The only inspiration Timothy Kosto needed to become a deacon was a suggestion.
When a deacon at his parish, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, asked six years ago if he'd ever thought about the ministry, it only took a few months for him to join the Diocese's Formation for Ministry Program (now replaced by the Kateri Institute for Lay Ministry Formation) to start preparing.
The comment "was sort of a catalyst," said Deacon Kosto, 41, who was ordained along with three other deacons at the end of May (see photos on facing page). "I think the Church is vibrant when people participate - when they serve the Church [and] one another. It seemed to me that one way to inspire other people to serve was servant leadership.
"The challenging part was the personal formation," he added. As a chemical engineer who characterizes himself as "very comfortable with things," he had to spend extra time learning about human relationships.
Assignments at Albany Medical Center, a Catholic Charities homeless shelter and St. Henry's parish in Averill Park taught him "the importance of listening to people," as well as patience and the distinction between empathy and sympathy.
"It's not about fixing everything," he said. "It's about walking the path with people."
Deacon Kosto grew up north of Niagara Falls in Youngstown. He was raised Catholic in a small parish; he was an altar boy and, as a teenager, maintained the parish cemetery as part of his landscaping business. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Lehigh University and Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and began doing research and development. He's been married for 15 years to his wife, Kathryn.
In 2003, Deacon Kosto earned a doctorate from Rensselaer Poly-technic Institute in Troy and took a position with Taconic, a global company with headquarters in Petersburgh, N.Y., that manufactures coded fiberglass. It provides non-stick fabrics for items like conveyer belts, packaging and hundreds of other products.
Deacon Kosto is director of technology and manufacturing, managing the plant and traveling to the Pacific Rim and Europe a few times a year to exchange ideas with other plants. He said he enjoys being able to "make a difference and develop products to make peoples' lives a little easier" and provide "opportunities for people to work and feel valued" while keeping jobs in New York.
The new deacon said he'll use "creative time management" to juggle married life - the Kostos enjoy bicycling and working on their 220-year-old Schodack farmhouse, which they restored - plus work and the diaconate. He considers the latter a "lifestyle.
"How I interact with the people I work with should also be diaconal," Deacon Kosto explained. "We want to carry that out wherever we go."
His advice for men thinking about becoming deacons is to "know there's work involved. There's good times and there's tougher times. It's the commitment to serve that sustained me through the difficult times. A person who senses that call will find ways to overcome the frustration."
Deacon Kosto told The Evangelist that his years in formation strengthened his faith: He used to be "much more skeptical.
"Sometimes I wondered how much of [our tradition] may have been invented by human beings," he said. "The process has helped me to realize what faith really is - like taking a step out and then stepping on something sort of squishy. I accept that I can't really know and that's why we call it faith."