Deacon Joe News
Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

Effective May 1, 2008, I retired from my engineering position at General Motors after almost 35 years.
Below is a memo I sent to my coworkers to announce my departure:

Back in 1993, the Blessed Mother, the mother of Jesus, led my wife and me to a closer relationship with her Son. We
underwent a significant conversion experience that encouraged us to put our lives more fully in God’s hands. As a
result, I did some really illogical things like flying my entire family (4 kids ages 7-17) to the little town of Medjugorje in
Bosnia-Hercegovina for an Easter pilgrimage in 1994. (The civil war there was still finishing up.) When people asked
me why I would spend all that money to take my family to a war zone, my simple answer was: “Because I think God
wants me to.” This was totally out of character for me. And a year later I found myself taking classes down at the
seminary three nights a week to answer God’s call to become a deacon in the Catholic Church.

When I tried to explain the change in my life to others, I would often use the image of a roller coaster. It was like
climbing onto the ride, buckling up tightly, and simply hanging on. God was in control now, not me; I was going along
for the ride of my life.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to return to Medjugorje. And as we arrived and met the other pilgrims in our group, we
all shared our stories. And I shared my story including the image of the roller coaster. A few days later, late in the
afternoon, I headed alone up Cross Mountain, one of the special areas for prayer. And as I came to the top of the
mountain, God spoke to my heart. It was not audible, but it was very real. And He told me to get off the merry-go-
round and get back on the roller coaster. And I realized that I had fallen back into a comfortable routine. My career
was over and I was now simply going everyday to a good job that provided me with comfort and security. I had grown
comfortable with my liturgical roles and assignments as a deacon in my parish assignment. But what did God want me
to do differently?

From a ministry perspective, God called Jenni and me to accept responsibility for the youth group at the small parish
in Imlay City where I am currently assigned. We’re up to 19 high school students in our group this year, and anticipate
it will grow to about 30 next year. I’m not sure it’s a roller coaster; it seems more like a tilt-a-whirl.

From a work and career perspective, my direction did not come as clearly. But in the fall of 2006, while attending a
seminar to determine what I wanted to do when I grew up, I received an inspiration from God to write a book.
Unfortunately, a year later, I had not made much progress on completing this task. Between my time at work and the
time involved with my ministries, I didn’t have very much creative energy left at the end of the day. About that time, I
ran across a book entitled
48 Days to the Job You Love, which laid out the hierarchy between a job, a career, and a
vocation or calling. And I came to the realization that my job, although it was a good job, was interfering with my
vocation. For the first time I started to consider the real possibility of an early retirement. It would maybe not be a
complete retirement, but at least a break to finish my writing project, and then maybe a career transition to a more
compatible career and job. And I set a target of May 1, 2008, just after my 56th birthday.

This was scary to consider the reality of retiring at this early age, but we met with a couple of financial counselors who
thought we could just possibly make it work. This was in October, 2007 when my 401K and IRAs were much healthier
than they are today. But we did not waiver from our decision to trust the Lord and proceed. And to show us His favor,
God has provided me, courtesy of GM, with a mutual separation retirement effective May 1, 2008 that provides me
with a little extra incentive to take this very big step on my life’s journey.

I have faith that God will provide me, maybe not with everything I want, but with everything I need. My ride on the roller
coaster will have ups and downs and I’m sure some scary moments. But as scary as the trip may be, I know where the
ride ends. If I stay on the track, if I keep my hands and feet inside the car at all times, I will end up safely back at the
station; I will return to live forever with God who knit me together in my mother’s womb.

In the last weeks, despite all my financial and spiritual preparation, the emotional aspects of leaving still made it
difficult to face the finality of signing retirement papers. Leaving financial security is difficult, but it is more difficult
leaving the association with all of you that I have come to know and work with over almost 35 years at GM. My life has
changed much over these years. I hope that I have been able to make some positive impact on your life or career,
and I apologize to those that I may have offended through my inconsideration and thoughtlessness.

May God bless you all and shed His light upon you. I pray that all of you can find the peace of knowing what God
wants you to do in your life, even if that means being called to get off your merry-go-round. Please pray for me.

In the peace of Christ,