Michael A. Sawyers
OAKLAND — The four-year journey to become a Catholic deacon tested not only Donald Battista’s character and commitment, but his automobile as well.
After 37,576 miles, two sets of tires and zero speeding tickets, Battista was ordained to the Roman Catholic Order of Permanent Deacon on May 14 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.
Battista could do it blindfolded — drive to Baltimore, that is.
“If it was Friday night we were in a motel in Columbia and then on Saturday we went into Baltimore for the classes,” said Patricia, Don’s wife, who accompanied him on every 3.5-hour trip to Baltimore and the return trip to Garrett County.
“A lot of people presume I am more spiritual or more of something than others, but I’m not. I just answered the call in a spirit of humility. I simply committed more deeply than in the past,” Don Battista said. “I’m humbled and I’m overjoyed.”
The role of the deacon in the church is increasing, he said. “During the next 10 years, the number of priests will be reduced by half. It is possible that some deacons will find themselves handling administrative duties at parishes.”
As for his own role as a deacon, Battista said he may perform weddings, baptisms, wake services, funerals, benedictions and blessings.
Battista is the president and CEO of Garrett County Memorial Hospital. He said any work as a deacon within the hospital would come at the direction of the parish to which he is assigned, St. Peter the Apostle in Oakland.
Battista said he has distinct respect for his role at the hospital and his role with the church and would not mix the two.
In 2007, 48 men applied to be deacons within the Archdiocese of Baltimore; 21 began the program and 14 were ordained.
Battista’s training and internship included work in Morgantown, W.Va., with hospital patients and West Virginia University students.
“Don would leave Monday afternoons for Morgantown and I would make supper for him and the students,” Patricia Battista said. She also kept a log of the four-year spiritual adventure.
There were 72 round trips to Baltimore, 157 round trips to internship sites, 627 hours behind the wheel, 70 nights in motels and 2,237 gallons of gas involved.
“I’m pretty sure I qualified as the deacon candidate who traveled the greatest distance,” Don said.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.