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Put Faith in Your Opinions

Meet the Deacon Class of 2020

  • Bob Fritts
  • Orlando Lopez-Camuy
  • Kevin Knight
  • DeWayne Tillman
  • Mario Rabusin
  • Terry Mermann
  • Bob Fritts

    Bob Fritts has always been a servant. It’s just the path his life has taken him. Whether as a Boy Scout volunteer, president of his local homeowner association or as a 30-year employee of the federal government. Fritts, who was born in Baxley and raised in Savannah, knew he wanted to serve others as best he could. Soon he will do so as a deacon at his parish, Blessed Sacrament Church, Savannah, and having had studied, prayed, worked for and accomplished that goal, he is ready to move on to the next chapter of his service life. “It was really a call to service,” said Fritts, the son of a former professional football player and college and high school head coach George Fritts. “My entire life has been about serving others. I believe the Lord shaped me to become one of his ministers of service.” The call to serve is in Fritts’ blood. As the son of a successful and in-demand football coach, he and his family had to move a few times during his father’s coaching career. Living in places like Clemson, South Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; and Baxley, Georgia, Fritts made the most of the opportunities to make new friends and serve others, and not just familiar faces.

    That ability to adapt helped him during the permanent diaconate process. “This has been a great journey, I have met some wonderful people along the way and have learned a couple of things,” said Fritts. “Our group, the 12 guys, are just wonderful.” The amount of studying it takes to move from student to deacon was something that even Fritts had to acknowledge was no easy task. Reminiscing on the times while a college student, he had to learn a computer program, Fritts thought he had already encountered tough times by way of the textbook. The years of study, the time spent writing papers, tested his mettle. “This has really been an opportunity to learn, it’s been very humbling,” said Fritts. “[The course work] includes an incredible amount of analysis, complex thought, and history of the church. “It was almost like when I thought I had a grasp on things, I’d turn the page, and it just kept growing.” The service Fritts will continue to contribute to his parish and its many parishioners will, as has his knowledge of the church and Diaconate, continue to grow as well.

  • Orlando Lopez-Camuy

    A former long-distance runner, Orlando Lopez-Camuy has always been good with keeping time. Asked how long he served in the United States Army, he immediately answered, “20 years, three months and 27 days.”

    The three-year journey from layperson to becoming a deacon at his parish, St. Michael the Archangel, Woodstock, wasn’t as long as his military career. Still, according to Lopez-Camuy, it has been equally as important to his life. “This journey has been a blessing,” said Lopez-Camuy by phone in late March. “A total blessing and a privilege to be able to serve the Lord in this capacity. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” Born in Castener, Puerto Rico, Lopez-Camuy was raised by religious parents who believed God’s will was the light and way in which he should build his life. Always faithful, Lopez-Camuy got what he considered the call to serve nine years ago during a mass. “I was listening to a priest deliver Mass, and I can’t explain it, I can just tell you what happened to me,” he says. “Something just came over me, I felt cold, yet peaceful, and I heard the words ‘Do not continue to turn’, and immediately after I felt a warm peace come over me.” Upon telling his parents what had happened and that he was thinking about becoming a deacon, Lopez-Camuy said his father, who was ecstatic and jubilant, responded: “Praise God, praise God, you finally got the call.”

    The support of his family and the other 11 men taking part in the diaconate process has been a guiding force for Lopez-Camuy. He not only has accomplished his goal of being able to serve his community on a higher level but has extended his family in the process. “My parents are my heroes. I was raised in a home where faith was everything, and my classmates have also been like the brothers I never had,” said Lopez-Camuy, who has four sisters.

  • Kevin Knight

    One day while attending mass in a military chapel, Kevin Knight felt an urge to do more. Not more as a soldier for the United States Military, Knight, a helicopter pilot, would eventually retire from the service. He wanted to do more as a Catholic after being baptized on April 19, 2003, Knight received both Communion and Confirmation. Knight, who went through RCIA in his early 30’s and was raised Baptist, wanted to take that next step, whatever that was destined to be. “I felt like there was something more I can do,” said Knight, a Louisville, Kentucky native and parishioner at St. Peter the Apostle Church, Savannah. “I just wanted to be a servant to the church.” That urge he felt years ago in that chapel kept nagging at him upon moving to Georgia, and this time, it moved him to do something. Becoming a deacon would bring Knight and the many others that decide to dedicate their lives to serving their parish and community into the church in an entirely new way.

    Masses become more than just a way to receive the Blessed Sacrament and partake in the fellowship alongside your neighbors, family and friends. This was going to test Knight as nothing had before. “It came to fruition and now it is a mission accomplished,” said Knight of the three years of study and nightly homework assignments necessary to move forward in the process. That moment in the chapel was the start of something big, whether Knight knew it or not. “Five years later, by the grace of God here I am,” said Knight.

