“Yup, I’m a geek,” he explains.
As of May 28, when he was ordained a deacon along with eight other men, McCourt has embarked on the world of service and ministry. In his new trade, solving problems is rarely the point. Communion, solidarity, hope, welcome, encouragement, accompaniment, kindness and connection are both his new tools and the goal of every task.
Over the last five years of discernment and training for the permanent diaconate, McCourt has noticed the gulf between his working world and service in the Church.
“There can’t be any more of a contrast, I guess,” he told The Catholic Register on the eve of his ordination.
McCourt has been tapped for ministry in Toronto’s Catholic deaf community, and that’s where his career will be an advantage. He anticipates it will take him another two years of study to master American Sign Language, but the 52-year-old is confident he can learn one more language.
Eight other deacons were ordained alongside McCourt: John Colletti, Roy Emmanuel, Bosco D’Couto, Ignacio Mateo, Donald McMillan, David Quail, Alban Soares and Bruce Stewart. Their assignments include ministering in hospitals, serving the disabled and former prisoners and providing pastoral care to itinerant workers.
McCourt has been learning new languages and systems in his job since he began working at 22.
“It’s the technology treadmill. I’m always learning the next thing, because if you stop you end up in a face plant,” he said. “So I’m a constant learner.”
Working with the deaf was suggested to McCourt around Christmas when all nine members of his class were asked to think about ministry assignments. But it wasn’t the first time that idea came up. In his first year of studies for the diaconate, Cardinal Thomas Collins came round for a chat with the future deacons and mentioned that he could foresee a need to help out with the deaf community coming up in about five years.
“Of course, I didn’t say anything,” said McCourt. “First I had to get through the program and see where the Holy Spirit takes you.”
Getting through the program is no minor thing. Twenty hours a week of regular faithful commitment to the program, including some fairly rigourous academic work, is no joke stretched over four years and added on to working for a living. McCourt’s wife Lisa, whose permission Collins ultimately asked before ordaining her husband, was responsible for encouraging and helping him.
“She’s been with me every step of the way,” McCourt said. “She’s been the editor of my papers. She reads all my homilies.”
Before the rite of ordination, Collins spoke to a packed St. Paul’s Basilica on a sultry Saturday morning about what it means when men lie down prostrate on the floor of a church to accept marching orders and gifts from the Holy Spirit.
“It must always be, here I am Lord. I come to do your will,” said the cardinal. “It’s a vocation. It is not a career.”