Jezu ufam tobie.
Though Deacon Peter Gummere does not speak Polish fluently, he knows this phrase from the Divine Mercy devotion; it means "Jesus I trust in You."
And he does place his trust in the Lord.
Deacon Gummere knows a little bit of Polish and even some Polish hymns; he and his wife, Mary Anne (Siwinski) Gummere adopted their two sons, Rob and Paul, from orphanages in Poland. They maintain some of her family ethnic traditions, too, like the sharing of the Christmas oplatek, the "bread of love."
Associated with the Divine Mercy of Jesus, "Jezu ufam tobie" is part of Deacon Gummere's devotions, and he has placed his trust in God both in his diaconal ministry and in his work in the pro-life movement.
He uses his interactions with people, his teaching, his preaching and even his Facebook page to spread the messages of mercy and compassion, often quoting Pope Francis. "So often I get a comment back from someone who is estranged from the Church who says they can relate to the quote," he said.
Deacon Gummere is one of three active deacons at Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville; there are also two there with senior deacon status.
As a deacon, Deacon Gummere has a sacramental ministry of baptisms, marriages and bringing the Eucharist to nursing home residents, shut-ins and hospital patients. He conducts wake services, preaches, teaches and evangelizes. He is involved in pro-life and social-justice ministries, serves as a hospital chaplain, does counseling and has a healing ministry.
Born in Trenton, N.J., in 1949, he earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Wheeling College, now Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.V., and a master's in biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.
He earned a master's in theology in pastoral ministry from St. Michael's College in Colchester and completed the Lay Ministry Training Program of the Diocese of Burlington and a clinical pastoral education program at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.
Deacon Gummere–who has a certificate in Catholic Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia–moved to Vermont in 1985. He recently retired as director of materials management at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury but continues to work per diem about 15 hours a week.
He first thought of the diaconate in the late 1970's or early 1980's when someone asked him if he had ever considered it; he had not.
But he began to think about it.
In the early 1990s while a parishioner of St. Paul Church in Barton, he began to consider it seriously, and he was ordained to the diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington in 2005 by then Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.
His ministries have included Pre Cana, prison ministry and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He is a member of the Respect Life Speakers' Bureau for the diocese and writes on human life and social justice topics for Vermont Catholic magazine. His articles have appeared also in such publications as Deacon Digest and National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.
An adjunct faculty member of the Josephinum Diaconate Institute/ Permanent Diaconate Program at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, Deacon Gummere said being a deacon has enabled him to use gifts he had not been "in touch with" such as his understanding of bioethics and moral theology. "In my professional career [mostly in health care settings], ethics has constantly been a concern of mine," he said, noting that he has witnessed unethical business practices such as fraud, theft and extortion.
Through his work as a deacon, he also has found he is a good listener and effective counselor and is more humble "because I have come to realize how little control I have and how much God has."
A layperson being ordained a deacon is "one way in which to evangelize and to affirm the faith, to proclaim the faith," he said, adding that "the grace of ordination follows me and is alive and well when I am ministering."
Father Bernard Gaudreau, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, called Deacon Gummere a "great asset" in the parish, particularly with his bioethics experience. "He shines at teaching," he said.
All the deacons are a great help in the parish, he continued. "Especially in this day and age when pastors are stretched thin, they reach people we wouldn't have time to reach."
Asked how he lives mercy, Deacon Gummere said he tries to be gentle and live mercy in his relationships with family, friends, co-workers and parishioners: "I look for solutions that minimize negative consequences and provide positive outcomes; I think that is a good explanation of what mercy is."
A good-humored man, Deacon Gummere admits he is a "horrid golfer." He tells the story of golfing with his son, Rob, who told him he should look into the new law firm in town: "Hook, Shank and Divot."
That was the last time he played golf, he added with a laugh.
Deacon Gummere enjoys writing, photography and has an eclectic taste in music that includes heavy doses of classical music, opera, Gregorian chant, Bach and Handel chorales, and reasonable doses of '60s, '70s and '80s music. "However, I have usually been discouraged from singing," he noted.
Besides Sunday Mass, Deacon Gummere attends some weekday Masses–he is better able to now that he has retired–and attends Eucharistic Adoration with his wife for an hour a week. He prays the daily Liturgy of the Hours, which he said, he finds indispensable and helps him stay focused. And he regularly prays the rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Asked about his concerns for the Church today, Deacon Gummere listed evangelization, building trust and credibility and showing compassion and mercy.
The latter can be found in Jesus' Divine Mercy which holds that God loves all people and wants them to recognize that His mercy is greater than their sins so that they will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy and let it flow through them to others.
That is a message by which Deacon Gummere lives.
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.