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‘A guide even when things are bad’

February 17, 2021

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing Writer

WATERTOWN – “Just the regular ups and downs for us in our married life.”

That is how Kathy Allan responded when asked to talk about a time in their lives when she and her husband, Deacon Michael Allan, relied on their faith as Catholics to overcome a difficult situation.

“It’s married life. It’s family life,” Kathy said. “Nieces and nephews not going to church and praying very, very hard for them to come back. … Because of our faith and just because of our active ministry at church, we work together.”

And without faith, especially in an era of pandemic and turmoil around the world, “you don’t have anything to hang on to,” she said.

“I think without your faith, especially today with all that’s going on, you’re not anchored,” she said. “When you have the Lord in your life, you’ve got Scripture, you’ve got Mass, you’ve got the sacraments, and you really and truly have a guide even when things are bad.”

From their ministries with their church and the diocese to their personal spiritual practices, the Allans, who live in Watertown and attend Holy Family Church, have lived a life together of sharing their faith with each other and with the people around them.

After being baptized and growing up in the Methodist church until age 17, Deacon Allan said he didn’t return to organized religion until he got out of the Army and then joined the Catholic Church at age 26.

“I spent three years looking at all kinds of mainline Christian denominations before choosing to become a Catholic,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kathy grew up as a cradle Catholic attending St. Vincent de Paul’s Church in Belfort. She and her parents and siblings were active volunteers in their church; her father and brothers tended the cemetery by digging graves and mowing lawns, while she and her mother and sister cleaned the church and washed the linens.

“We just always had faith all around us,” she said. “My parents both came from large families, and aunt and uncles lived pretty much local. Their example of faith is really astounding.”

After becoming Catholic, Deacon Allan eventually went through the diaconate program and was ordained. Saying he prefers active ministry, he said he is assigned to five parishes and actively assists at three of them – Holy Family in Watertown, St. Stephen’s in Croghan, and St. Francis in Harrisville.

Within his diaconate, he has a preaching ministry two weekends a month and also assists the priests in the three parishes with funerals and other special activities as they come up. Before the pandemic and even during it, he also volunteers on a weekly basis helping out the chaplain at the House of the Good Samaritan.

The couple practices Liturgy of the Hours together as well as morning and evening prayer and daily Mass. A retired elementary school teacher, Kathy continues an early-morning habit that she developed during her career.
“There are days I would get up and say, ‘Lord, these children are driving me crazy, and you love them more than me. What can we do?’” she said. “When I was teaching, I really had some quite challenging classes. The Spirit led me getting up 15 minutes earlier.”

Now that she is retired, she “can spend half an hour to an hour reading Scripture,” she said. “Those are my basis. Scripture is my basis.”

The couple has also found spiritual growth through the activities they performed together. For example, while teaching Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes for many years, they found themselves growing their relationship with God along with the people they taught.

“When you teach something, you really get to know the faith and know the faith through people’s eyes, some who don’t have a clue,” Kathy said. “They’ve never experienced the Lord. It really makes you appreciate your faith.”

And when Deacon Allan spent three years in the diaconate program, they traveled to Wadhams Hall one weekend a month to meet with the program’s different instructors and the men participating in the program and their wives. Once again, they found themselves drawing closer to God and to the people around them.

“We had such an enriching three years of being with 10 other guys and their wives and just learning all we could learn about each other and the faith,” Kathy said. “To me, that was very pivotal.”

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