‘Beacon of Truth’: Dynamic Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers Attracts Souls to Christ

“I was in adoration, making my Holy Hour, and sometime during that Holy Hour I got an overwhelming interior sense that God was saying to me, ‘I need you to do a different type of threat assessment for souls ...’”

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers at the microphone inside EWTN Radio’s WMET affiliate in Washington, D.C.
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers at the microphone inside EWTN Radio’s WMET affiliate in Washington, D.C. (photo: Creative Services / EWTN)

PORTLAND, Ore. — You only need to hear Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers preach the Gospel one time to know he’s a beacon of Truth — the Truth that is Jesus Christ. His unmistakable voice, relatable teaching style and forthright preaching attract souls yearning to discover a relationship with God.

A well-known author, speaker and EWTN Radio and Television series host known as the “Dynamic Deacon,” Deacon Burke-Sivers crisscrosses the world, traveling more than 257,000 miles last year alone, to share the truths of the Catholic faith at conferences, parishes, and community events.

Speaking (and Living) Truth With Love

Recognized as a prominent Catholic evangelist, he has hosted nine series of programs on the Eternal Word Television Network over the years, including Behold the Man: Spirituality for Men, to guide men in living out their true vocations as husbands, fathers and men of the Church.

On Feb. 5, Deacon Burke-Sivers launched his newest EWTN Radio program, appropriately titled Beacon of Truth, airing at 4 p.m. ET weekdays. During each show, the good deacon takes on a timely topic for listeners who want to strengthen or develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“There’s so much confusion in the world, in the Church, in our culture and in society,” he told the Register. “We’re confused about a lot of things: marriage, gender, race and all these things. To try to speak the truth in a culture where everyone is determining what the truth is for themselves is not easy.”

So how can Catholics cut through all of that? “We can start to live our faith with passion and conviction. We can really live the truth in love, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:15,” Deacon Burke-Sivers explained.

He brings his love of the Psalms and music to each day’s show and takes questions from callers and those who email him during the broadcast.

“The faith can bring us to deeper intimacy and union with Jesus Christ and Jesus informs us in how we can think and act. That is what I want people to focus on: Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not a truth, but the Truth! It’s the Truth that sets us free to be the person God has created us to be,” he added.

“Listeners tell us that Deacon Harold’s enthusiasm for the faith is contagious,” said EWTN Radio General Manager Jack Williams. “He has a way of helping people better understand how to connect what they’re hearing from the pulpit with their everyday problems, and that’s what this new show is all about.”

Addressing Racism

Deacon Burke-Sivers has penned six books, including Father Augustus Tolton: The Slave Who Became the First African-American Priest, drawing from the lessons that can be learned from Father Tolton’s incredible life.

“Father Tolton was a beacon of hope to Black Catholics in the 19th century, looking to find a home in the American Church,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “He saw beyond race and politics, teaching that the Church wants to free us not just from slavery, but slavery to sin.”

He recently released his latest work, Building a Civilization of Love: A Catholic Response to Racism, published by Ignatius Press. In it, he is boldly honest about the Catholic Church and racism in the United States, taking a deeper look at critical race theory, liberation theology and the Black Lives Matter movement, weighing their merits and pitfalls.

Deacon Burke-Sivers believes there is an answer to the evils of racial division in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I wanted to look at what we can do, and what we are able to accomplish, when we stop seeing color first and start seeing the image of God in the person standing in front of us,” he explained, noting that he is passionate about having those deeper conversations about race and the moral and spiritual groundwork that must be laid in order to successfully combat racism in society.

Deacon Burke-Sivers shared this message Feb. 22, in a sometimes-fiery address, to hundreds of parishioners of Our Lady of Grace Church in Lancaster (Indian Land), South Carolina, at the invitation of pastor Father Jeffrey Kirby, a Register contributor.

“It was very important for me to have Deacon Harold come and speak about racism and the call we have as Catholic Christians to build a civilization of love,” Father Kirby told the Register.

