By Kathy Schmugge
WHITE OAK — The annual retreat for deacons Jan. 21-23 was described by many as one of the best. Not only were the deacons pleased with the retreat master, Msgr. James C. Turro, they also enjoyed the accommodations at the White Oak Conference Center that provided a peaceful atmosphere to reflect on the talks.
“I am proud of the diaconate program in the diocese, and I receive favorable reports from pastors in our diocese on the service of our deacons,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker. He is thankful to Msgr. Joseph Roth, Father Edward Fitzgerald and the formation team for the excellent training they are providing for the deacons.
This year’s retreat theme was “Eucharistic Spirituality.” Msgr. Turro, a writer, noted spiritual director and professor emeritus of New Testament studies, summarized his talks in the title “Great Realities in the Life and Work of Deacons.”
The five realities he touched on were God, the Church, the Bible, prayer and the Blessed Mother. He wanted the men to see how these things pertain to their work as deacons.
“Much of what we will cover [during this retreat] will help you on your journey to the diaconate or will help you as a deacon,” said Turro. “In a retreat God does most of the work. You just need to let God work in you.”
Deacon Billy Ellis of St. Anne Church in Sumter said that Msgr. Turro asked them to look on the church of the past with pride, the church of the present with hope and the church of the future with love.
Deacon Raymond Perham from Our Lady of the Rosary Church liked the retreat master’s explanation that through the Eucharist, one is brought into the life of Christ.
“The Eucharist becomes part of us; we become part of Christ,” he said.
“I was very impressed with Msgr. Turro’s simplicity,” said Deacon Dick Murtaugh of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Mauldin. “His respect for the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary remains on my mind.”
“His homilies were short and to the point,” said Deacon Gary Walczak, who liked the priest’s down-to-earth style. “He left you with a lot to chew on. His talks had great depth and were the basis for much introspection.”
Deacon DeRusso from Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia said that one particular homily really made an impression on him.
He said that Msgr. Turro explained the entire life of Christ in three words, “He passed by.” Msgr. Turro recounted that Jesus passed by the blind man and the blind man could see. He passed by the hemorrhaging woman; she touched his garment and was healed. He passed by the adulterous woman and she repented. The priest said that when you meet Christ face to face, he is going to ask if the world was a better place after you passed by.
“It gave us much to reflect on,” Deacon DeRusso said.
Msgr. Turro quoted from a poem by the English poet William Blake, comparing life on earth to a labyrinth. Donna Blasini, assistant to Msgr. Roth, director of the diaconate program, liked the way he described the Blessed Mother as the gold string that runs through the labyrinth, helping souls through the maze to reach heaven.
“Msgr. Turro is a tremendous speaker, a holy man who leads people closer to Christ,” said Msgr. Roth.