Farewell to Deacon Derek!

August 17, 2023
Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. John’s,
Lessons from “Letting Go, Letting God, and Giving Yourself Away”
Our heavenly Father wants nothing more than to bestow good gifts upon his people (Matthew 7:11). Who doesn’t want to be blessed? My time here at St. John’s has been a tremendous blessing and gift. Prior to my arrival, I knew I was in for something special, but I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited because I have always heard so many good things about St. John’s. Many of my classmates even said they too wished they could have come here themselves if they were given the opportunity. But to be honest, I was also a little intimidated and unsure of myself, feeling unprepared and lacking in skill for such a vibrant and large parish community. Like Moses who doubted his own God-given gifts and was lacking in trust that the Lord would show up when he needed him (Exodus 4:11-12), the Lord reassured Moses saying, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” In a beautiful way, Moses’ own struggles offered me the proper “reorientation” that I needed in order to turn my eyes off myself and fix them back on my heavenly Father who calls me to love and trust him above all things. God wants us to receive his blessing. Oftentimes the greatest gifts of God require a good dose of faithfulness and trust on our part. Once I let go, let God, and freely gave myself away to whatever the parish had in store for me, I found an immediate turn of joy and excitement in my heart.

The joy of freely giving yourself away also leaves the door open for the unexpected. One of my greatest hopes has been to learn and see how a large parish can be made into an intimate place of encounter and mission. Both Fr. Paul and Fr. Joseph and the entire staff of St. Johns modeled this for me in so many amazing ways how this is done. I discovered that mission requires self-gift to others. Inviting others to partake in parish life requires that people be known and shown the healing power of Christ. In today’s world of apostolic mission, St. John’s has shown me that it demands we get outside ourselves. While it is not in my nature to do things like go online and speak on Facebook Live, act out the life of a Saint for Totus Tuus, find myself in a jousting match with a pool noodle, or get into a dunk tank, the parish has shown me that mission requires we delight in spending time with God’s people. When we give ourselves away out of love for God and for the sake of others, I found that God in return fills our hearts.

Beyond the excitement that comes from giving yourself away, is walking faithfully into the unknown of what God has prepared. Having had little prior experience of being a public person, charting into the waters of preaching and liturgy was another point of intimidation. Getting to know the hearts and minds of the people of St. John’s allowed me to step forward in a new and bold way so that my heart could be seen and received by a multitude of others. You all have shown me that loving God’s word and loving God’s people are inseparable. When we pray together as one body, our public act of worship becomes a transcendent participation in the divine life of God. I received a new and surprising taste of “firsts” in these things as a newly ordained deacon, for example, I was given the opportunity to perform my first baptism, preach, plan funerals, conduct communion services, and assist our priests at mass.

All of what I received by the grace of God and through your generous spirit will never fit in this one page. If I can leave with you one thing, it would be my gratitude. Thank you for showing me the love and joy of the Lord by being the people of faith that you are. Never in my life have I experienced so much delight and joy in the Lord. It helps me affirm my calling, but I also hope it affirms for you the good things God is doing in this parish. You have made a tremendous impact on my life and formation as a future priest. I will be back for visits, but please continue to pray for me in my last year of seminary. If you wish to contact me by email you may reach me at:

Thank you and may God bless you for your generous spirit!
Deacon Derek Gilde
St. John’s Summer Deacon