Journeywork: A Shared Calling
Deacon Mark & Linda Hooper
Deacon Mark and Linda Hooper are connected
in faith—and connected to Christ the King Seminary's mission—in so many
inspiring ways that it's difficult to capture it all in one story. From their
years studying at the seminary to their service at their home parish (Saint
John Paul II in Lake View) to the priests, deacons and lay people who've become
their colleagues and friends along the way, Mark and Linda are on a journey
together to serve God's calling.
Rooted in Christian faith from an early
age, Mark says he was "born Catholic" and was educated at Catholic
institutions. He attended Catholic grade school and St. Francis High School in
Athol Springs, NY, and went on to study at Niagara University and the
University of Detroit. Meanwhile, Linda grew up in Detroit and began her
Christian faith journey in the Baptist Church.
First Steps Together
Mark was studying engineering at the
University of Detroit when he and Linda were introduced by mutual friends at a party.
"While we were dating," Mark said, "we would
often attend Baptist services in the morning and Catholic Mass on campus at
night," which is how they began to understand each other's background of faith.
After graduating and moving to Buffalo,
they got married and Linda continued to attend Mass with Mark. A year later
Linda converted to Catholicism.
A Family's Journey
While raising their family, they became actively
involved in parish life—first at Our Lady of Basilica where they were both greeters
and both participated in RENEW—a Catholic ministry that fosters spiritual
renewal by empowering people to encounter God in everyday life and to share
After moving to Lake View, they became very
involved in their new parish, participated in week-long parish missions, and
volunteered at their children's Catholic school and school board. Linda also began
working part-time at their parish and has continued to work there for over 20
"As we worked with the school board and parish,"
said Deacon Mark, "I started thinking, 'there's a need for ministers.' Some
parishioners encouraged me to consider it, and Fr. Jim Bastian and Msgr. John
Zeitler encouraged me to pursue the diaconate."
A New Route
Mark and Linda's first experience at the seminary
was getting trained as Eucharistic Ministers in the early 90s. In 1996, Mark
entered the diaconate formation program at the seminary with Linda's full
support and participation. Throughout the four-year program, Linda also
participated in the seminary's monthly weekend-long sessions that the
candidates' wives were invited to attend.
Mark was ordained as a Deacon in 2000 and
has served at their parish for 16 years, and Linda went on to develop a program
for the diaconate candidates' wives at the seminary.
"I helped create a program for the wives of
the men going through diaconate formation. In fact, I liked the formation
program so well, I never left," said Linda. "The new program for the wives was
a little more formalized than what I had experienced, and I was able to do this
while I worked toward my certificate in pastoral studies."
Highlights Along the Way
studies—Linda earned her certificate in pastoral studies in 2006, and Mark
returned to the seminary to pursue his Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry,
which he completed in May 2016.
ministries—Over the years, Mark and Linda specialized in couples' ministries at
their parish. They held presentations, discussions and social activities
focused on helping married couples grow in their marriage.
a number of years, the Hoopers also organized an anniversary Mass similar to
what the diocese does for 50 or 60+ years of marriage, but they focused on
celebrating marriage milestones for every five- and ten-year anniversary,
including the early years of marriage, and the celebrations were very well
and Linda are also the liaisons for the Pre-Cana program in their parish. They
work with six sponsor couples and present a full-day session for approximately
a dozen engaged couples each year.
Club—Linda plays an active role in fostering vocations through the Serra Club.
The organization meets for a monthly Mass and dinner with the seminarians, and
they conduct monthly meetings to help promote vocations in the diocese and help
support the seminarians currently in the formation program.
ministry—Mark's role as a deacon included ministering to patients and families at
Mercy Hospital for 14 years. He also ministered for a year at the Bissonette
House in Buffalo (a transitional residence program for people reentering the
community from prison), and for the past year has been working with the
Lakeshore Association of Christian Churches' food pantry: Operation Good
new generation of faith—Seven years ago, Mark and Linda and their family and
friends joyfully celebrated their daughter Andrea (now Sr. Dominica) becoming a
Coming Full Circle
Among the many connections that the Hoopers
have made over the years, their faith journey with Rev. Michael LaMarca has
grown into a lasting friendship and partnership in faith.
When Michael was a seminarian, the Hoopers
invited the seminarians over for dinner a few times a year, and he often joined
them. Close in age to the Hoopers' adult son Tim, Michael became an important
part of their family over the years.
For example, when their oldest daughter
entered religious life seven years ago, Michael was there to celebrate with
them. When their other children, Tim and Mary celebrated their weddings,
Michael served at the wedding Masses. When Michael became a deacon in 2015,
Mark had the honor of vesting him. And when Michael became a priest and was
assigned to the Hooper's parish this year as the parochial vicar, Mark served
as the deacon at Michael's first Mass.
This path of learning and serving together
in our diocese is one of the many reasons the Hoopers, and so many others,
deeply value the role that Christ the King Seminary serves in our community.
"It's an advantage for the seminarians to
be able to interact with the local diocese," said Mark, "and for the diaconate
community and lay people to take classes together with the seminarians and get
degrees in pastoral ministry and theology, because they're all going to be
working together down the road."
Linda added, "They're also doing field
education during the school year, such as prison ministry and hospital
ministry. So, they're meeting people here in their own diocese and getting to
know them, making connections."
On the Horizon
Currently, Deacon Mark and Linda continue
to work closely with their home parish and with Rev. Michael. As they look to
the future with open hearts, they plan to continue to serve God's calling and
joyfully anticipate whatever He has in store for them down the road.
Photography: Tom Wolf Imaging