May 13, 2022

Grandmom’s faith and his love for God’s people lead Deacon Perronie to priesthood

Transitional Deacon Matthew Perronie uses incense during the archdiocesan chrism Mass on April 12 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. A member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownburg, he and transitional Deacon Michael Clawson will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at the cathedral on June 4. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Transitional Deacon Matthew Perronie uses incense during the archdiocesan chrism Mass on April 12 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. A member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownburg, he and transitional Deacon Michael Clawson will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at the cathedral on June 4. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By John Shaughnessy

A wealth of appreciation—and a measure of sorrow—fill transitional Deacon Matthew Perronie as he thinks about the one person he wishes could be there for his ordination as an archdiocesan priest on June 4.

“I think there will be a little bit of sorrow that my grandmother won’t be there, at least physically,” he says. “But knowing she has been with me through this whole journey is a consolation. She will definitely be on my mind. I realize I couldn’t have done this without God working through her.”

That sentiment leads him to share the story of how he lived next door to his maternal grandmother as a child, how he spent most weekends with her, and how she shaped his faith.

An only child whose parents weren’t religious at the time, he was intrigued by the way his grandmother went to Mass every Saturday evening so one day he asked if he could go with her.

As he watched her express her Catholic faith through the years, he also saw how she lived it through her generosity toward others, including making hot meals for neighbors in the weeks before she died.

Her inspiration led him into being received into the full communion of the Church as a youth, setting him on his way to his ordination at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

“I see my willingness to serve through my grandmother’s example,” he says. “I intend to offer my first Mass for her and for my grandfather on the day after my ordination.”

That tribute to Leona and Bob Wathen will take place during a Mass in their grandson’s home church, St. Malachy in Brownsburg, at 3 p.m. on June 5.

That devotion to his grandparents is one of the insights that reveal the person that Deacon Perronie is and the priest he hopes to be—insights that include why his favorite movie is Elf, what he wrote in his eighth-grade notebook that stunned his mom, and how his relationship with God has deepened.

The eighth-grade revelation that shocked his mother

“In the eighth grade, he brought home a notebook, and there was a page where it said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ” recalls Kathy Perronie, his mother. “He wrote, ‘A priest.’ It shocked me at first.”

At the time, she didn’t say anything to her only child, but a week later she asked him the same question, and he gave the same answer of wanting to become a priest, adding, “Don’t be mad at me because I can’t give you grandchildren.”

Instead, he has given his parents two other special gifts, starting with helping them embrace their Catholic faith.

Kathy has returned to the Catholic faith that was the lifeblood of her mother’s life, becoming a member of St. Malachy Parish. So is Brent Perronie, who entered into full communion with the Church in 2015, a year after his son entered the seminary.

Their son has also given them the gift of knowing that the choice he has made for his life brings him so much joy.

“We couldn’t be prouder of him,” Brent says.

Kathy adds, “You can tell his whole heart is in the faith. When he first started seminary in 2014, he looked so scared and shy. Now it’s clear that this is what he wants to do. His faith is there. And it’s nice to know my mom inspired him.”

The change that led to a deeper relationship with God

Deacon Perronie’s relationship with God changed dramatically during an eight-day, silent retreat during the summer of 2018.

Before that time, he placed too much of an emphasis on praying to God.

“I was doing a lot of things in prayer, but I was more doing instead of being. The retreat shook me up and got me out of a monotonous thing. Now, I’m just focusing on God’s presence and what he wants to say to me.

“I share with him all my joys and struggles. I know I can take any situation I’m in and bring it to him in prayer. And I listen for how he is asking me to move forward in those situations. I gained a renewal of my relationship with God.”

As part of that change, his favorite time of devotion is spending a daily hour of silence in eucharistic adoration.

“I enjoy starting off my day in the presence of God—the idea of just being there, being renewed, being open to him. As my ordination approaches and I begin to work with people in the parish, I’ll take whatever people are dealing with, bring it to God and listen for what he wants me to say to them and how he wants me to minister to them.”

‘His joy and his humor’

As a fellow seminarian in the archdiocese, Tyler Huber laughs when he recalls spending the summer of 2019 with Deacon Perronie in Mexico as part of their education and formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary.

“That’s when I really got to know him,” Huber says. “In Mexico, he was famous for talking to everyone that we met. It didn’t matter where we were or whether it was on our first day when we didn’t know anyone. He would be 100 yards behind us because he’d stop and talk to so many people. He loves encountering people, talking with them, and sharing his joy with them.”

