Like father, like son: Two generations of Holgrens serving diocese as deacons


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SAN DIEGO — Bob and Dan Holgren are father and son.

But, for the moment at least, they are also brother deacons.

Bob, 62, was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2009. Dan, 35, was ordained to the transitional diaconate Oct. 2 at San Rafael Parish in Rancho Bernardo.

As a transitional deacon, Dan is on the path to priesthood and expected to be ordained a priest sometime next year. But, until then, he and his father will be exercising the same ministry.

“To be able to share the diaconate ministry with my dad is an amazing thing,” he said.

During the ordination liturgy, Deacon Bob had the honor of calling his son forward to be presented to Bishop Robert W. McElroy, vesting him in the traditional liturgical garments of a deacon, and bestowing upon him the fraternal embrace with which one deacon greets another.

“Words cannot truly reveal the deep admiration and love that I have for Daniel,” said Deacon Bob, who identifies his son’s birth as “the catalyst, that ‘ah ha’ moment that opened the doors of my heart to follow Jesus and His Gospel of love.”

He recounted how, shortly before his son’s premature delivery, he had tearfully prayed in the hospital chapel for the protection of his wife and son. He made a promise then that he would raise his son to know Jesus personally. In doing so, he realized that he also was committing himself to developing a deeper relationship with the Lord.

“Daniel’s ordination, to me, is the fulfillment of sorts of that promise I gave to God 35 years ago,” Deacon Bob said.

In their vocational journeys, father and son have continually inspired and supported one another — sometimes in words; sometimes in actions.

For example, Deacon Bob still remembers the day before his own ordination, when his son told him that he was proud of him.

“His lovely sentiment that resonated through his smile has always stuck with me,” he said.

On the other hand, Deacon Bob’s yes to God’s call may have had a role in influencing his son’s.

“What attracted me to the priesthood was the ability to give of myself and help others in a tangible way,” said Deacon Dan, who began discerning the priesthood about five years ago, feeling not entirely fulfilled in his career as a paramedic.

He credits his father’s example of selflessness, both in diaconal service and in married life, with showing him how to give of himself. From his dad, the younger Holgren said, he has “learned absolutely everything” about being a deacon.

In his homily for the ordination, Bishop McElroy explained that service is at the heart of what the diaconate is all about.

“You embarked on this pathway of ‘diakonia,’ of service to the suffering, when you were a paramedic; you embrace it today in a new way in the gift of ordination,” the bishop told the younger Holgren. “And you have had a personal guide to the intimate meaning of the diaconate in your father’s service to our Local Church. And, in your mother’s participation in the diaconal community, she has equally taught you the meaning of the new life that you embrace this day.

“What a great grace for you and for our Church!”

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