This is the next in my series on deacon candidates for the Diocese of Knoxville. Today we hear from Chad Shields, candidate from Christ the King in Tazewell, TN
Tell me about your family.
It’s easy for me to talk about my family because they make me enormously honored. My wife, Nicole, is the foundation of our family with Christ. She is a remarkable doctor who has blessed me with twenty years, fifteen married. We dated for two years and were engaged for two years and married in 2006. She is, hands down, the most capable, intuitive person I know. Raising kids is a never-ending sacrifice and can be exhausting, but my children are a blessing beyond comparison, and we cannot imagine a more worthy endeavor. Bryce, our daughter, is nine years old, and our son Braxton just turned six. For the first five years of our marriage, we lived together for only one year because of my military service in the Army. We live on our ninety-four-acre farm in Tazewell on Norris Lake. We raise beef cattle, sheep, meat rabbits, chickens, bees, and livestock guard dogs. Nicole is a family doctor who practices in Tazewell with Covenant Medical Group clinic and at the local hospital. She does hospice and home visits. I am homeschooling the kids and running the farm. Nicole’s and my parents also live within a few miles of the farm, so it’s a real family affair.
What brought you to east Tennessee?
Nicole and I both grew up in south Florida and lived in several southern states for my Army service. We moved to east Tennessee in 2013 to be close to my parents, who had retired to this area twenty years ago. We also wanted a place that was quiet and where Nicole could practice rural medicine. Nicole’s parents moved to the area in 2014 or 15 once they retired to be closer to the grandkids.
What work do you do?
Along with running the farm and homeschooling the kids, I volunteer as a fire fighter. We also have some rental properties in Tennessee and Virginia that I manage.
What brought you to your parish?
Christ the King is the only parish in Claiborne County, but it’s really grown into a parish family for us. In 2006 when I was in active duty, we got married at St. Joseph’s in Norris long before we had intentions of moving to this area. Bryce was baptized at St. Joseph’s. We picked Norris for the wedding because it was close to my parents, and now here we are in east Tennessee!
I really like Christ the King because it bands together. We’re on the frontier of the diocese, but it’s very self-sustaining even though we have limited resources, so it really brings everyone across the county together.
I became Catholic in 2003. Nicole is a cradle Catholic and when we started talking about marriage, I really had no interest in converting to Catholicism initially. I was trying to influence Nicole in becoming Baptist, but one time in prayer God told me that I was being hypocritical because I want to be the spiritual leader of my household, but I’m asking my fiancé to leave her roots rather than do some research and soul-searching myself. So, I went to inquiry classes at St. Augustine’s in Gainesville, FL and the team there could not have been better for me. I came in hostile, but they were patient and helpful to me, and I continue to hold a deep love for the faith.
What sort of service do you do at the parish level?
The parish has probably served my family more than the other way around. But I’ve been a lector, Eucharistic minister, sacristan, led some Communion services and graveside services, as well. We share a priest with two other parishes, so he stays busy. Fr. Sam Sturm is awesome!
What drew you to the diaconate?
Without sounding trite, I would simply say the Holy Spirit. When I was in the military, we had parishes we were involved with, but the moving around made it hard to put down roots. When I first converted, I didn’t know the diaconate existed. A deacon came up to serve on Sunday, and that inspired me to start asking questions. The people I started asking questions encouraged me to inquire about it. I spoke with Fr. Joe Campbell, my pastor at the time, and he introduced me to Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey, and he encouraged me to investigate it, and the inquiry classes began shortly after. He fielded my questions.
What has been most rewarding about the diaconate program?
The more time goes on, the most rewarding has been the relationships built among the brothers and the leadership of the diaconate program. Even if ordination wasn’t meant to be, or if God closed that door, I would forever be thankful for the relationships that developed. A close second would be the catechesis. From my conversion I thought I had a grasp on the faith, but I wish there was a way that every Catholic could have this quality of catechesis. It has done so much for me in my faith. It has revealed how much we don’t know. We could spend an entire year on any subject we’ve already studied.
What has been most challenging about the program?
Time. It’s tough for me. I joke that it’s like I’ve joined the National Guard for the Church. While it’s been rewarding, it’s a big commitment because, when I’m gone, Nicole has to take care of the kids and the farm and there’s a lot of juggling that goes on. The biggest challenge has been just getting there. On a spiritual side, there’s the evolution that each of us has make, the not feeling worthy, learning that it’s not about us, the concern that I never want people on their journey to God tripping over what I do or say or how I act. I never want to misrepresent the good that is the Church. I hope I can do this without muddying the waters.
What are your hopes as a deacon?
I hope that anything that I contribute is a contribution and not a takeaway. I hope to love humanity the way that God does. I’ve learned what the role of a deacon is, and every time we get high in the sky on theology, I love when we’re reminded that we’re called to service.
Please pray for Chad Shields and his family.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.