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Archives A different kind of deacon
Deacon Brian Dwyer resides in rectory with his family; ministers full-time

Sept. 5, 2018

Darcy Fargo

CHATEAUGAY – After years of housing the pastors who served St. Patrick’s Church, the rectory in Chateaugay now houses bicycles, basketball games, laughter and service. The rectory now serves as the residence of Deacon Brian T. Dwyer, pastoral associate for four parishes and six worship sites, as well as his wife and five kids.

“We have a pretty unique situation,” said Father Thomas E. Kornmeyer, pastor of St. Patrick’s in Chateaugay, St. George’s in Burke, St. Mary’s of the Fort in Fort Covington, St. Joseph’s in Bombay, St. Francis in Constable and Our Lady of Fatima in Westville. “With the number of worship sites and the size of the area we cover, I definitely couldn’t do it alone. We changed the deacon’s job description from including just two of the churches to include all six, and we allowed (Deacon Dwyer) and his family to move into the rectory.”

Ordained as a permanent deacon in 2009, Deacon Dwyer worked for over six years as Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry before moving into his current assignment.

“Around spring of 2015, I went to Bishop (Terry R.) LaValley and had a one-on-one conversation with him,” Deacon Dwyer said. “I indicated I was open to whatever he and the church needs. Shortly after that, I got a call asking me if I’d be interested in the arrangement I’m in now. I felt the movement of the Holy Spirit. It was the right time. My kids are getting older, and while I absolutely loved my job with the diocese, it had me on the road and away from my family a lot. I’m still on the road a lot, but I’m always close to home. I can schedule most things around my family’s needs. My number one vocation is being a dad and husband. This position allows me to honor that in a much better way.”

Living in Chateaugay, Deacon Dwyer said his assignment includes administrative duties for. St. Patrick’s and St. George’s, as well as ministerial duties in all six churches, which span over three school districts and touch three counties.

“Because my day begins and ends here, I work regularly with the parish secretary and bookkeeper,” he said.

“Obviously, if there’s something big going on, I involve Father Tom, but I handle a lot of the smaller, day-to-day business here.”

In terms of ministerial duties, Deacon Dwyer fills a variety of needs.

“He does basically everything I do except things that require priestly ordination,” Father Kornmeyer said. “He does funerals at funeral parlors, preaches, performs most of weddings and baptisms, works with families for funeral preparations, and performs graveside services. He also meets with people to discuss spiritual matters, runs the confirmation prep classes in Chateaugay and Burke, and he’s on diocesan vocation committee, along with wife, Monique. I’m sure there’s more I’m not thinking of. He’s really a valuable part of our team and he’s done a superb job.”

While he grew up on a farm in Chateaugay and was well-known in that community, Deacon Dwyer has had to work to establish relationships in Westville, Constable, Bombay and Fort Covington.

“I love North Country people,” he said. “I remember my first weekend giving a homily in Fort Covington. It was sort of an introduction. I introduced myself as a ‘Bulldog from Chateaugay.’ That got a few groans. But I think people identify with my farming background. Beyond that, I just love the energy of the faithful. Don’t get me wrong, I need solitude when I can get it, but I love being around people. I love seeing the hard work they do and the faith they exemplify, both in big and small things.”

And it’s those small things that Deacon Dwyer sees as most integral to his ministry.

I’m a farm boy from Chateaugay,” he said. “I’m simple and hard-working. Growing up on the farm with my parents and their guidance and faith was critical. I’ve milked cows, thrown hay and shoveled poop. Pope Francis said ‘Get out there and make a mess.’ I’ve done that in farming career and I’ve done that in ministry. Ministry isn’t always neat, and it isn’t perfect. It’s messy. People just want you to be a part of their lives. To me, the main thing is how God works in the moments most people don’t see. It’s working with widows, widowers, the dying and the sick. It’s the things you don’t get noticed for that mean the most. It seems to me that we’re always looking for the big in today’s society. The simple is my big. It’s where God makes the most difference.”

While he noted the live-in model may not be ideal for everyone, Deacon Dwyer says his current assignment has been a blessing for him and his family.

“Three of my five kids are altar servers,” he said. “My wife is a cantor. Having them assist at Mass with me is just awesome. It’s a family ministry, since we’re all living in the house right next to the church.”
Both Deacon Dwyer and Father Kornmeyer said the arrangement has been well received by the parish community.

“It’s been a long time since this house didn’t have a resident pastor,” Deacon Dwyer said. “It’s been a big transition. The parishioners have been very supportive. When they come to Mass, they may see bikes in front lawn, basketball hoops, and balls and water guns in the yard. People love to see the life and vitality in the house. And I get to start and end each day connected to this parish that has meant so much to me in my life; the parish where I received all my sacraments except ordination.”

“I’ve heard only positive comments,” added Father Kornmeyer. “People are glad to see life in the rectory. And Deacon Dwyer has done a great job. He’s really good with people, he’s solid in his theology and he has a good perspective.

“Putting this team together was all through God’s grace.”

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