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Deacon Waller draws on Air Force experience to minister to cadets

08/07/2020 | Comments

Editor’s note: In this issue, the Herald kicks off a new series of monthly clergy profiles highlighting a priest or deacon serving in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. The first article features Deacon Bob Waller, who serves at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Following his ordination to the permanent diaconate by Bishop Michael Sheridan on May 27, 2006, Deacon Robert (Bob) Waller was released for service with the Archdiocese for the Military Services and assigned to the Air Force Academy’s Catholic Cadet Chapel. In several ways, the assignment was a perfect fit for the new deacon.

Since attending Catholic schools in western Kentucky in his youth, Deacon Bob has always felt a pull to be more involved with the Church. With good examples from his family — his father being an active Catholic and his mother being the organist for 50 years at her Methodist church. Along the way, Deacon Bob served in various ministries, from being an altar boy in grade school, to serving as a lector and an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and on parish finance councils and on several Cursillo teams in his later years. It was during these years that his interest in the diaconate began to develop. So when the Catholic Chaplain at the academy approached him to consider the diaconate, the pull became even stronger; he felt God was calling.

Deacon Bob graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1972 and spent 20 years in the Air Force, serving in Massachusetts, Germany, California and finally at the Pentagon in Washington. But it was his years on the faculty at the Academy that he enjoyed the most. He received graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California and earned his doctorate from Boston University. This allowed him to serve eight years on the faculty while on active duty and later, after his USAF years and two years of teaching at Hanover College in Indiana, to return to the academy’s faculty as a civilian Associate Professor for 17 more years. His earlier time at the academy as a cadet, and then his 25 years on the faculty, enable him to serve the cadets better as their deacon, understanding their unique setting and challenges.

Deacon Bob met his Bostonian wife, Susan, early in his military years. Now married for 43 years, they have been blessed with three children and nine grandchildren, all of whom are sources of great pride to them. After many years of study of the Catholic Church, Susan entered the Church a year after Deacon Bob’s ordination, and has strongly supported him in his ministry.

While continuing his service with the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Deacon Bob assists the Catholic Cadet Chaplain/Pastor in serving the spiritual needs of the academy’s cadets during their four-year program. Specifically, he assists at many of the Masses for the cadets, as well as leading other services, such as adoration and Benediction, for the college age students.

In addition, he and Susan help teach classes for cadets in the RCIA program and for those preparing for Confirmation. They also assist with cadet retreats each year and support weekly speaker and discussion sessions with the cadets, covering a variety of Catholic topics.

And, over the years, Deacon Bob has witnessed marriages of graduates at the Cadet Chapel, baptized their children, and presided at funerals and many graveside services. He and Susan have also worked with cadet couples in their preparation for marriage. And, as part of his service to the diocese, he and Susan have been part of the Permanent Deacon Formation Program team, assisting those in their five-year journey toward ordination.

His first enjoyment is being with his family, but Deacon Bob also finds pleasure in skiing and in marveling at the beauty of God’s creation while hiking or riding his motorcycle in Colorado. One of the greatest joys of being a deacon comes when he is able to bring comfort to someone who is struggling, grieving or is lonely.

Clearly, serving as a deacon in the Catholic Church has been a wonderful blessing to him and his family.

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