Familiarity defines deacon’s rural ministry

Deacon Greg Beavin and his wife Shirley stand at the entrance of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., Aug. 3. St. Theresa is the oldest church in Meade County and it’s one of the parishes where Deacon Beavin was assigned after ordination. The deacon and his wife grew up at the parish. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Deacon Greg Beavin and his wife Shirley stand at the entrance of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., Aug. 3. St. Theresa is the oldest church in Meade County and it’s one of the parishes where Deacon Beavin was assigned after ordination. The deacon and his wife grew up at the parish. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
MEADE COUNTY, Ky. —The August sun shone brightly on fields of soybeans and corn as Deacon Greg Beavin drove along a stretch of country highway on his way to St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church in Payneville, Ky.

Deacon Beavin is the permanent deacon at St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi and St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky. — the oldest church in Meade County and the one in which he and his wife Shirley grew up. The communities of Rhodelia and Payneville are about 10 miles apart.

As the green fields rolled by, Shirley Beavin reflected on the importance of these crops to the livelihood of local farmers and how her husband’s ministry is connected to them.

“This is why the harvest prayer service is so important,” she said during a recent interview.

Every year in August, the harvest prayer service brings together people of different faiths to celebrate and offer prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest
and to pray for the health of the next season’s crops. The Meade County Ministerial Association — an ecumenical non-profit of which Deacon Beavin is vice-president sponsors the event.

While praying for the health of crops may be unique to deacons in rural areas, Deacon Beavin said his ministry may not be as different from that of deacons anywhere else.

Deacon Beavin celebrated the ninth anniversary of his ordination on Aug. 23. Following ordination, he was assigned to St. Theresa Church, his childhood parish.

This assignment, he said, proved to be both a “blessing” and a “challenge.”

He wasn’t certain how long-time parishioners would receive him as a deacon. But those concerns were unfounded. Over the past nine years, the people have been very welcoming of his ministry, said Deacon Beavin.

“They respect and appreciate him,” said Shirley Beavin.

Having grown up in Meade County, Deacon Beavin is well-known in that area. He and his family are the owners of two Farm Bureau Insurance offices in Brandenburg, Ky. Individuals seeking his advice as a deacon have no problem knocking on his office door, he said.

“They feel they can open up more when talking to deacons,” he said. “They may not feel as comfortable confessing their thoughts to the priest.”

But this sense of familiarity brings difficulty with it at times, he noted. In November 2008, three months after Deacon Beavin’s ordination, a mother and her two young children were involved in a car accident heading home from Mass at St. Theresa.

The two children were killed instantly, said Deacon Beavin. The mother died two days later. Deacon Beavin said he was called to bless the bodies of the children at the funeral home and then spent two days at the hospital accompanying the grieving family.

He believes the Holy Spirit guided him through that and all of his ministry.

“You can’t survive those types of situations on your own. You’re just not strong enough,” he said. “The ministry is bigger than we are.”

The call of the deacon, he said, is serve and to spread the Gospel.

“If we confine our efforts to the interior of the church then we’re missing the most important people — the ones that aren’t there,” he said.

In an effort to reach as many people with the Gospel message, Deacon Beavin was instrumental in getting the Meade County Catholic Radio, 95.3 FM-lp, on the air last November.

It took two years to get approval from the Federal Communications Commission and 18 months to put the station together, said Deacon Beavin.
With the help of the local Knights of Columbus and four parishes — St. Theresa, St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, St. John the Apostle in Brandenburg and St. Martin of Tours Church in Flaherty, Ky., — they raised $15,000 to purchase radio equipment.

The station broadcasts programming from Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are currently working on local programming, said Deacon Beavin.

“We have to spread that seed. You never know where that message will take hold,” he said, reflecting on the mission of the station. “If you lay it out there, it may touch somebody and grow one day.”

Deacon Beavin and his wife are also involved in the ministry of marriage preparation at their parish. They started a men’s and a women’s group for parishioners. Members of the groups also minister to male and female inmates in Meade County.

The couple live in Brandenburg, Ky., and have four children and 11 grandchildren.

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