A deacon with nearly 40 years of service to the Archdiocese of Anchorage retired from his position as director of the Office of Worship July 1.
Deacon Ted Greene, a long-time homilist and catechist, said that health problems this year combined with a restructuring of the pastoral center offices means that at age 75 it’s time to slow down.
Slowing down physically is tough for a man whose intellect and interest in all things Catholic have been running at high speed for years.
“I’ll be happy to help out at St. Benedict’s (the parish where he’s assigned) when they need me,” he said, and he’ll continue to keep up with what’s happening in the church.
Archbishop Roger Schwietz praised Deacon Greene for his long ministerial service.
“He was especially helpful to me as one who followed closely developments in the sacred liturgy of the Roman Rite, which is his great love,” he said.
Bonnie Bezousek, director of faith formation for the archdiocese, has been Deacon Greene’s friend for years.
“He’s a very gifted man,” Bezousek said, gifts especially apparent in two fields: liturgy and catechesis. Until his illness, Deacon Greene served as the archbishop’s liturgist, a role that is now being taken on by Deacon Mick Fornelli.
“Ted knows liturgy hands down,” Bezousek said. “He can give you the paragraph and page number if you have a question.”
When Bezousek worked at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Deacon Greene was high on her list of speakers for various religious gatherings.
“He could take something very complex and bring it to a very basic level,” Bezousek said. “He could synthesize something difficult, and people would walk away saying, ‘now I really understand that.’ It takes a very gifted speaker to do that.”
It also takes a man who understands his subject matter. Deacon Greene is both a self-educated Catholic, always reading church documents and publications, and a man who, in his sixties, enrolled in a master’s of pastoral studies program offered by Jesuit-run Seattle University in conjunction with the archdiocese.
“The church was changing,” Deacon Greene recalled, “and I was trying to keep pace with the Council (Vatican Council II) and with the changes.”
He describes reading the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as “a seminal moment for me in my faith.”
He also sees education as absolutely vital to the role of deacon.
“People rely on you and they ask you questions,” he said. “You can’t be giving them wrong answers that may hurt them.”
Deacon Fornelli, director of deacon formation, said Deacon Greene will continue to teach classes to men studying for the diaconate. He said Deacon Greene is “an unbelievably valuable resource” in the areas of diaconal training and liturgy.
Deacon Greene is a Chicago native and an Irish-American kid who grew up a White Sox fan from the South Side, an area where waves of immigration over the decades brought a different ethnic church every few blocks.
“We lived in a real Catholic enclave,” he recalled. “The church, the rectory, the convent, the school — it would take up a whole city block. The church was everybody’s life. Even today, you can ask people what parish they’re from if you want to know where they lived in Chicago.”
He attributes his love for Catholicism to the Catholic education he received — grade school, high school, college at Loyola University.
“I never set foot in a public school,” he recalled. “The sisters, priests, brothers — I owe them so much.”
At a church youth gathering, Deacon Greene met another South Sider – albeit a Cubs fan — who was to become his wife, Penny. Next February the Greenes, who have three children, will celebrate 50 years of marriage.
In 1978, the Greenes moved to Anchorage and joined St. Anthony Church. Although he worked in finance for the bank then called National Bank of Alaska, both Greenes were already active with the church through programs like the Catholic Family Movement.
In 1987, Deacon Greene was ordained by Archbishop Francis T. Hurley in the archdiocese’s second class of permanent deacons. He served as director of religious education at both Elmendorf AFB and at St. Anthony Church, and worked as a deacon and pastoral associate on the staff of Our Lady of Guadalupe for several years. In 2009, he joined the Office of Worship at the pastoral center.
“We have a faith that demands reason,” Deacon Greene said about his love of catechesis. “We’re not fundamentalists who say ‘believe it or not.’ Catholics need to exercise their intellect to ask if what they believe makes any sense.”
But dialogue is also needed within the Catholic community, a goal that Deacon Greene has found challenging at times over the years.
“I like to think of that old curse, ‘may you live in interesting times,’” he said, referring to his years in the church. “My fear is that we’re such a badly divided church right now. No one is talking to each other. That’s why we need Pope Francis who is starting a discussion.”
Archbishop Schwietz said his prayer is that “Deacon Ted keeps his sense of humor and continues to improve in health in the months and years ahead. May God bless Deacon Ted and Penny in their well-earned retirement.”