By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
One day, Lucy Distin had to make a visit to the hospital. Her husband, Deacon Leslie Distin, always by her side, accompanied her. Just as they were getting into the elevator, someone saw Les. The deacon was told his services were needed urgently. Could he come quickly?
Les was torn. He wanted to stay with Lucy, but how could he not help someone who needed him?
“You go,” Lucy encouraged him. “I’ll be fine.” And so he went.
This story, told by Deacon Phillip Kehoe at a ceremony held Nov. 5 to honor the Distins and mark their retirement, is just one example of the couple’s selfless dedication to Les’ ministry.
“This team [for] 18 years has elevated and maintained the diaconate program,” said Deacon Kehoe at the ceremony. “Les and Lucy have touched lives through their dedication, professionalism and caring, their love, patience and self-sacrifice.”
Deacon Distin was ordained in 1990 and assigned to the diocese’s southern region. In 1993, he was asked to lead the diocese’s diaconate program. Several years ago, in light of changing requirements for deacon formation, Deacon Distin recommended that the deacon community would be best served by two distinct offices. Father Louis Aiello became director of the Office of Deacon Formation and Deacon Distin became director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
Over the years, Deacon Distin contributed to the ongoing spiritual, ministerial and academic growth of men pursuing and ordained to the diaconate, serving as a leader, mentor and friend. Many deacons and their wives were present at the ceremony.
“It has been a privilege to serve,” Deacon Distin told the group. “I have shared so much with you all, as a group and as individuals. Thank you for everything.”
Lucy Distin has also been an integral part of the diaconate program as chairwoman of the deacons’ wives progam, which she helped to develop.
“Lucy took it upon herself to [develop] a program that enriches the lives of the wives,” Deacon Kehoe said, noting that the support of a deacon’s wife is essential to his success. “She created a warm relationship with them, answered their questions and made them feel welcome and comfortable.”
Several wives offered their heartfelt thanks at the ceremony, noting that Lucy served as a role model who helped them realize that they, too, were called when their husbands were.
Bishop Robert Cunningham and retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello were also in attendance for the ceremony. In addition to commending the couple for their work in the deacon program, Bishop Costello noted their success as a devoted married couple and parents of wonderful children.
On behalf of the diaconate’s executive committee, Deacon Kehoe, who succeeded Deacon Distin over the summer as director of what is now called the Office of Deacon Personnel, presented the Distins with a plaque in honor of their service. A larger version of that plaque will also be mounted outside the chapel at Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center. As a final surprise, the Distins also received a framed papal blessing that noted their many years of dedication.
Deacon Distin will continue to serve at St. Patrick and St. Thomas Aquinas Churches in Binghamton, but he has officially transitioned his director duties to Deacon Kehoe.
In his new capacity, Deacon Kehoe is striving to continue the work of his predecessor.
“Les is a brilliant guy who has done so much for the program and the diocese,” he said. “Those are big shoes to fill.”