David C. Armstrong's ordination to the Permanent Diaconate will allow him to continue serving God's people after already having done this most of his entire life as a teacher.
Armstrong, 59, now retired, is a lifelong resident of Corry, Pa., and an active parishioner of Christ Our Hope Parish in French Creek and Sherman. After graduating from Corry Area High School and receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Slippery Rock State University in Slippery Rock, Pa., where he majored in social studies education, he taught history for over 31 years in Corry's public schools.
"It was suggested to me by a priest," Armstrong said when asked what made him want to be a deacon. "I kind of changed my approach to the faith a few years before that, and was getting pretty active in the Church, and he thought it would be a good idea for me to look into it. I did, and it kind of grew from there."
Father Józef Dudzik, pastor of Christ Our Hope, had recommended the permanent diaconate program to Armstrong. Once he becomes a deacon, he will be assigned to either Christ Our Hope, or likely another parish in the Chautauqua County area near Pennsylvania, if that is where he is assigned.
As a retired teacher who also coached sports, Armstrong said his career prepared him for the permanent diaconate by observing behavior and trends in people. He started out in senior high, but for the last 19 years, he taught social studies to the Corry Area School District's eighth-grade students.
"I think I spent a good bit of my time observing," Armstrong said. "You observe behavior and trends in people, and you work with possible corrections you can make and stuff. I thought a lot of it had to do with the observations I made ... That's helped out a lot with my ministries here in the last couple of years."
In recent years, Armstrong has engaged in a number of ministries that have enabled him to serve people and directly prepare for his transition from a layman into a permanent deacon. From 2011 to 2012, he served at Emeritus Senior Living Home in Lakewood, where he visited the residents, providing Communion and praying the Rosary with them, as well as providing other assistance as needed. Since then, he has also continued visiting people in nursing homes and visited with people who were shut-ins and needed company.
"Bringing Communion to people, the Body of Christ, is probably the most important thing I could do," he recalled of these experiences in his ministry, which he continues performing today.
From September 2013 to May 2014, he served the Maria House Project in Spring Creek, Pa., a home for men recovering from addictions. Armstrong called what he did a "ministry of presence," since he was there for the residents to provide for any and all of their needs as they recovered.
"By the time they're done, they're hopefully strong enough to go back out into the world, hold a good job and not succumb to the temptations of their addictions," Armstrong said. "(The important thing is) being able to recognize Christ in everybody. When I was young, I would very much have put down a number of the people I'm now ministering to, and (now) I see them in an entirely different light."
From last September through this month, Armstrong served at St. Susan Soup Kitchen in Jamestown. In doing so, he has engaged in activities such as serving food and cleaning up the dining area. He said the ministry has put him among many people who are in need and would not otherwise have a good meal during the day. While there, he has had a valuable opportunity to meet people of different religious beliefs, and also to discuss different things with people while helping them to get their lives on track.
"I've helped steer people back toward their families and back toward the Church," he said. "It's been a ministry similar to the one I had last year, in that it's in with people with needs. It's just a matter of finding out what they need at this point in time, and how I might be able to help them help themselves."
While serving in Corry, Armstrong was also a Eucharistic minister, lector and was on a parish council. He also participated in the Corry 2020 Committee, a civic organization formed with the goal of "moving Corry ahead for the future," he said. This enabled him to participate in activities around the town, and was a member of a committee that helped bring a skate park to Corry, which the community chose.
In the process of becoming a permanent deacon, Armstrong, the father of three adult children, Jessica, Curtis and Lindsay, said his family has been supportive. His wife, Linda, has been with him throughout the process, traveling to Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora with him and providing her own insight and wisdom. "She has looked at things differently than I have, and it's good to have that give-and-take with her. I don't think I would have been able to complete the program without her support," he said.
Once he becomes a permanent deacon, Armstrong said he plans to go wherever Bishop Malone tells him to go and where he assigns him to serve. When that is done, he hopes to "see what opens up in this" that gives him the time and resources to accomplish whatever is needed in the area. He also had good things to say about the permanent diaconate itself, which he said has helped him grow as a person.
"I think it's a great program. It's definitely increased the depth of my knowledge," Armstrong said. "It's prepared me to answer questions for those who are questioning their faith. It's prepared me to help lead others in the right direction. It's given me awareness of, and knowledge of, the different situations and things that may come up, that I'll have to deal with to help other people."