The Deacon Farmer
by Steve Kaneb | April 27, 2017
For most permanent deacons, ordination introduces an added vocation into their family and professional lives. The Church fashioned the permanent diaconate as a unique way to mingle men who have received the sacrament of holy orders into secular life. For example, a large majority of permanent deacons in the United States are married. Most also have business vocations outside the Church. My cohort of deacon candidates includes a cemetery manager, a banker, a teacher, a police officer, some engineers (I’m one of those), a retired headmaster, and an accountant. Deacons perform much of their ministries of proclaiming the Gospel and practicing charity outside of traditional church settings. As a pastoral intern this year, I’m a little busier, but I find that each of my vocations brings wisdom that makes me more effective in the others as well.
I’m now learning to mix my ministry with agriculture. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and we’ve lived on an old farmstead in South Hampton for the past 25 years. Our family has slowly learned basic farming skills, especially during the past dozen years as we kept a very small herd of beef cattle. At some point during my candidacy, our son Phil coined the term “deacon farmer.” My awe at God’s creation and baptismal call to faithful stewardship provide a Christian context to the work. Such awe and call drew me to apply for the permanent diaconate.
In biblical times, agriculture provided society not only with food but also employment and social interaction. Back then, all people lived close to the land. That’s why scripture so often uses analogies like sowing seeds, tending livestock, harvests, and drought. Even today, virtues such as patience, persistence and humility help to make a good farmer. For both crops and livestock, creating and maintaining proper boundaries (think electric fencing) keep necessary order. Establishing similar boundaries becomes necessary as we take on new responsibilities in our lives. These virtues and fence lines are the fabric of servitude and healthy relationships as well.
During my pastoral internship in the parish of Hampton and Seabrook, many kind people have taught me from their own experience. I have been particularly blessed to have our pastor Father Gary and Deacon Dennis as pillars of strength. They are helping me to balance my new ministry with my other responsibilities. With God’s grace, this September I hope to become a deacon farmer. Of course, my primary vocation will remain that of husband and father, which grows ever richer.
This blog was contributed by Steve Kaneb, Saint Michael Parish, Exeter, NH