John Flannery, One of Diocese of Brooklyn’s Oldest Permanent Deacons, Reflects on Faith Journey

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By Jessica Easthope

John Flannery has lived many different lives – he’s been a monk, an Air Force Staff Sergeant, a social worker and a fashion designer – but he’s never been happier than the day his title became deacon.

“I have loved it ever since, I really met some wonderful guys, God has been very good to this old guy really, each assignment and each thing I’ve done every person has pointed me in their own way,” he said.

He joined the Diocese of Brooklyn’s second ever class of permanent deacons and was ordained in 1978. As one of the oldest in the diocese today he’s retired but still comes three days a week to help out at masses at Holy Family-St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Park Slope.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy, it’s a wonderful parish the people are great they’re good and when I say good not just hello and I go to mass on Sunday, they put their faith into practice in how they meet one another,” said Deacon John.

Pastor Holy Family-St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Rafael Perez says after all this time and even at 90 years old Deacon John is still needed.

“One of the ways in which his ministry is very much alive and active is presence to people he’s got a tremendously big heart and a lot of wisdom he shares,” said Fr. Rafael.

Fr. Rafael says the people in the pews look to Deacon John as an example of a life of service.

“From the time of his youth until the present his own journey of faith has been extraordinary. One of the things that amazes me about him is his capacity for faith, hope and joy his life embodies that,” he said.

But that life hasn’t always been easy. Deacon John is a recovering alcoholic, he got sober nearly 30 years ago. Now, in his free time, he makes rosaries. Just like the individual  beads, each of his life’s experiences have made him who he is today.

“Never regretted one minute the choices I have made,” he said.

Every step lead him here. He has no plans of slowing down and no regrets.