Church renovation work led deacon to vocation

Father Nicolas Sannella, pastor, and Deacon Thomas Palanza pose with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at Immaculate Conception, Lowell Feb. 27. Pilot photo courtesy/O'Connor Studios

Deacon Thomas Palanza knows he is called by God to serve the Church.

As a permanent deacon in St. Mary Church in Mansfield, he serves the church as a member of the clergy. As the owner of Palanza Group Inc., a construction company that specializes in the planning, design and construction of ecclesiastical properties, he serves the church with his eye for detail and his craftsmanship.

"It's all about service for me, and I have found my niche to serve the parishes, the diocese, the Church and God," he said.

In 1992, Deacon Palanza left his job at a construction company and began doing consulting work for the Fall River diocese, a position he holds to this day. As the Diocesan Facility Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River, he consults with parishes, Catholic schools, Catholic Social Services and helps them come up with renovation plans, ways to repurpose closed church buildings and construction projects.

Within the Archdiocese of Boston, Deacon Palanza and his company have worked most recently to renovate St. Elizabeth Church in Milton and Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell.

Working so closely with the Church, he began to feel called by God to do something more.

"It was something that was always there, but got stronger as the year went on," he recalled. One year after beginning his consulting work, he began his studies to become a permanent deacon. In 1997, he was ordained and was assigned to St. Mary parish in Mansfield, his home parish.

Since being ordained, he has continued his work restoring church properties, together with his faithful employees -- 8 men who have worked alongside him for more than 20 years, relying on his knowledge of liturgy in many different ways.

"It's very helpful, on my part, to be a deacon because if you understand the liturgy as a functionary within the liturgy, then you better know where to place rugs, and chairs, and lights and many other things," he explained.

But his love of renovating churches goes much deeper.

"So many times we are limited only to our parish -- our knowledge of the Church begins and ends with our parish. This work has helped me to be part of the Catholic family at large," he said.

"Part of the joy for me is to see, get to know and become a part of the larger Catholic family in every parish I work at," he continued.

"When you look back, not many people have had the opportunities I have had," Deacon Palanza said. "Whatever gifts and talents I have been given by God, I use in the service of His Church. It's my joy to be able to do this."

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