Diaconate community thanks its servant-leader, Msgr. Beebe
One by one they came forward on March 3, sharing memories of as well as love and gratitude for Msgr. Charles Beebe, PA, who is stepping down in May after two decades of guiding the Diocese of Peoria’s permanent diaconate community.
The scene during the Deacon Convocation at the Spalding Pastoral Center played out like a sentimental reprise of the TV classic “This is Your Life.”
Deacon Jack Goetz of St. Mary’s Parish, Lourdes, was first to the microphone -- and the first to lament a 3-minute time limit.
“I can’t talk about Msgr. Beebe in three minutes!” he said, calling the episcopal vicar of the permanent diaconate “a beautiful example of a true servant of God.”
Deacon John Skender, diocesan spiritual director of Cursillo, echoed that sentiment by thanking Msgr. Beebe for living the episcopal motto of the late Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke: “To Lead by Serving.”
Deacon Greg Serangeli, former co-administrator of the diaconate, said “I can attest to the love you have for all the deacons and their wives. For us on the staff, we saw it daily.” He said that, under Msgr. Beebe’s guidance, the Peoria diaconate program has become the envy of dioceses around the country.
Sister Diane Vande Voorde, OSF, assistant director, drew nods of agreement by quoting a few of Msgr. Beebe’s favorite sayings, including: “Only transformed people can bring about transformation,” and “When things don’t work out, one does what one can.” As a partner in the workplace, she said, Msgr. Beebe has “always been kind, extremely generous and much like a big brother.”
And Deacon Nick Simon of Atkinson, coordinator for the ordained, said simply that Msgr. Beebe “changed my life.”
“You showed me one can be orthodox and practice compassion at the same time,” said Deacon Simon, who then asked Msgr. Beebe to come forward and accept two gifts of gratitude from the diaconate community: a sculpture of Jesus washing Peter’s feet, and a check for $2,400.
And then, finally, it was Msgr. Beebe’s turn to speak.
LOVE AND GRATITUDE
“Each one of you has touched me and my life,” he told the deacons and their wives. “My story and your story have been intermingled. There is no way to say thank you.”
Msgr. Beebe said he became interested in the permanent diaconate while teaching full time at the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute in Peoria.
Three men from the tiny parish of Immaculate Conception in Manito were among the pioneers in the diocesan program, including one who became “like my brother,” the late Deacon Dennis Woiwode.
“When Dennis became involved he brought me with him,” said Msgr. Beebe, who has served as formation director and episcopal vicar of the diaconate since 1993. “The rest is history.”
Deacon Woiwode’s sudden death in 1995 shocked the diaconate community, acknowledged Msgr. Beebe.
“That day is burned into all of our memories,” said Msgr. Beebe. “But Dennis has never left my side. He continues to intercede for me and this diaconate community we love so much.”
Msgr. Beebe, who serves as pastor of St. Joseph’s, Roanoke, and St. John’s, Benson, will step down from diaconate leadership following the ordination of the diocese’s ninth class in May.
But Deacon Charles Murray of St. Joseph’s Parish, Pekin, gave the deacons some more immediate homework.
“Tonight, when you’re on your knees saying a prayer, say a ‘thank you’ for Msgr. Beebe,” said Deacon Murray, the diocese’s oldest deacon at age 91.