10 Questions with Deacon Rich Klish
Both clergy and married, a servant of the Church with a career in IT, the Deaconate is a mixed bag of roles and responsibilities. And yet every deacon’s path is a little different than another’s. He came to Florida for the weather, and stayed for the Parish and people he found at St. John XXIII. Deacon Rich Klish is an asset to our Pastoral Team, and we’re forever grateful for the work he does. We sat down with him to learn a little more about where’s he from, what he does, and how he got here. This is what he said.
Damian: So tell me where you’re from and what you were doing there?
Deacon Rich: Well I’m originally from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. We’re originally from Cleveland, OH and I was ordained in the 70’s, but I wasn’t a deacon for the Archdiocese until the year 2000. I served in a Parish there for 12 years, and for the last 10 of those years, I served in a marriage tribunal as a judge. A tribunal handles annulments. My wife and I moved down here in September of 2012, and it was basically the weather that got us here.
DH: It does that to a lot of people. So how did you make your living up there?
DRK: I worked in information technology – with computers. I started out as a computer programmer, and then I became a project manager. I was a project manager for about 20 some odd years. In 2002 I got laid off, and being ordained a couple years before that, I thought about maybe working for the Church full-time. I was looking around for other jobs in IT, but felt called and then made that transition to the Church.
DH: What drew you to the marriage tribunal position and what did that vocation entail?
DRK: The job involved working with individuals on their cases and serving as a judge. My wife and I were involved in various marriage ministries for a number of years. We led some Marriage Encounters and were involved in some other marriage enrichment programs, so my work was more of the flipside of that. These were marriages that had ended in divorce, but I had a lot of background in marriage, so the skillset was there. I did not have a canon law degree, but I got what was called an “indult” – or a special exception – so I was able to serve.
DH: So was that a typical thing for a deacon, or was that a specialized role for the vocation?
DRK: I would call that a specialty. Most deacons don’t work for the Church full-time. Most are actually volunteers and work out in the field doing other things. There were 12 people in my class, and of those, 4 went to work for the Church and the other 8 stayed in civil employment. We are actually clergy. The sacrament of Holy Orders has 3 different types. There’s the Order of the Bishop, of the Priest, and the Order of the Deacon. The orientation of the deacon is towards service. The three roles of the deacon are Service, Word, and Sacrament. So part of role can be sacraments – baptisms and weddings. Deacons can preach on Sundays – in most dioceses. They can serve as teachers, and the other role of the deacon is service. In the Acts of the Apostles they describe ordaining 7 men to “serve at the table”, to relieve the Apostles of some of their tasks. So the role of the deacon can involve things like working in a soup kitchen, social justice, visiting the sick in the hospital, prison ministry, and those types of things.
DH: So back on the topic of annulment, what does it take to resolve a marriage that should have never happened?
DRK: The annulment process is a legal process. It’s not purely pastoral. So Catholics that have a marriage end in divorce have a right to have their marriage reviewed. And we listen to their story. We start out with the assumption that the marriage was valid. We don’t automatically grant their annulments. My job was to listen to their stories, and serve as a judge on their case. I found it rewarding, but I found that a marriage that ends in divorce is generally the most painful and difficult parts of a person’s life. And even though it’s not meant to be a healing process, it can serve as that. It’s not meant to be an adversarial process either, it’s meant to be a process of finding out the truth about the marriage. But in working with people, I’ve found that they come to a better understanding of what happened in their marriage, and they find ways to grow through it and learn how to be stronger, and more faith-filled people. So that’s the good part.
DH: And what typically goes wrong in a marriage that would have it end in divorce?
DRK: I think that – and this is very simplistic – there are two types of cases, broadly speaking. The first is the marriage that breaks down over a number of years, simply because the husband and wife don’t do enough to feed the marriage. They become concerned with children, careers, hobbies, other relatives, what have you, and over the years – what started out so strong at the altar – it breaks down and deteriorates. The other type of marriage is the one that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. There can be issues of mental health, chemical dependency… There can be a marriage because of a pregnancy; grossly immature people marrying each other. Those you can tell from the jump aren’t going to work, generally break down pretty quickly because one or both of the parties are either not ready for marriage, or they’re just not compatible.
DH: Give me the definition of “grossly immature”.
DRK: A couple examples would be; a chemically dependent person; a person who can’t hold a job; a person who can’t manage money. And it’s always a judgment call. A lot of times there’s an attachment to it, like narcissism, or depression, or dependency. Those are some examples.
DH: So you almost have to do a psychiatric assessment on the person during this process, right?
DRK: Yes, when there’s psychological evidence during the study, we’ll submit that to a professional. Either a counselor, a chemical dependency doctor or some kind of professional will give their assessment to the court.
DH: Okay, so what are your plans for the future? Do you want to stick with annulments or take another direction?
DRK: Well, here in the Diocese of Venice, I’m not working in the tribunal. I’m assisting some people with their cases, but I’ve also been working on the emergency assistance team, the tuition assistance team, visiting Manor Care, and on Mondays, my wife and I visit Gulf Coast to take the Eucharist to people in the hospital. And also on Mondays, I’ve been serving during the Mass and doing a homily. I also work in marriage enrichment and on the Faith Alive team.
DH: So only those seven ministries? Okay, so at its core, what is the most fulfilling part of being a deacon?
DRK: It has to be the service aspect of it – either working in a group or with individuals. Working on the Family Movie Night team is a lot of fun, and that falls under marriage enrichment too.
DH: So tell me more about your life.
DRK: Well I’m married with three adult daughters. My wife and I have been married for about 45 years. My wife loves this Parish and is involved in a group called Craftie Ladies. We live about 10 minutes away in Botanica Lakes, and we enjoy… Florida!
DH: Don’t we all! Alright well thanks for sitting down with me and we’ll see you around.
DRK: Thank you.