100-Year-Old Deacon Larry Girard Continues to Inspire
Approaching Pentecost Sunday, the Register revisits with Deacon Larry Girard, whose been answering the call of the Holy Spirit for the last 35 years.
Parishioners at St. Sebastian Church in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, count among their blessings 100-year-old Deacon Larry Girard, a vibrant man who can be found in the sanctuary at Mass 365 days a year. And he’s been doing it for nearly 40 years. Ken Krach, who helps out in the sacristy after Mass, said, “The deacon is a wonderful, wonderful man.”
He added, “He is very prompt — always one of the first ones here — and he always has words of wisdom. He is a very inspirational, prayerful, gentle man, and his memory is very good.”
According to his pastor, Father Walter Ptak, Deacon Larry lives the Gospel and inspires others to do the same. “He’s always on the go — a real witness, especially to older people.”
“He has such a positive spirit and keeps going forward proclaiming the Gospel,” said Father Ptak.
Last week, Register writer Patti Armstrong was able to visit Dearborn Heights and talk with Deacon Larry and a visiting priest, Father Luke Iwuji, who says the deacon is an “example for us all." Father Luke he is moved by his “humility, his simplicity, his openness of mind and his courage.” Father Luke conjectured, “Can you imagine at his age — no hearing aid, no stick [cane], and he comes to Mass every single day!” With a sharp wit, Deacon Larry quickly replies, “I like to come to Mass… but they don’t let me preach anymore.”
Deacon Larry has been serving the parishioners in Dearborn Heights for 35 years — “longer than Father was a priest,” Deacon Larry jokes. Ordained a deacon on April 25, 1976, Deacon Girard was among the trailblazers for the restored diaconate in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He did consider joining the priesthood and was studying with the Christian Brothers, whom he joined in 1932, taking his initial vows in 1936 while teaching at the Brothers’ schools in Toronto and Montreal.
In 1947, he moved to Detroit to teach at St. Joseph High School, but wanted a change. “I started to get into social work and left teaching, getting my degree in social work from Wayne State and then a master’s at the University of Detroit,” Deacon Girard said. “I started volunteering with the Capuchins at St. Bonaventure, doing social work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. At the time, St. Vincent took care of the children in the court system, assigned them to foster homes and would do home visits.” Deacon Girard became a social worker for Wayne County, helping the community for 25 years before retiring and earning his pension. His role led to a new vocation when he met the love of his life, Jean Faucher, a teacher at Detroit Public Schools. The two were married in 1951 at Holy Redeemer. The couple stayed in Detroit for their first three children [out of five], before moving to Dearborn and joining St. Sebastian. His wife passed about 11 years ago.
Deacon Larry has no plans of slowing down as he approaches his 101st birthday this upcoming November. Quite the opposite: he still serves as deacon at eight Masses per week. Deacon used to really enjoy house visits and taking Communion to those in the hospital, but these days, he really just wants to help the priest at Mass. He can also be found at most, if not all, social events at the parish. Reflecting on his many years of humble service, Deacon Larry said, “When you think back on a century, you see a lot of change in the Church. But being able to help the priest, that’s what I like the most. It’s why I became a deacon in the first place, and that’s why I still like being a deacon — to help the priest when he celebrates Mass.”
“That’s when I’m the most happy,” he said, “when I’m able to help.”