GREENVILLE—Richard Ballard was a Lutheran pastor for more than 20 years before he realized that the Catholic Church was his true spiritual home.
He came into the church at Easter in 2006 and is now a permanent deacon.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone ordained Deacon Ballard on Dec. 11 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville.
The bishop said the Advent season is a beautiful time to celebrate an ordination because Scripture readings at Mass offer ideal examples of people who lived out the Gospel message, including John the Baptist and Mary.
“My prayer for you is that your ministry might be so strong that people could clearly see the presence of the One they long for in your work,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
Deacon Ballard is the pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Rosary. As a permanent deacon, he will baptize babies, distribute holy Communion at Mass and to the sick, officiate at funerals outside Mass, and witness marriages when a priest is not present.
Bishop Guglielmone thanked Deacon Ballard’s wife Ruth for supporting her husband. Mrs. Ballard was also a minister in the Lutheran church and served alongside her husband until they converted to Catholicism.
Deacon Ballard is a native of Asheville, N.C., who studied at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, and holds degrees in theology, counseling and pastoral theology.
He served Lutheran churches in both Carolinas and Pennsylvania. Several members of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Chapin where he was pastor for several years, attended the ordination.
In an interview with The Miscellany, Deacon Ballard said his study of history and the teachings of early church fathers helped him realize “the Catholic Church was the church Jesus founded, and I had to be a part of it.” His wife decided to become Catholic around the same time after learning about St. Teresa of Avila and Carmelite spirituality.
“It was a long process of prayer and study and discerning the leadership of God, what he was calling us to do,” Deacon Ballard said. “It was like we were becoming who we really were.”
The Ballards moved to Greenville, where Deacon Ballard served as director of pastoral care at St. Mary Church before moving to Our Lady of the Rosary.
He said he always wanted to become a deacon, and thanked Bishop Guglielmone for helping to make his dream a reality.
Men ordinarily must complete five years of study for the permanent diaconate, but Deacon Ballard’s prior education was thorough enough that he needed only a year of additional private instruction.
Mrs. Ballard said her husband’s ordination gives him an important chance to share his faith with others.
“I’m so very proud of him,” she said. “I know God has called him to a vibrant ministry in the church.”
The priest and nun who sponsored the Ballards when they entered the church traveled from Pennsylvania for the ordination.
“I felt that this was a miracle,” said Msgr. John Esseff, with the Diocese of Scranton, Penn. “He was such a popular Lutheran pastor, and to see him become a Catholic and now ordained as a deacon is just something beautiful for God.”
Sister Cor Immaculatum Heffernan, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scranton, was Mrs. Ballard’s sponsor. She said the couple’s faith journey is an inspiration.
“Richard will be a beautiful servant as a deacon,” she said. “He is a wonderful teacher, has a love for liturgy and a great respect for people. This was like a fulfillment of a great dream for him. I was so grateful to God to see this.”