By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
As Ned Berghausen changed his one-year-old son in their Highlands home on a sunny
August afternoon, he talked about juggling his family life and formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s diaconate ministry.
Berghausen and his wife Dr. Kate Bulinski, a geologist, are getting ready to start their third year of formation for the diaconate this fall.
Berghausen is a theology teacher and director of campus ministry at Mercy Academy.
He said he’s “incredibly fulfilled” by that work. “It’s what I felt God called me to do,” he said. Yet, he feels called to something deeper still, he said. “I felt the calling to the diaconate is a calling within a calling,” he said. “It’s a way of deepening and sacramentalizing what I’ve been doing.”
As deep as his faith is now, Berghausen said there was a time when he was agnostic.
Though there were years of uncertainty, he admits that the “seeds” of his faith had been planted during his early life.
Bulinski noted that Berghausen comes from a family of “incredible role models of faith.”
Berghausen’s mother, Karen Cassidy, founded Hildegard House, which provides short-term care to those in the final stages of life who have no home or loved ones able to care for them.
She also instilled in him a “dedication to serving others,” which Berghausen said is a “fundamental part of what it means to be a deacon.”
Even through those agnostic years, a deep desire to help others led him to the Peace Corps, he said, where he served needy people in Bangladesh.
In 2004, a defining “conversion experience” clarified things for him. Berghausen explained that he was vacationing in Thailand when a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean set off a series of tsunamis killing close to 300,000 people in several countries.
He recalled running to escape the walls of water, which the tsunami brought to shore. A third of the people in the city he was visiting were killed or missing. Berghausen said he spent the next day and a half helping to pull survivors from the rubble of the devastation.
“The suffering and harrowing events woke me up and turned my life in a new direction,” he said.
Berghausen — a member St. Francis of Assisi Church — has since come fully into his faith.
He and Bulinski have completed the first two years of a five-year formation process. Those first two years included a year of application and a year of discernment, which included service work.
The couple served through Kentucky Refugee Ministries by helping a family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo settle into a new life in Louisville.
The formation process also includes a full weekend of course work each month through St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. The couple noted that the archdiocese is very supportive of their family, allowing E.J., their 1-year-old son, to be with them during the weekend sessions.
The couple also has a monthly meeting with a mentor couple — Deacon Mark Rougeux of St. Patrick Church and his wife Kim. Berghausen said he has “shadowed” Deacon Rougeux during funerals, weddings and nursing home communion services. Berghausen also meets monthly with a spiritual director, another requirement on the formation journey.
The couple said they are “very carefully” balancing the responsibilities of family life and career with the responsibilities of diaconate formation.
Berghausen said there will always be challenges in life, so there’s no “perfect time” to enter formation for the diaconate. He believes their marriage, however, played an important part in his responding to that call.
“Serving each other” as a married couple is a prerequisite to serving the larger community, said Berghausen. “That foundation needs to be there.”
The week following their monthly weekend session is always the toughest, said Bulinski, an associate professor in Bellarmine University’s School of Environmental Studies.
Following those weekends, she said, there’s usually no time to rest and no free time.
Responsibilities, such as chores and grocery shopping, can be a struggle, she said. Bulinski said they are able to do it with the help of family members. The flexibility provided by her career as a professor also helps.
Berghausen said his background in theology — he has a master’s degree in theology from St. Meinrad — makes the course work easier. Employing some discipline and being diligent about getting things done helps as well, he said.
Though things are challenging now, the couple says they’re looking forward to where this journey will take them.
“I don’t know what our life will look like as a deacon family, but I’m excited,” said Bulinski. “I can see it enriching my life and enriching our family.”
Berghausen said he’s looking forward to the “privilege” a deacon has of walking with people during the most important times of their lives.
“I don’t know that there’s a perfect time. There will always be some challenge,” he said of becoming a deacon. “There’s not a perfect type of person and the church needs deacons. I encourage anybody to go to a discernment session.”
The diaconate office will hold an information session for men and their wives interested in the diaconate Nov. 12 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Bernadette Church in Prospect, Ky. Discernment sessions — which will include prayer and sharing — will take place Sept. 21 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., and Nov. 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Bernadette.