It’s impossible to ignore Deacon David Stanton. His booming voice wakes you up to the Gospel, while his disarming personality makes you feel like you’re talking with “one of the guys” in the narthex after Mass.
In fact, St. Mary Mokena’s newest deacon likes to view himself as a man of the people who loves sharing his faith with large groups, particularly those who may not have been to church in a while. “Instead of lifting up one or two people to full initiation in the church, I see my role more in lifting up large groups of people at least a little of the way,” said Stanton.
A Neighborhood Catholic
Stanton grew up in what one might call a good old-fashioned Chicago Catholic community. He went to Catholic grade school, Mount Carmel High School, and DePaul University. Now, even decades later, he still identifies with his Mount Carmel roots and likes to keep the fun rivalry going with anyone who attended Brother Rice back in the day.
Most importantly, he says his Catholic education set the foundation for a life in the faith. “My parents were staunch Catholics, and I was always appreciative of the Catholic education and community I had growing up.”
These neighborhood values have stuck with Stanton throughout his entire life and form the basis for the man he is today. However, becoming a deacon wasn’t always in the cards.
From Banker to Deacon
Soon after graduating college, Stanton began climbing the ladder to personal success. He married his wife, Phyllis, and eventually founded People First Bank in Joliet. Although his acumen for business brought him much material success, something was missing.
“You start working hard to get ahead in life and you put Catholicism on the back burner,” he said of himself at that time. “My faith had a limited role in my life due to work.”
Fortunately, he eventually came to an important realization. “I was so grateful for everything I had accomplished and humbly realized who had made it possible,” explained Stanton. At this point, he said he began paying more attention to his faith and looking for opportunities to give back.
He started by volunteering his time on the St. Mary parish finance committee when Fr. James Dvorscak was pastor. Stanton and his wife had been parishioners since the early 1990s, so it was a natural fit, particularly with his business and banking background.
By the time Fr. Dindo Billote arrived as pastor in 2014, Stanton was ready for more. After getting involved in Christ Renews His Parish, which is the parish’s men’s group, Stanton heard the call to the diaconate loud and clear. Following a trip to Israel with his wife and taking a Cursillo Retreat, he was on board. He applied to the diaconate and began a rigorous 4-year study program through the Diocese of Joliet in 2018.
Upon entering the program, Stanton was positively overwhelmed by the companionship he found. “After a certain age, you don’t think it’s possible to make new friends, but I made friends for life,” said Stanton of his classmates, who numbered 16, including himself. “You can’t do this alone,” he said of the study program. “The biggest challenge was going back to school. There were lots of readings, papers, and tests.” Of course, Stanton had to balance his diaconal studies with his regular day job of running a bank. “You’re giving all you have to work, but then afterward you still have to go to class and give some more,” he noted. He said both his wife and his classmates were instrumental in helping him get through the program.
Besides heavy bookwork, Stanton had to complete what one might call the “clinical” portion of becoming a deacon, which involved serving at St. Mary Mokena. Many parishioners might remember him helping around the altar, but particularly carrying the crucifix during entrance processions and other events. “St. Mary gave me everything that was needed and then some,” he said. He holds particular gratitude toward Fr. Dindo, who he said provided support every step of the way.
In August 2022, after four years of hard work and sacrifice, Stanton was ordained a deacon by Bishop Ronald Hicks. “When I was ordained, I felt this electricity flowing through my body,” he recalled. “It was a great feeling”
Meeting People Where They’re At
Although still early into his diaconal ministry, Stanton is already defining his style and guiding vision. “I don’t consider myself a preacher,” he said. “I consider myself a storyteller utilizing the Scripture, the readings, the magisterium, and the history to talk to people.”
This humility and passion for meeting people where they’re at helps Deacon Stanton evangelize wherever he goes. He feels particularly comfortable talking to people at the wakes and funerals at which he serves. “There’s a likelihood of people who haven’t been at Mass in a long time being there, so you have an opportunity to reintroduce people to the Church,” he said. “I want those people to find me approachable and comfortable asking questions.”
Although ordained and well-studied, Deacon Stanton rejects the notion that he “knows better” than anyone else. “I’m never in a position to be on a high perch talking down to people,” he said. In fact, he admits that he sometimes struggles with the opposite problem of having too much of a personality during the Liturgy.
Besides evangelizing to groups, Deacon Stanton also sees opportunities to use his business background to serve the church. “I can help Fr. Dindo more by being involved in the business affairs of the parish, with the school and so forth,” he explained. “I am willing to act in whatever area makes sense for the bishop and my pastor.”
Deacon Stanton’s humility and passion for his ministry is evident in his voice. He exudes a sort of “friendly uncle” persona, a vibe that reinforces his style of being a deacon of the people. “It’s important to have your arms open and welcoming, demonstrating love,” he said. “Talk to the crowd no matter where they’re at in their faith.”
One thought on “David Stanton: A Deacon of the People”
Wishing I had found a place in my new Catholic community after moving from St.Stephen Deacon & Martyr in Tinley Park 8 years ago to a small rural town in Iowa. I have not lost my faith however, the differences in approach to mass, readings, homily are so drastically different and I don’t feel like I belong. Sounds like we could use a Deacon Dave to visit. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe someday . In the meantime congratulations to all of the newly ordained Deacons. Use