  • DeWayne Tillman

    “I saw it and boom. I never thought I would be interested in joining the ministry,” said Dewayne Tillman. The call to serve may have taken Tillman by surprise, but it didn’t knock him off of his feet; instead, it lifted him up and on to becoming a deacon. Tillman, a husband, father of five, and grandfather of five, will be among the dozen men set to take on a new way of life, May 30. He and his family have attended Holy Family Church, Columbus, for a decade and a half. They have always been involved with the church, so an opportunity to become a deacon was always a possibility. “My wife was behind me, and when I talked to my mother about it, she said ‘What an opportunity to become a good person.’” I always wanted to be known as a good man and to have faith like she has,” said Tillman.

    Growing up in a faithful household ultimately helped Tillman make the decision to apply for the process, the classes. All of the homework was a different story. The three years of dedication and study necessary to become a deacon were something Tillman was not going to be able to do alone. It’s a good thing he didn’t have to. “I thought I couldn’t do the work, but God told me to stay with it,” said Tillman. “Through five years of formation, the Lord had his hand on me.” So did his family. “Even my grandkids knew when I was doing school work,” joked Tillman. The youngest members of the Tillman family would come over to the house and be quiet while grandpa was working. This was most certainly a family effort. “I’m blessed to have had this opportunity,” said Tillman. “I had to learn study habits all over again, but everything worked out after a while.” That familial aspect of this process extended to the men Tillman went through this process with. Quick to share stories about the men who have now become brothers in faith, Tillman will take those memories with him into the Diaconate. “To be around good Christian men and their families was a blessing,” Tillman said.

  • Mario Rabusin

    Mario Rabusin doesn’t believe things just happen. “There’s no such thing as a coincidence,” said Rabusin, a cradle Catholic, husband of 44 years and father of two adult children. “I believe I’ve been called to serve over a long period of time.” The call to serve as a deacon in his parish, Sacred Heart Church, Savannah, is something Rabusin believes is part of his destiny. Growing up in Brewster, New York, a village some 50 miles north of New York City, as the son of first generation Americans that made their way to the United States following World War II. Rabusin always had Christ in his heart, but what was in his head finally came to the surface and has changed his life forever.

    The first sign that Rabusin felt there was more to do within the church came when he was in his 40’s, and all of his kids were in high school. The next call to serve came after his father passed away. “I believe I have been called for a long time and I had to just put my hands in God’s hands,” said Rabusin. The signs heeded and paperwork filed, Rabusin set off on becoming a deacon and never looked back. The changes in his life from that point forward have been “great.” “The first thing in my life that has changed has been my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Rabusin said. The level of study involved in the process opened up a treasure trove of Catholic history for Rabusin. “It has become more personal, knowing him better allows me to know myself better.” The same could be said for Rabusin’s relationship with his wife, whom he met in high school and has rarely been separated from since. “My wife means more to me now than ever before,” he said. “I think all of the men involved in this process would tell you we couldn’t have gotten through this without [our wives]. “Though the spouses were not particularly going through the permanent diaconate process, they were routinely involved in group exercises and in most cases like Rabusin’s, involved with studying and homework.

    Rabusin is looking forward to getting started serving the parishioners at Sacred Heart Church, Savannah in order to do what he believes God called him to do. “You never know how you can affect others, and I am putting my life in Christ’s hands in order for him to show me what to do for others,” said Rabusin.

  • Terry Mermann

    Being involved in educating young people, in particular as a principal at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Dr. Terry Mermann is comfortable with learning new things. That said, the permanent diaconate process was something that the lifetime educator and Long Island, New York native, wasn’t entirely prepared for. He had always felt a calling to serve the church, but in what way he wasn’t so sure. “I feel like I have had the call since I was in third grade,” said Mermann. “At first, I thought it was to the priesthood, but I felt that God was leading me towards a more familial life.” That “familial life” would indeed come to fruition through the diaconate process. Asked what it took to accomplish the goal, Mermann said, “Perseverance, patience and a lot of relationship building with the men in the class and their families.” The five-year journey was a group effort and Mermann, a husband and father of two adult step-children, readily acknowledges that fact. “They were all strangers, and now we have developed some great relationships,” Mermann said.

    Along with the friendships and personal connections, the process also helped Mermann become closer to God. A cradle Catholic that attended Catholic school as a youngster, he, like others involved in the process, had to balance home and work life while tending to his studies. “This [process] helped me understand how God works and it deepened my understanding of the church,” Mermann said. His advice to others looking to take part in the process, “To pray about it and if you feel you’re being called, it’s worth it to go into the program and see where God leads you,” said Mermann. “Gradually God’s plan unfolded and this long journey has come to fruition.”

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