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Archives Ordination is scheduled for May 25
Deacon Douglas Schirmer: ‘I get to share what I’ve been given’

May 22, 2024

By Darcy Fargo

Though he noted his schedule has been “a bit hellish over the last month or so” with wrapping up school, attending ordinations of classmates and preparing for ordination himself, Deacon Douglas Schirmer said he’s “invigorated” as he approaches his May 25 ordination.

“Being here (at the diocesan presbyteral assembly) has been a much-needed recharge,” he said. “And it’s awesome to be invited into this circle I’m about to be a part of. I’m excited, though maybe a little panicked. I’m going into the great unknown. I spent eight years getting ready, but then I still realize I have a lot of growing to do. But I’m more excited than anything. I’m ready to see what God wants to do with the rest of my life in the diocese. I haven’t really been here much in the eight years I’ve been in seminary. I’ve been sort of in and out of the diocese. But this is where the rubber meets the road.”

Deacon Schirmer, 34, a resident of Ogdensburg and member of St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish, noted his deacon year was “a bit challenging trying to balance being in ministry and being a full-time student” at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, but he noted he spent the year working with “a wonderful pastor, who is also my spiritual director, and he knew how to challenge me in ministry.”

“I focused a lot on catechesis and preaching,” he said. “Participating in baptisms, prayer and healing ministry with that pastor and in that parish has been a huge grace. It was good prep work.”

Deacon Schirmer said he also found grace in experiencing his deacon year with his fellow seminarians at the Mount.

“It’s been fun and rewarding to see my brother deacons at the seminary grow,” he said. “These are guys I’ve been with for four years, some longer. I’ve been watching them become more themselves because they’re starting to act more like Christ has been really inspiring. The class of 2024 has 33 graduates, and I can confidently say they’re all excellent men, guys I look up to, to the man. It’s been exciting to watch what the church is about to get, and to be a part of that is pretty amazing.”

Deacon Schirmer said he’s looking forward to ordination and the next part of his ministry, especially celebrating the sacraments and celebrating Mass.

“In confession, people aren’t there to talk to you, they’re there to talk to Jesus,” he said. “In our practice class, we got a little flavor of what it’s like to be in the box, how sacred that ministry is and how sacred the anonymity is.”

In addition to his excitement at being able to participate in God’s offering himself to us in the Eucharist, Deacon Schirmer said he’s looking forward to preaching and teaching.

“I get to share what I’ve been given in the seminary,” he said. “We’ve been given the wealth of the Church’s traditions, but we don’t always do a great job of explaining them.”

While he’s had opportunities to practice celebrating the sacraments, it’s the more personal part of the ministry in which Deacon Schirmer is excited to grow.

“Priests get to be with people in pivotal moments – baptisms, marriages, deaths,” he said. “I got to see that as a seminarian, but being ordained, it’ll be different. I’ll be there as a spiritual father. That’s something people can talk about, but they can’t teach that. As you learn, you grow more into who you are as dad. And sometimes, like with a parent, it reveals stuff to you you may wish it didn’t. Like if a kid misbehaves or does something well, how does dad react? If a parish is struggling with something or excelling at something, it’s about how does the priest guide and handle and empower.”

Deacon Schirmer said his chalice – a simple, gothic chalice – has a history that may have turned others away from it, but it drew him to the vessel.

“Father Chris (Carrara, vicar for clergy and director of seminarians) took me into the archives, and I found the chalice in the style I was looking for,” he said. “The priest who owned it previously was removed from ministry before the Charter and all the stuff with the Boston Globe. As soon as I saw it and heard that, I wanted that particular piece. If I don’t pray for that priest, who will? He’s still a son of God, even if he did bad things. I felt like those are the people who need prayer most.”

Deacon Schirmer noted that beyond choosing the chalice and completing other tasks required before ordination, his family has been busy making plans surrounding the ordination.

“We haven’t had much opportunity to talk about (how they feel about his ordination to the priesthood), but there seems to be excitement,” he said. “My brothers have said they’re very proud, and that means a lot. I think it’s something we really won’t be able to process until we’re on the back end. But they’ve been very supportive, and I’m very grateful.”

Deacon Schirmer said he’s also grateful to the people and organizations of the diocese who have also supported him as he discerned and prepared for his vocation.

“It’s been eight years of getting cards, promises of prayer and well wishes from the Chalice Program, Knights of Columbus, DOVS – all representations of people, most of whom I’m really bad at writing back to,” he said. “These people have been a constant force of prayer, support and generosity. It’s humbling and beautiful. I get to spend the rest of my life saying ‘thank you’ through my ministry, but I still want to acknowledge them before that starts.”

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