PROVIDENCE — As the newly ordained deacons of the Diocese of Providence prepare to serve in their ministries, their wives play a unique and spiritually supportive role, contributing to their husbands’ vocations through love, prayer and sacrifice.
Preparation to become the wife of a deacon for Maria Raspallo-Brown came first from her being the daughter of one. Her father, Deacon Thomas Raspallo, was ordained in June 1982, when she was 16 years old.
“My mother is a strong supporter of my dad by being the mother to his children and a partner to him in this life,” she explained. “I look forward to supporting Scott in a similar manner. By being a mom to our children, it will allow Scott to be active in his ministry, knowing that his family is well cared for.”
Very early on in their relationship, Victor Andrade told his wife Cheryl, of East Providence, that he wanted to become a permanent deacon should the opportunity arise.
Together for nearly 18 years, they encouraged each other during Victor’s preparation by keeping the lines of communication open, remaining patient, and by praying every day for the strength to follow the path laid out for them.
“By recognizing and accepting that working full-time, attending weekend and evening trainings, going to class, studying and reading takes enormous energy and sometimes requires the sacrifice of other activities,” she said.
Andrade shared that the other wives of deacons have been especially supportive of each other throughout the entire process. She felt the greatest support after being diagnosed with a carcinoma on the back of the tongue in early 2012 and had to undergo an intense seven-week course of daily radiation and chemotherapy.
“The candidates and wives were wonderful throughout the entire process, sending me a prayer shawl, thoughtful cards and e-mails, and putting me on multiple prayer lists,” she explained. “I have to say that this was instrumental in helping me cope and maintain faith at a very difficult time.”
Diana Davis, a syndicated columnist and author of Deacon Wives: Fresh Ideas to Encourage Your Husband and the Church, shares the importance for women to receive support from other deacon wives.
“No one else in the church understands your support role like other deacon wives,” she said. “Those deacons are worthy leaders, and you’ll find their wives are godly, quality women who will encourage you and lift you up in prayer.”
Davis has had the privilege of knowing and serving with hundreds of deacons’ wives and added that they are some of the most amazing people she has ever known.
“I've observed that the happiest and most effective deacons were consistently those whose wives were supportive,” she said. “You’ll find great joy in seeing how God works in the lives of others as you serve. You’ll be closer to your husband because of your shared commitment. And as you draw closer to God, you’ll naturally draw closer to one another.”
“It takes time to accomplish ministry, so sharing your husband’s time can be a challenge,” said Davis. “Decide right now that you’ll never complain about his service to God. Joyfully give your blessing as your husband embarks on this exciting responsibility.”
Luba Flanigan and her husband Tim, a physician, have been married for 26 years and have five children under the age of 25. She, too, was been happy to support her husband’s decision to enter the diaconate.
“He has enjoyed the preparation and is looking forward to this new dimension of his life,” she said. “Our faith is very important to each of us and it has helped us in our marriage.”
As Patricia Birbuet looked forward to her husband’s ordination, she could only think back to more than 30 years ago, when she and a friend used to say the rosary for their spouses.
“All the parts of my life were part of God's big plan and I can see it came full circle,” she explained. “I am waiting for the next adventure in God's good plan for me and Eduardo.”
Pauline Cote, who has been married to husband Cy for the past 43 years said that the best way to keep a marriage strong between a deacon and his wife is to be loving and compassionate.
“As with any couple, you must support one another, take time for one another and be best friends,” she said. “He always included me in every aspect of his journey.”
Anna Fulton of Warwick, explained that she was “all for” John, her husband of 31 years, taking the steps to become a deacon. Fulton shared that she is her husband’s biggest fan, always encouraging him throughout his preparation to enter the diaconate.
“I knew he was going to become a deacon, I was just waiting for him to decide to do it,” she joked.
Fulton said that her husband possesses many wonderful qualities that will serve him well in his ministry. He is very kind and modest, knowledgeable in a wide range of areas, is a tremendous teacher and a great listener.
“I know he’s going to be a good deacon. It will be a new phase in our lives.”
Having a deacon in the household will serve to make the faith of her family even stronger, said Ellen Albanese, wife of Deacon Greg.
“The kids and I are very excited to learn of what his assignment will be and look forward to supporting him and encouraging him every day,” said Albanese, who will celebrate 17 years of marriage in November. “He is the most unselfish, giving person we know and we are truly lucky to have him in our lives, and hopefully he can bring hope, peace and love while spreading God's word to others in the community.”