Jerry Davis and Deacon Anthony Willoughby met recently to talk about Anthony’s journey to last month’s ordination. (See June Newsletter.)
But Anthony was not the first Deacon in the Willoughby family.
No, that honor belongs to his 84-year old father, Deacon Harvey L. Willoughby. Deacon Harvey has been a member of Bible Way Baptist Church in West Philadelphia for 50 years and Deacon for 15 years.
Deacon Harvey was pivotal in Anthony’s formative years and still is today. Deacon Harvey couldn’t be happier that his son is also serving in God’s ministry as a Deacon.
Anthony was baptized at Good Samaritan Baptist Church in 1975 but said, “I then had no religion in my life for 20 years. I was wandering aimlessly in a spiritual void.”
He then met his now wife, Tanya. His life was joyfully changed forever. Tanya was Catholic but not a practicing Catholic. But God’s plan for them was well underway. Jesus Christ was working in their lives; forming them together.
Deacon Anthony said, “I was baptized at St. Barnabas in 2005 and Tanya and I got married there that same year.”
Two loves of Anthony’s life are Tanya and their daughter, Ebony. Both were key to him answering God’s call to deepen his faith and to discern a vocation. Tanya was Anthony’s biggest support during his rigorous preparation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. With Tanya as his rock … Anthony persevered.
Deacon Anthony said, “Nothing I did was on my own. It was always with God’s grace, support and encouragement of Tanya, my family and my St. Barnabas Parish family.”
As part of the Deacon’s ministry at St. Francis/St. Joseph Home for Children (his day job), he works to boost self-esteem of its young residents who as he said, “Have had trauma in their lives.”
He serves as counselor, mentor, arbiter, questioner, attentive listener, friend, challenger, non-judgmental and caring tough-love giver at the Home. He gives the young people the dignity they should get but are often sadly denied. He calls them Mr. or Ms. “They deserve that,“ Deacon said.
Deacon Anthony thanks the Seminary for its rigorous formation. He said its “programs are the best.” And he’s confident that these programs and his other life experiences, have prepared him well for his added new ministry at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish (43rd and Wallace) under the leadership of Msgr. Federico Britto pastor of St. Cyprian Parish and administrator at St. Ignatius.
He also thanks Cathy Reimel Hamilton for the Foundation’s unwavering support throughout his formation. It meant a lot!
Deacon Anthony’s mantra is: “Whatever you want me to do, Lord. Whatever you want me to do.” He hopes others will join him. We need Deacons!
As Mark Twain said, “There are two important days in our lives: “The day we are born and the day we find out why.”
Deacon Anthony Willoughby has found out his why.