Key to being a deacon, Provencal listens to people wherever they are in life

On July 21, four men will be ordained as deacons in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Grandin Media is profiling each of them. This is Wayne Provencal’s story.

In the same way steel is forged by fire, Wayne Provencal’s own formation as a deacon in the Archdiocese of Edmonton was strengthened and moulded by a trial of his own.

For four years, Provencal clocked in a full day as the financial administrator for the Archdiocese, came home for a quick hello to his wife Mary-Ann, and then spent hours studying theology and philosophy.

Then, in early 2018, in the middle of his diaconate formation, his stepdaughter Mary Yusep, mother of his only grandson, seven-year-old Noah, received the devastating news. She had thyroid cancer.

“We had her and the little guy to try and help along. Mary-Ann was absolutely superb in terms of her support for Noah and Mary, and for me,” Provencal said, his voice cracking with emotion. “The thought was we get the ups and downs in our lives, and this one we had to deal with.”

Wayne Provencal credits his family, in particular his wife Mary-Anne, with help through tough times.Courtesy of Wayne Provencal

Mary Yusep has since had surgery and she’s cancer-free. Throughout that ordeal, Provencal never thought of quitting the formation process. In fact, it’s that personal trial that will shape his ministry when he returns to St. Matthew’s church as a deacon.

“Just be aware that you just don’t know what issues people are dealing with, whether it’s cancer or other things at home or at work. Everybody’s got their crosses to bear,” Provencal said. “You’ve got to be understanding and able to hopefully listen and support them, wherever they are in their life.”

On July 21, Provencal will be among four men to be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Archbishop Richard Smith celebrates the Mass of Ordination at St Joseph’s Basilica.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Provencal attended St. Francis of Assisi school. He worshipped with his parents and his younger siblings, Alan and Nancy, at the church of the same name. St. Francis of Assisi church has since closed and merged with St. Matthew’s church.

After graduating from Archbishop O’Leary high school, Provencal studied commerce at the University of Alberta. He later became an accountant, working for 14 years at a firm that later became the accounting giant KPMG, before he took a job as the financial administrator for the Archdiocese in 1993.

It was there that Provencal met his wife Mary-Ann, the manager of St. Joseph’s Basilica. They married in 2007 and they have three adult children, Johnna, Ryan and Mary Yusep, and grandson Noah.

Like his father Robert, Provencal’s own family faith life is filled with Mass and church activities, ministry as an altar server, lector, and council member at his local parish.

“I like being of service to the people and the parish as best I can,” Provencal said. “I would call the accounting part my profession and I would call the involvement with the Church and the diaconate my mission.”

Provencal, 63, was approached years ago about becoming a deacon, but the timing wasn’t right. That changed in 2016 after talking it over with his family and with Deacon Lynn Pion, the director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.

“It’s hectic. It requires a lot of support from a spouse,” Provencal said. “There are lots of things you give up for a period of time. I missed seeing my grandson for a bit of it. For me it was work, home, little bit of discussion with Mary-Ann, and then into studies. Those were basically my days for about four years.”

It’s also quite a shift from being a ‘numbers man’ as accountant.

“There’s mission to both, but the practical application is definitely different. You know what you have to do for business and accounting, but the mission part is always there. My mission as a deacon would be just to serve people as best I can,” Provencal said. “The deacon program is to lead, but also to lead by supporting.”

A former hockey player and coach, Wayne Provencal says the diaconate is about building relationships.Courtesy of Wayne Provencal

It’s also about building relationships. Provencal has done that for most of his life: as a hockey player, as a coach, as a former president of the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Edmonton, and with the three other diaconate candidates and their families.

Their ordination comes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mass will be livestreamed, and the crowd will be limited to a small group of family and friends, but Provencal said there’s a lesson in that.

“There’s a message that He’s got that we’re trying to life by, but He never said it was going to be easy,” Provencal said. “I think the biggest lesson I’ve seen is that people are starting to hopefully recognize that relationships are important. Most people I’ve talked to, they’re struggling with isolation. They’re struggling with not being able to talk to people … I mean personal relationships, not necessarily relationships over the phone or e-mail.”

After ordination, Provencal will serve with Rev. Sathiaseelan Kulandaisamy. As the new pastor, Father Kulandaisamy celebrated one Mass with a congregation before COVID-19 forced Masses to go online.

“We’re going to have to do a little bit of work to sort some things out!” Provencal said. “As far as the parish goes, we’re learning together.”

As a deacon, Provencal has a certain skill set in administering the sacraments. However, ordained or not, he said there are many people — with a variety of talents — who are needed to help build the Church.

“I think the message is ‘Take me for who I am.’”