Bishop Edward J. Burns will ordain 17 men as permanent deacons for the Diocese of Dallas during the celebration of a special Mass at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney at 10 a.m., May 21. Among those candidates to be ordained is Chris Schraeder.
By Michelle Johnson
Special to The Texas Catholic
He calls it a stirring, that visceral feeling that God was calling him to do more. He first felt it 16 years ago but as he looks back to that time, he knows he wasn’t ready. Chris Schraeder of McKinney, one of the 17 candidates scheduled to be ordained to the diaconate on May 21, said he feels ready now.
Schraeder and his wife, Kat, of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in McKinney, are each the middle sibling of five and knew they wanted a big family. But the diaconate has certain rules that restrict remarriage in the case of losing one’s wife. Schraeder said these are the possibilities one must contemplate when making such a permanent decision.
“In 2006, when I first attended the Christ Renews His Parish retreat, I felt the stirring,” Schraeder said. “I talked to another deacon and decided not to pursue it. I was only 30 years old, way too young and only had two kids so far. There is a clause that says you can’t get remarried as a deacon and I knew I wanted more kids. Ten years later, I started formation. There was a growth I did go through. I would have missed out on a lot of service ministries if I had started the diaconate then. I definitely have a better grasp now as far as serving the community.”
Schraeder grew up on a cotton farm in Garden City, a German-Catholic farming community in west Texas. He and Kat met in high school through the 4H Club and married the week after graduating college in 1999, he from Texas Tech University and she from Texas A&M University. Following brief stops in Assumption, IL, and Muleshoe, Texas, the family moved to the Dallas area in 2004 and joined St. Gabriel.
When Schraeder began considering the diaconate, he spoke to the same deacon he had consulted 10 years earlier. After years of serving in multiple ministries, he felt it was time to serve in a different way. He served in the worship area, as minister of Communion and as a lector, with the Knights of Columbus charismatic prayer group, and he participated and served as a spiritual leader for the Christ Renews His Parish retreat.
“I was leading as spiritual director for another retreat, and out of the blue someone asked me when I was going to become a deacon,” he said. “That was God tapping me on the shoulder saying ‘Chris I’m still calling you.’ I visited with the same deacon as before, and they were about to start a new formation class. Kat has always been supportive; she’s the only one who’s ever known I had the stirring.”
God’s plan for Schraeder, he would come to find, did not only include the diaconate. Four was the number Schraeder and his wife imagined when they discussed children. At this point, they were a family of eight, having added four to the two children with whom they had moved to McKinney.
“The fifth child was the hardest for me to come to terms with,” Schraeder said. “He gave us a daughter… God threw my plans out the window. During that pregnancy was when I finally was able to understand that it’s God’s plan and we’ve got to figure out how to match our will to God’s will.”
The higher level of service was an aspect of the diaconate that could have a significant impact on the lifestyles of Schraeder, a stay-at-home dad at the time, and Kat, a certified financial planner. With Brett, now 20, Ainsley, now 18, Abigail, now 14, Zane, now 12, Alyse, now 10, and Aubrey, now 8, the family dynamic was sure to change with Schraeder’s higher calling.
“When I began this process, Kat and I stepped back and thought about being there for the kids,” he said. “There is a discernment process over the years. Certain candidates decide they are better off serving in other ways and they drop out. But God has all of us there for a purpose. I’ve heard stories of men discerning out the day before the ordination. For me, the kids’ faces say it all. To know that all my kids have been fully supportive, to look down from the altar at them, their faces are beaming. It’s special.”
The six years since Schraeder began discernment brought two more children: Ava, now 4, and Gage, now 2. But discernment didn’t just make the Schraeders a family of 10 and a new chapter in their spiritual journey; it also brought Daryl and Wanda Avery to them. Daryl Avery, one of the candidates in the class of 17, soon became a dear friend to Schraeder.
“When we began the class, there were 39 couples,” Schraeder said. “Over the process, that was significantly narrowed down. Daryl and Wanda happened to be in our small group. I know that if anything should happen to me, Daryl wouldn’t hesitate to reach out and help me or anyone in my family.”
Schraeder and Kat asked the Averys to serve as godparents to their youngest, Gage.
“The number eight child of Chris Schraeder is our godchild,” said Wanda Avery. “They are a beautiful and wonderful family. We know them through the diaconate.
When they started formation, they had six kids. Daryl and I were so honored.”
Schraeder, who started a catering business called Holy Smokes BBQ in 2017, said that going through the process with his friend and son’s godparent is something irreplaceable.
“It’s very special, just to be able to go through it with not just Daryl but all the men,” he said. “Like-minded men in our world today, it’s a rare thing to enjoy camaraderie with Catholic men. Knowing that he’s Gage’s godfather, it’ll be extra special.”
On May 22, the day after he is ordained, Schraeder said he plans to get right to work.
“I’m most looking forward to knowing without a doubt that God has called me to be the hands and feet of Christ,” he said. “I’ve done jail work, visited hospitals… it’s great to see what a difference you can make. Some people really lay their souls open for you to minister to them. Out of everything, I’ve learned that it’s all a discernment process, every day. Everyone should pray and discern with God about where He’s calling them to be.”