishop Stika called for men to consider the diaconate in 2016 as a courtesy to a couple of deacons and my pastor, who recommended that I attend. Through that year, I discerned a call to the diaconate, though I kept it quiet for a couple of years while I continued to discern. Renee and my children have all been supportive, which was most influential for my discerning a call to this vocation.
What has been most rewarding about the diaconate program? The communion among my brother candidates and the education in Catholic faith. Growing in my love for God and the Holy Spirit moving in the candidates. I have arrived at a place in life that allows me to no longer stress over so much. Also, learning about the past and planting seeds, then getting out of the way of the Holy Spirit. This gives me hope for the Church and my place in her. I am trying to be God’s instrument and not an obstacle to Him.
What are your hopes as a deacon? That the people of God will see Christ in me and desire to be Christ to others. Also, to build up the Church for the faithful. I want to plant seeds of desire for heaven that the Holy Spirit can then grow, and to be a means by which God’s kingdom comes on earth as in heaven.
Please pray for Michael Gray and his family as he journeys toward ordination to the diaconate.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.