I am the fourth child of seven born to Cletus and Mae Willkom in Cadott, Wisconsin. I was born on August 28 (the feast of St. Augustine), 1954. My father, a dentist, was born and raised in Boyd, WI and my mother was born and raised on a farm north of Cadott WI. I have two sisters and four brothers, scattered throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Colorado. My wife LouAnn and I have been married since 1978, and we’ve maintained a family dental practice in Cadott since that time. Our four grown children are all married; Matthew (Elizabeth), Renee (Sean), Anne (Joel), and Anthony (Justine), and we currently have five grandchildren, with a sixth due in September.
I attended and graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Cadott, and Cadott Community High School. I attended UW-Stevens Point, UW-Madison, and UW-Eau Claire, to complete my pre-dental studies program. I graduated from the Marquette University School of Dentistry in 1979. I actually began my diaconal formation in 2003 in the Lay Formation institute, and I was ordained to the permanent diaconate in October 2010, by Bishop William Callahan. I have to say that I am a “sister’s boy” in my Catholic grade school upbringing, and I feel very fortunate to have their guidance and model of holiness in my life. I also consider myself a product of the new evangelization of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and a student of Pope Benedict XVI.
After my ordination in October of 2010, I was assigned by Bishop Callahan to service at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cadott, and St. Anthony of Padua in Drywood. In 2011, as a result of the first major “wave” of changes in parish alignments in the diocese as part of the diocesan pastoral plan, I was removed from St. Anthony of Padua, and continued to serve at St. Rose of Lima. Then, in December 2011, I received the assignment to serve St. Rose of Lima in Cadott, Sacred Heart-St. Joseph’s in Boyd, and Holy Family in Stanley. Upon the formation of All Saints Parish, serving Stanley, Boyd, and Cadott, I was assigned to the parish on July 2, 2013.
I enjoy a wide variety of activities such as fishing, hunting, gardening, and I enjoy traveling. Some of my most memorable travel experiences include making a pilgrimage to Rome in 2000 at the close of the Jubilee year and attending Midnight Mass with Pope John Paul II, and visiting St. Joseph’s Oratory (the tomb of St. Andre Bessette) in Montreal and attending Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at Yankee Stadium. I’ve always enjoyed new challenges, and I am an avid reader. I also enjoy writing, including a series of essays for Gilbert!, the magazine of the American Chesterton Society. Hopefully they are not available online anymore!
As a permanent deacon, ordained unto the person of Christ the Servant, service is at the heart of “who I am,” and everything I do as a deacon. A deacon must be someone who is willing to respond to a call for service, a call for help, in whatever manner or form that might be. As a deacon, each and every day holds the promise of something unexpected. There are many elements of parish life that are spontaneous and unpredictable. So often our natural inclination would have us reject the unexpected, the uncomfortable, and the disagreeable. But that is exactly what our Lord taught us that we all need to face, and respond to. A deacon, serving in the manner of Christ the Servant, has three “munera”, or spheres of activity. First, there is Service to Charity, a response to the world’s constant need to experience and reflect Christ’s love for us. In the service of a deacon, this can include a myriad of activities—ministry to the sick and shut-ins, the imprisoned, activities within the parish and the local community. The second area is Service of the Word. A deacon is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and action. And it is the proper function of the deacon, whenever he is assisting at Mass, to proclaim the Gospel. But this call to proclaim the Gospel is not confined only to the context of the Mass. A deacon is an icon of Christ the Servant, a representative of the Gospel in living form, throughout his daily existence. The third area of service that characterizes the vocation of the deacon is Service to the Altar. A deacon functions with a foot in two worlds, the secular and the religious, and his service at the altar is an essential component. The deacon derives much of his spiritual strength from his service at the altar, and this spiritual strength facilitates his ability to go out and serve where he is needed. The deacon, in turn, brings those he serves back with him to the altar in a spiritual manner. And so, in the life of a deacon, there is a two-way flow, to and from the altar. It is my prayer and hope that more individuals in our parish community continue to answer God’s call to service, and will also consider diocesan programs like the Lay Formation Institute, and Biblical Studies Program. I also pray that other men in our churches will prayerfully consider the possibility of serving as permanent deacons.
It has been a great joy for me personally to be a part of this new and growing parish family. And so often, being a part of a family means putting ourselves “out there” for others, and putting ourselves aside. I am heartened and gratified, both by the reception that LouAnn and I have received, and by the many ways in which I have witnessed others show their desire for unity, and participate as we come together as a parish family. We must always remember our Lord’s prayer for unity from the Gospel of John; “… that they may all be one, as you, the Father are in me and in you”, remembering that we must always strive to “stretch ourselves”, to look beyond merely focusing upon our tendency to see only the obvious, the immediate. This desire for unity, expressed in our own lives and in the life of our parish, will then, be a living reflection of the Gospel at work in our own lives.