The following story appeared in the September 24 Idaho Catholic Register.
From left, Bea Bonney, Bobbi Dominick, Diocese of Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll, Deacon Tom Dominick and Deacon Rick Bonney at Deacon Dominick’s ordaination on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Oct. 7, 2001 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise. Deacon Bonney served as an acolyte during the ordination. (Photo courtesy Bobbi Dominick)
By Emily Woodham
As Deacon Tom Dominick approaches his 20th anniversary in the diaconate, he has not lost his love for visiting the sick, helping the poor, or serving at the altar.
The diaconal call to a ministry of service has included, for him, many experiences of helping people through both tragedy and celebration.
Like all deacons and priests, some of his most heartbreaking experiences have been at the burials of children or of those who completed suicide. Some of his most joyous have been presiding at baptisms and weddings. Whether visiting the sick at the hospital or helping those in need through St. Vincent de Paul, his passion for bringing Jesus’ love to others continues. He now has more years of continuous service than any non-retired deacon in the Diocese of Boise.
The second oldest of six children, he was born into a strong Catholic family in Pocatello. He spent his childhood attending St. Anthony Parish there before moving to Boise with his family when he was in the seventh grade.
He had always felt close to God, until he was in college.
At 19, he started to explore other religions and doubted transubstantiation, the Catholic teaching that the consecrated bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. However, after reading the Church Fathers, he decided that the Catholic Church was right about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
His faith revived, he began to feel called to the priesthood, but his priest, while not discouraging the priesthood, told him he should also pray about serving the Church in other ways.
He finished his undergraduate degree from Boise State and then went to University of Idaho in Moscow for his law degree.
In 1982, he began his career as an attorney and married Bobbi, who is also an attorney.
Their wedding was at St. Mary’s Church in Boise, witnessed by Father Don Riffle.
Then they moved to Boise’s North End and became parishioners at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where they have stayed for 39 years.
“I was extremely ambitious,” Deacon Dominick said. “But I felt like something was missing in my life, that I should be doing something else.” Despite his successful career in law, which led to positions in the Department of Labor and as a deputy attorney general, he continued to feel a pull to ministry.
He considered the diaconate in the early 1990s, but Bishop Sylvester Treinen (1962-1988) had suspended the permanent diaconate program in the Diocese. Although he could not enter an official program, Dominick studied on his own with a priest. “I really didn’t understand a lot of what was said about scripture, but I learned to love Jesus even more,” he said.
He decided to pursue an environmental law degree from George Washington University. While working on his degree, he was an intern at the White House for the natural resources director in the Clinton-Gore administration.
Even after he finished his master’s in environmental law, he still had a desire to be a deacon. By then, Bishop Tod Brown had reopened the diaconate program in 1996.
“When Tom first told me he was feeling a call to the diaconate, I did not even really know what that meant,” his wife, Bobbi, said. “Luckily, several years passed before the formation program started again, so during that time I was able to understand more, and pray about it. By the time the program started, I was fully supportive of his calling. I knew that he felt it deeply, and that he needed to follow that call wherever it might lead,” she said.
He applied along with about 50 others. 36 were accepted. Of those, only 16 were ordained. The program instituted by Bishop Brown required that everyone with a bachelor’s degree obtain a master’s degree in pastoral studies through Loyola University in New Orleans.
While studying for his master’s, Dominick also continued his full-time job as an attorney. He obtained his master’s from Loyola and was ordained on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, 2001, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. “I finally found what was missing when I was ordained,” he said.
“When I was ordained, I think I was one of the youngest deacons (age 45 at the time) in Idaho,” he said. “Everybody else who was ordained with me is no longer in Idaho or is retired,” he said.
A favorite part of his ministry is making hospital visits, especially when he can bring communion. One of his most amusing days in ministry came when he visited a hospital before privacy laws for-bade religious affiliation lists of patients. He would go at least once a week to visit all the Catholics that were on the hospital list. But during one visit, not a single person agreed to receive communion. He looked at his list again and realized at the top was written, “LDS.”
Deacon Dominick also loves serving people through the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He does home visits for SVdP, assessing how best to help people who call for help and then providing whatever aid they can give. He is currently an ombudsman for the Diocese of Boise to St. Vincent de Paul and to Catholic Charities.
“Tom’s diaconal ministry has truly enriched our lives in many ways that I could not have imagined. We have had many powerful experiences over the years that we would not have had,” Bobbi Dominick said. “He truly has a heart for ministry, and it has been powerful for me to watch him work as a deacon. I am inspired by him every day.”
“The discernment and study actually led me to feel a call to deepen my own understanding of the Catholic faith,” she said.
Having that support from a wife is important to those considering the diaconate, Deacon Dominick said. He also finds support in his strong friendships with his fellow deacons. Through the years he and his wife have been on pilgrimages around the world with their friends. He has travelled to the Holy Land and throughout Europe. One of his favorite visits was to Ireland, where he is a dual citizen. (His maternal grandfather was born in Ireland.)
“The trips have been fun, but have always had a very strong spiritual component,” said Deacon Tom Mannschreck, a longtime friend who serves with Deacon Dominick at the Cathedral. “We were part of the group at Mass when the Blessed Virgin Mary with Jesus appeared in the recently consecrated host,” Deacon Mannschreck said. Their group also narrowly escaped violent demonstrators in Jerusalem. They were able to get out of harms’ way because Deacon Dominick listened to the guide when he said to drive over sidewalks to get out as fast as possible.
“Deacon Tom and his wife Bobbi have been most encouraging and supportive on my spiritual growth journey,” Deacon Mannschreck said. Deacon Dominick helped Deacon Mannschreck in discerning the diaconate and through the process to ordination, he said.
Although he is 65, Deacon Dominick has no plans of retiring from the diaconate any time soon. (Deacons reach retired status at age 70, but many continue to serve, at the discretion of their pastor and the bishop.)
Amidst all the joys and heartaches in ministry, Deacon Dominick has found his time as a deacon to be rewarding and fulfilling.
“My heart didn’t rest until I went through the deacon formation program,” he said, recalling the famous quote by St. Augustine of Hippo that the heart doesn’t rest until it finds itself in God. “If you are called to do something, you need to do it.”
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