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Archives Deacon Douglas Schirmer learns ministry in ‘dream assignment’

August 2, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

Deacon Douglas Schirmer says serving for the summer in Watertown has been “kind of a dream assignment.”

“There are three churches, the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, the Sisters of the Precious Blood Convent, a school –IHC was still in session when I got here,” he said. “There are a lot of ministry opportunities. Father (John M.) “Mickey” (Demo) and Father Matt (Conger) have been great to live with and work with. I couldn’t ask for better.”

His first summer assignment since his ordination to the diaconate, Deacon Schirmer said he’s learning a lot about life in parishes, but he says most of the learning has tied into one theme:
“I’m learning a lot about flexibility,” he said. “I think you learn it in different ways in each assignment. The priests here are on the go non-stop. Then a curve ball comes in the middle of the day, and they have to figure out how to handle it. They’re both really good at that. It’s not a skill I’ve had to master in the past, but I’ve had to work on mastering that skill.”

Deacon Schirmer said he’s also learned that there’s one part of his new ministry he enjoys more than he expected.

“I like preaching most,” he said. “It’s about figuring out a way to distill what I’ve learned in seminary and what we’re hearing in the readings and Gospels and giving them a fresh take on what is often so familiar while still holding to Church teachings and the teachings of the Church fathers. It’s been a fun challenge.”

Deacon Schirmer said he’s spent the bulk of his previous summer assignments shadowing the priests in the parish. As a deacon, he’s had a more hands-on experience.

“I recently did my first burial, and I have a baptism coming up,” he said. “As a regular seminarian, your main job is to follow the priests around and learn how they do things. As a deacon, they let you go a bit more. I’m learning to do things as an ordained minister. And tonight, I’m helping set up for bingo. It’s sort of a combination of deacon and regular seminarian.”

As he looks forward to returning to his final year of seminary at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, Deacon Schirmer said he’s looking forward to developing skills he’ll use as a priest, God willing.

“Practically, I’m looking forward to confession practice,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be at a seminary where they take you as you are and give you the tools you need specifically to be a good confessor.”

He also looks forward to seeing where God leads him as he serves as a deacon this year and thanks God for the blessings he’s received thus far.

“I think the part of the grace of (Holy Orders) I’m experiencing is a sense of joy in ministry and in the day-to-day interactions,” he said. “I’m not sure I was prepared for that. When we interviewed before ordination, I talked about the peace I had been given. That’s continuing, but it’s been heightened by the sense of joy and the sense that this is who I am, and this is what I get to do, and I get to do it in service of Christ and the Church.”

Deacon Schirmer said he’s also found joy and blessings in supporting and receiving support from Deacon Carter Pierce, who was ordained to the diaconate with him.

“(Deacon) Carter and I really wanted to be intentional about communicating,” Deacon Schirmer said. “We reach out to each other every couple of days and check in. That’s helped keep me in this place of joy and keep me on fire. We get to watch each other grow in ministry, and we share a level of honesty that’s rare and much appreciated.”

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