"My calling," Scott Rose insists, "is a synthesis of my family."
"The only explanation," his father counters, "is the Holy Spirit."
To an observer, both appear right.
Al Rose was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1989. His son, Scott, will undergo the same rite in Baltimore at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary May 21.
While the clergy rolls in the archdiocese include other father-son combinations, the Roses are the first to be ordained permanent deacons here.
As he said, Scott Rose is indeed the middle branch on a family tree that exemplified mercy well before Pope Francis called for a year to do so.
When his son, Austin, isn’t advancing his undergraduate work at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he’s on the southern border of the U.S., assisting immigrants.
His daughter, Aubrey, is a mitigation specialist with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a non-profit which supplies legal assistance to those facing the death penalty.
Both began flexing their Catholic social justice muscles while students at St. John’s Catholic Prep in Buckeystown – Austin commuting to Baltimore to volunteer at the Esperanza Center, and Aubrey organizing an assembly on the death penalty that included Kirk Bloodsworth.
She had a direct connection to the man who is the Maryland face of the wrongly convicted. Before his death sentence had been overturned by DNA evidence, Bloodsworth had been ministered to behind bars by her grandfather, Deacon Al Rose.
A parishioner of St. Katharine Drexel in Frederick, Scott Rose is the CEO and general counsel of Frederick-based Way Station Inc., a mental health non-profit subsidiary of Sheppard Pratt.
His children reflect his service to the downtrodden, and his path to the diaconate was obviously inspired by his father.
Deacon Al Rose taught English literature at the U.S. Naval Academy and then Frostburg State University, where he began dabbling in campus ministry. In rapid order, he exited academia, moved with his wife, Abbie, to Baltimore, and began to work in prison and hospice ministry.
Why such challenging ministries?
"It isn’t taxing, if you are called to it," said Al, who shrugged and elaborated when pressed. "Matthew, 25:35-42. ‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?’
"Mother Teresa believed in that, literally. She believed that when she bathed emaciated, dying people she had gotten off the street, that she was touching the body of Christ. ‘Where were you when I was in prison?’ is the same thing."
Asked about his father’s career change, Scott said, "What impressed me the most, it was this great leap of faith. He was the age I am now (56), and he didn’t think of it as retiring. I admired it, but I was surprised."
His own path to the diaconate was equally circuitous. Baptized in the Episcopal church and raised Methodist, his mother’s faith, he converted only after his 1988 marriage to Mary Elizabeth Austin, a psychotherapist who does her own share of pro bono work. Out of the Catholic U. law school, Scott was working in Ohio, investigating child abuse, at the time of his father’s ordination.
He speaks compellingly about the toll among family members of those affected by mental illness, and those who care for them.
"People want to stay away from that which they fear," Scott said. "We lose a lot of young people in this field. Family members, their sense of burnout."
This is his third discernment, as he had considered becoming a Methodist minister and then a Catholic priest.
"Before, I wanted to be special, rather than serve," Scott said. "The third time around, it’s much more subtle."
Despite directing an institution that serves more than 3,000 low-income adults and children, he was still looking for a way to do more.
"I didn’t have a spiritual context for my work," he said. "When you use spirituality for compassionate purposes, it enriches the ministry. The more complex the situation, the more you have to talk about love."
Father and son are among the collaborators on a book, "Fifteen Steps Out of Darkness, The Way of the Cross for People on the Journey of Mental Illness." Their contribution was done gratis.
Scott spent his diaconate internship at St. Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor in Buckeystown. He began May in Israel, part of a 26-person delegation sponsored by the Weinberg Foundation.
His May 21 ordination will be paired with the transitional diaconate ordination of Kevin Ewing. The first reading and the Communion hymn will be offered by former unaccompanied minors assisted by the Esperanza Center, where he hopes to minister.
The soft morning rain of May 21, Preakness Saturday, served only to highlight buoyant spirits as Scott Rose and Kevin Ewing were ordained to the diaconate for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
"Both are the cause of our joy this ordination morning, coming as it does in the midst of the Year of Mercy," Archbishop William E. Lori said in his homily at the ordination Mass, celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.
Deacon Scott Rose is now a permanent deacon for the archdiocese and will minister at St. John the Evangelist in Frederick, as well as at the Esperanza Center in Baltimore, where he has served as a pro bono attorney for immigrants, especially undocumented children.
Deacon Rose is the son of Deacon Alan Rose. The two are the first father-son combination to be ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Newly ordained Deacon Scott Rose embraces his father, Deacon Alan Rose, during the ordination to the order of deacon celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore May 21. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)
Deacon Kevin Ewing was ordained a transitional deacon, the final step before his expected ordination to the priesthood next year. He will continue his service at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park until September, when he will leave for Rome to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College.
"I felt truly blessed by the experience," Deacon Ewing said following his ordination. "I'm looking forward to celebrating both at my home parish and at the parish I'm working at."
Mark and Elizabeth Ewing, who raised their son at St. John the Evangelist in Long Green Valley, expressed joy in his calling, which was not a huge surprise to them.
"I was in the seminary years ago," Mark Ewing said. "We knew once I married Elizabeth that my son would have to be a priest," he joked.
"He's understanding, and he's compassionate," Elizabeth Ewing said of Deacon Ewing. "He listens to people – he really does."
Deacon Rose's family members were equally thrilled.
"I was a little surprised," Austin Rose said of his father's calling, "but I'm really happy that he's done it."
Studying at Georgetown University in hopes of eventually becoming an immigration lawyer, Austin Rose was the first of the family to volunteer at the Esperanza Center. When he learned of their need for pro bono attorneys, he turned to his father.
"(Deacon) Scott has already helped about 21 kids," said Pedro Seguenza, a translator for Esperanza.
One of those young people was Ana Herrera, who came undocumented from El Salvador and now has a work permit and Social Security card.
"(Deacon Rose) helped me; he's a great person," said Herrera, who cantored the communion hymn.
Such works of mercy were emphasized by Archbishop Lori in his homily.
"In the diaconate, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are sacramentalized, for the diaconate is that rank in the sacrament of holy orders most closely identified with charity and with its traveling companion, justice," the archbishop said.
"You will bring glad tidings to the poor," he continued. "You will bring the wonderful news of God's compassionate love to the spiritually poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable."
Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, and Bishop William C. Newman, retired auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, concelebrated the Mass with the archbishop, as did priests from across the archdiocese, with assistance from deacons of multiple parishes.
During the liturgy, Deacon Ewing and Deacon Rose placed their hands in those of Archbishop Lori, promising respect and obedience to him and his successors.
In expression of their total dependence on God, the two men prostrated themselves on the floor before the altar as the faithful chanted the Litany of the Saints.
After the archbishop laid his hands on the new deacons, there were vested with the diaconal stole and dalmatic. Deacon Ewing was vested by Redemptorist Father James O'Blaney, and Deacon Rose by his father.
A deacon's regular duties include proclaiming the Gospel at Mass and preaching homilies. In addition, he administers the sacrament of baptism and witnesses weddings. A deacon may also preside at rites of Christian burial, at eucharistic exposition and benediction, the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical rites.