The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Deacon wives, and threads of love

They don’t get nearly enough attention, but the wives of deacons often play a critical role in their husbands’ ministry. Now, some wives and widows in Connecticut have embarked on a ministry of their own.

From the Catholic Transcript newspaper:

Quilt-2937.jpg“We couldn’t wait to come here and present these quilts to you,” said Sharon Tartaris, coordinator of deacon wives and widows for the Archdiocese of Hartford, who presented hand-made quilts made by the group for the 28 families residing in Cathedral Green.


“There are young families here, and there’s nothing better than being able to wrap up in a quilt,” said Mrs. Tartaris, “especially after the kids have gone to bed,” she quipped, with a quick response of laughter.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity to make these quilts for you,” she said.

Beginning last year, a core group of about 17 wives and widows of permanent deacons from the east shore deanery met on Saturday mornings with the blessings of Archbishop Henry J. Mansell to design, cut, piece and sew the beautiful quilts. The group at first met at St. Aedan Parish in New Haven, where Kathy Ryzewski offered the assistance of the parish’s sewing ministry. The gatherings later switched to Fridays and moved to Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in East Haven, where they were hosted by Maryann Lotto and Barbara Villecca.


After Deacon Robert Tartaris, who serves at Our Lady of Victory Parish in West Haven, blessed the quilts on Dec. 21, Mrs. Tartaris and Rose Alma Senatore, chief executive officer for Catholic Charities, began presenting the quilts to the families who came for an evening that included a dinner and a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” for the children.

“May these quilts made by human hands with great love keep you warm,” Deacon Tartaris prayed.

His prayer was received with an equal measure of love and gratitude by the residents of Cathedral Green, an affordable housing initiative with supportive services provided by Catholic Charities.

“I am overwhelmed with joy,” said Cynthia Fenn. “They took so much time just for us to make us feel at home here.”

There’s more at the link.

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Whow! Flashback time!! Wasn’t this the way things were back in the early 60’s? I have a suggestion — if you would like to try a little experiment in time travel, visit one of the mainline Protestant churches and see where you might be in 50 or 60 years (allowing for resistance and friction, it might take longer than it took us). Gender roles in ministry has become so passe that it is not even a cliche anymore. Imagine how much more enlightening and beneficial your ministry as deacons would be if women shared in the work you do. Try reversing roles – what “manly chores” could you do while your wives are ministering to the congregation? Does that feel condescending? Good, it should.
Christ called all people to ministry. Paul wrote there is neither male nor female in Christ’s service. Let your experience of love extend ever farther out and include women in your work. You’ll be amazed how much more fulfilling this will be to all concerned.

report abuse


posted January 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

If enough Protestant women had recognised the traditional role of Christian women in helping the poor rather than constantly denigrating it they probably wouldn’t have female ‘priests’ etc today. I cannot see how women making quilts for poor families translates into what the above commenter is suggesting. Aren’t they doing exactly what he thinks they should?
[Margaret…you make a good point. I can’t escape the feeling that the original commenter, whether intending to or not, has dismissed the good work of these women with a condescension that borders on disdain — inferring that the effort devoted to this kind of Christian charity is somehow inferior. — Dcn. G.]

report abuse


posted January 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

As the above listed commentator, I thought I would respond. I do not deny the value of the quilting or the giving of quilts as gifts. A sewing ministry is a valuable work (we’ve had one in our church as well, and the workers have all been women who are also deacons, serve on church council, or serve in many other roles as well) – but why is that distinctly a deacon’s wife’s work? What amazes me is the way that this is the limitation of the work allowed these wives (no single women or widows?). Is there not a parallel task that husbands (winterizing homes or cleaning up yards) could do while their wives served as deacons? It is the disparity of the roles within the church, not the worthiness of the work that I question.
All of us assist in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and visiting the sick and homebound. That is the work of the Church, not of one gender or committee.
By the way St Aedan’s used to sponsor a Drum and Bugle Corps that was the envy of many throughout Connecticut.

report abuse

Deacon Greg Kandra

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Thank you for the clarification, Jestrfyl.
FWIW, the Church has not closed the door on ordaining women as deacons. It could well happen.
Meantime, I would be surprised if the wives and widows involved in the quilt-making felt that what they were doing was a “limitation.” Limitation, I think, is in the mind of the beholder. Speaking only for myself, I don’t feel “limited” because I can’t consecrate the Eucharist or hear confessions. I feel, instead, that God has placed me where I am, as husband and deacon and journalist, for a reason. All I can do is live out that role as best I can, desiring to fulfill His will, rather than my own.
Dcn. G.

report abuse


posted January 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Dcn G
Thank you for your well thought through response. I actually do appreciate any and all work done for the benefit of people and in the name of Christ. I just like to stick a toothpick in here and there to try and wiggle some changes. I hope that “they” (the Church heirarchy) do begin to recognize women as deacons. It will benefit the whole organization. I firmly believe, frequently preach and teach, and encourage whenever possible the ministry of the laity.
Keep up the Good Work!
p.s. It is a shame you could not hear the St Aedens Drum & Bugle corps. They rivaled the Heavelnly Heralds!

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.