BREWER—For his selfless service to the Diocese of Portland, Deacon Darrell Blackwell of Wells has been named the 2018 Deacon of the Year. The award was presented by Bishop Robert P. Deeley and Deacon Peter Bernier, director of the Office of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Portland, during the diocese’s annual Deacon Assembly held at St. Joseph Church in Brewer on Saturday, Sept. 29.
“He is a person of integrity, a person who cares deeply about others, and a person who exercises his diaconal ministry with passion, in a spirit of humility and in simplicity, all anchored through the underpinnings of a rich prayer life that is centered on Christ,” said Deacon Bernier. “I have come to know him as a person who possesses a deep faith, a faith that bears an authentic witness to the Gospel through his words and ministry.”
Ordained on May 10, 1996, in the Diocese of Newark in New Jersey, Deacon Blackwell and his wife, Marla, moved to Maine in 2001 and he has served here since that time. His ministry has been centered at St. Martha Church in Kennebunk, part of Holy Spirit Parish.
In addition to proclaiming the word of God at Mass and serving at the altar, his ministry includes home visitations and monthly visits to nursing homes, offering residents holy Communion as well as a listening ear.
“It’s a grace for me to be the servant face of Christ. That comes more alive for me when I go to visit the nursing homes,” he said. “It’s a huge grace for me and a blessing that they let me enter their story.”
“As a colleague of mine, I can attest to his genuine goodness, his faithfulness, his authentic love for others, his willingness to enter into lives of others, and his desire to serve Christ in all things for the glory of God,” said Deacon Bernier.
Deacon Blackwell also serves as a board member for the Beacon Corporation, a non-profit whose mission is to provide financial support to people who are struggling economically.
In addition, he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in Saco, where he continues to regularly participate in adoration, seeing it as an opportunity to encounter the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
“Before this, there wasn’t much heard about adoration at all. You heard about it on first Fridays and that was it,” he said. “So, it was a blessing and a privilege to be able to help the people put that together.”
An accomplished musician with decades of participation in music ministry, one of Deacon Blackwell’s newest endeavors is the formation of a guitar ensemble. He and three other men who make up the quartet are hoping to perform at Masses, prayer services, and other events.
Deacon Blackwell said winning the Msgr. Charles M. Murphy Deacon of the Year Award was an unexpected honor.
“It’s a blessing and a privilege to have been selected,” he said. “I’m always grateful and blessed that I can be of service to the people, and it also means a lot coming from my peers.”
Deacon Blackwell credited Marla for being his greatest source of support and inspiration, saying “they have journeyed together as a couple.”
“When you really see the diaconal ministry come fully alive is when you see that the husband and wife share it,” he said.
Marla, who has also long been active in the Church, first in music ministry and more recently training lectors, said her husband brings to his ministry the same beautiful qualities that led her to fall in love with him.
“He’s just as real as he can be. If you know him, you know him. And I just love that about him,” she said.
The Monsignor Charles M. Murphy Deacon of the Year award is named for the diocese’s former, longtime director of the diaconate. The award has been given out annually since 2006 to recognize a permanent deacon’s ministry of service. There are currently 51 permanent deacons in the Diocese of Portland, including those in active ministry, those retired from active ministry, and those who serve during the summer months.