“Prejudice and racism are vile offenses to human dignity. Sadly, racism has become politicized, redefined and manipulated. I wanted my parishioners to hear from a deacon of the Church, a theologian, and a man of color on what racism is and how we can combat it without causing more division and confusion,” explained Father Kirby.

“Deacon Harold’s distinction about seeing human beings as an ‘image and likeness of God,’ rather than a caricature of stereotypes, was particularly profound for me,” he added. “I also appreciated his emphasis on seeing people as people and not projections of a particular race. I was very moved by his invitation to see the Church — and all the cultures and peoples within the Church — as a family.”

Falling for Jesus

So how did the first baptized Catholic in a family from Barbados, West Indies, growing up in Newark, New Jersey, become such a herald for Jesus Christ and Catholicism?

It all started when his mother noticed he had an affinity for the Mass when he was a child, encouraging him to become an altar server when he was 9 years old.

“I loved serving Mass,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “I saw myself on that altar, and I just could not get enough. Whether it was 8 a.m. daily Mass before school or whenever, I felt that I belonged there.”

His years of altar serving led to his discernment of a priestly vocation in his teens. He attended St. Benedict Preparatory School’s “Come and See” program every year for all four years of high school.

“I was very attracted to monastic life,” he said. “The first person in my family to go to college, I went to the University of Notre Dame for four years, then worked for a year as I was discerning monastic life.” He then entered St. Benedict Abbey in New Jersey near his home but had to take a leave when his mother became gravely ill, and he needed to help her and his family.

“When I was home helping my mom, I went to a wedding of some college friends and met the woman who would become my wife. I guess God had different plans!” Deacon Burke-Sivers said about the end of his discernment to the priesthood.

Taking a Leap of Faith

The happy couple moved to his wife’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. There, he established a career in law enforcement as they delved into parish life and began to raise a family, welcoming four children over the years.

“I was doing all the things — lectoring, altar serving, St. Vincent de Paul Society, serving on the parish council, the finance committee — and it wasn’t enough. That’s when I discerned the diaconate,” he explained.

He was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2002 and continued his career in law enforcement for another 10 years, specifically working in the area of anti-terrorism threat assessment after the tragic events of 9/11, before hearing a call within a call on his vocation.

“I was in adoration, making my Holy Hour, and sometime during that Holy Hour I got an overwhelming interior sense that God was saying to me, ‘I need you to do a different type of threat assessment for souls,’” he recalled.

“I said, ‘No.’ God said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘No.’ God said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Lord I am very comfortable where I am in my life right now,’” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “The Lord directed my gaze to a crucifix in the adoration chapel. He said, ‘If you want to take our relationship to the next level, you have to get uncomfortable.’”

The deacon spent the next year discerning what to do. “I spent the first few months trying to talk God out of it,” he joked as he recalled that time. “It became very clear during the year, though, that God was calling me to do it. My wife helped me make the final decision. Her love gave me the courage to follow God’s will.”

Sharing the Love of Christ

The rest, as they say, is history. Deacon Burke-Sivers, now a Benedictine Oblate affiliated with Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, has traveled to 31 countries preaching, teaching and sharing the love of Christ with all who have ears. His voice has resounded on airwaves around the world across multiple networks.

“People say sometimes, ‘You sound like a Baptist.’ ‘No,’ I say, ‘I sound like a Catholic who is in love with Jesus!’” he said.

“One of the great gifts that Deacon Harold brings to modern Catholics is his boundless energy,” Matthew Bunson, EWTN News’ vice president and editorial director, said. “But it is energy grounded in immense zeal and a commitment to bring souls to Christ.”

A musician, Deacon Burke-Sivers appreciates the opportunity to be God’s instrument as well as his beacon of truth.

“I love knowing that I am doing God’s will. I love constantly being in tune with the Lord and allowing him to use me,” he said. “As an instrument, I have to let his voice shine through me. As weak as I am — and as sinful as we are, and as imperfect as we are — God can still use us for his glory. So I am just trying to continue to be a finely tuned instrument in his hands.”

He concluded, “I never envisioned doing what I am doing now, but now I can’t think of doing anything else.”