Deacon Perronie brought that same approach to his fellow seminarians when he returned from that trip to Mexico, Huber says.

“I saw how his joy and his humor that I witnessed in Mexico came out in new ways at Saint Meinrad. He set aside certain nights every week where he’d wander through the dorm halls, and if people’s doors were open, he’d stop and get to know them. Not everyone does that.

“He’s very good at developing friendships and keeping friendships going. He fills his breaks with family and keeping in touch with families at the parishes where he’s been. He goes out of his way to minister to people.”

Why Elf is his favorite movie

“I enjoy the movie because, one, it’s a Christmas movie, and I enjoy anything connected with Christmas,” Deacon Perronie says. “And two, just the sense of the wonder and awe that he experiences as he leaves the North Pole to find his dad. It renews me and reminds me to always be open for adventure and to explore the unknown.”

Deacon Perronie had the same sense of adventure recently when the deacons at Saint Meinrad Seminary spent a month in Europe, traveling to London, Rome and Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

“I’m very big into ancestry and genealogy. When I was in London, there was a free day, and I took a train to Tamworth, England, where I had learned that one branch of my family had lived in the 1600s. I walked around the town and visited the graveyard—just being open to what I could find there.”

‘People here love him’

Earlier this year, Father Joseph Feltz received a surprise from Deacon Perronie that brought a smile to the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany.

“This year, on the anniversary of his baptism, he forwarded me a picture of him being baptized by me,” Father Feltz says. “It was a pleasant surprise. I was his pastor at St. Malachy when he was baptized [in 2010].”

Their lives have also been connected for the past two years as Deacon Perronie has done part of his pastoral ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.

“It’s been neat for me because I knew him as a rather shy, introverted eighth grader,” Father Feltz says. “Now he’s gotten his confidence. People here love him. What’s really impressed me is how he is ready to go out to people, connect with people, and meet them where they are. That’s going to be an important aspect of his ministry.”

One of the ways that Deacon Perronie has connected with members of the parish has been by offering to bless their homes.

“Just as he will build relationships with his parishioners, I see him doing the same thing with his fellow priests,” Father Feltz says. “While he was with me this past summer, he said, ‘I want to cook a dinner for all the priests in the deanery.’ I said, ‘Knock yourself out.’ There were 10 or 11 of us, and he did it all. It will be a great joy to welcome him as a fellow priest.”

‘I want to truly live among the people’

Asked to name his favorite saint, Deacon Perronie chose St. John Vianney, a parish priest who transformed the community of Ars, France, in the 1800s.

“From early on in the seminary, I knew he was someone I should pay attention to and learn about. Two things in particular stood out. One, when he was sent to Ars, he encounters someone and says, ‘Show me the way to Ars, and I will show you the way to heaven.’ He encountered people in the midst of their town, journeyed with them and led them to God, providing the sacraments and being present to them.

“There’s also the story of how he would hear confessions 16 hours a day. I know I have to take care of myself, but that inspires me to give until it hurts, if that makes sense—to be able to freely give of myself and spend myself for the people I’ve been called to minister to.”

As he reflects upon the journey that St. John Vianney made with parishioners, Deacon Perronie also thinks of his own journey to his ordination day—the influence of his grandmother, his conviction at the age of 12 that he wanted to be a priest, his help in leading his parents to embrace the Catholic faith, and his own transformation from a shy, first-year seminarian to a confident person who is convinced—and thrilled—that God has led him to his vocation.

“It’s been a long journey—and to see how God has sustained the journey to this point, and then how the journey will continue and begin with the priesthood.

“I want to truly live among the people I serve—to provide the sacraments, to be present with them, to journey with them. There’s definitely excitement and joy.”
 

(Transitional Deacon Michael Clawson, who is also being ordained to the priesthood on June 4, will be featured in the May 27 issue of The Criterion. For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.HearGodsCall.com.)


About Transitional Deacon Matthew Perronie

Age: 26

Parents: Brent and Kathy Perronie

Home Parish: St. Malachy in Brownsburg

Education: Tri-West High School in Lizton, Ind.; Marian University in Indianapolis; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad

Favorite Scripture verse/passage: John 15:16

Favorite saint: St. John Vianney

Favorite prayer/devotion: Adoration

Favorite movie: Elf

Favorite author: James Patterson

Hobbies: Walking, reading, fishing, and kayaking

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