Why you want to know Deacon John Pate: “Deacon Pate” has served St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers for the past 17 years. He was an accomplished drummer for the Carl Perkins band in Memphis for a short time and now has his set of drums in the Rock and Roll Highway 67 Museum in Newport. At 19, he retired from drumming and went on to graduate with two degrees, an engineering degree from Vanderbilt University and a liberal arts degree from Lipscomb University.
His conversion from Church of Christ to Catholicism in 1992 at 50 years old and his ordination as a deacon 10 years later in 2002 were decisions that changed his life. Since then, Pate has written his life story titled, “Blest,” and started his own publishing company, Phillip Monroe Publishing Company. Today, his time is spent managing his website and publishing company. His latest projects, “Meditations,” are several books containing reflections to assist priests and deacons in writing homilies and the laity in studying Scripture.
Parish: St. Vincent de Paul
Family: Married to Sandra for 58 years; two sons; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
What is it that feeds you spiritually?
Writing these meditations, there are 275 of them, feeds me. I have to think, research and read to prepare to write these meditations. As I prepare, I am always looking for what the central point is of the reading. I think that helps me and it helps priests and listeners know what the focus is of the reading. I probably get more out of them than anyone else.
You have written numerous books as meditations for priests, translated these books into Spanish and created a website, homilystarters.com. What was your inspiration and why?
After being ordained a deacon, I remember how challenging it was to prepare homilies. There were many commentaries and other academic books to review, but I wanted something that included thoughts and feelings and not just academic information. A homily is not entirely academic. These meditations are stories with thoughts and feelings and a call to action. They are a call to feelings within us. … Laity could use these meditations with a group study to better prepare for the Sunday readings. For priests and deacons, these can be used as a homily starter to prepare to begin their own homily.
You have had a very successful career. What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with your children and others?
There is a line from a country song that says something like, “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you are gone.” This line resonates with me. I want to leave these meditations for my children, too. I did all these things that the world says you need to do to be successful, but I felt a longing for the spiritual, not as a fall back, but moving forward in my life. I wanted more. For me, being in religious life and focusing on the spiritual is more important than all the other accolades I have received.
I have read the great thinkers and philosophers on the meaning of life. I feel as if I found it. The meaning of life is to prepare to meet God. That is what’s important. That’s achieving who we are meant to be.
In your diaconate, where did you focus your ministry?
In the diaconate, you need an apostolate, or a focus, and my focus has been on hospice care. I studied two years to become a hospice chaplain and became board certified. I went to work for Circle of Life Hospice as one of the six staff chaplains. After 10 years, I went to part-time and soon became the chaplain to the staff. I am the only Catholic chaplain of the six Circle of Life chaplains. I still serve as staff chaplain, but one of the reasons I went part-time was to be able to continue my writing.
More information is available at homilystarters.com or contact Pate at or (479) 366-7283.
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