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Deacon Timothy Slayter serves as principal in public school

“Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” This popular phrase is a reality for Deacon Timothy Slayter, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Manassas and principal at Cameron Elementary School in Alexandria. As a principal in a public school there is a limit to how much he can talk about his faith at work, but that doesn’t mean it goes away entirely.

“Even though I am not able to express my faith outwardly, I can express it through actions and how we take care of families and kids here in the school,” said Slayter. 

This is his third year as principal at Cameron. The school serves children from a variety of backgrounds and income levels, many of them below the poverty line. 

“(The parents) will do whatever it takes to do better for their kids,” said Slayter.  “They are very grateful to have a school. A lot of the places they come from don’t have a functioning school or it’s not a safe place to go to school. So when they come here the dignity of the person is our mission.”

His desire to serve in the school system fit naturally with another mission of service — the diaconate.

Slayter was an assistant principal at a different school when he first heard the call, or rather his wife, Stephanie, heard it. 

“My wife and I were sitting in the pew at church and Father Brian Bashista gave a talk about vocations, and then he mentioned the diaconate,” said Slayter. “My wife elbowed me in the ribs and said, ‘You would be a good deacon.'"

After prayerful consideration with his family, during which time he transitioned from assistant principal to principal, he applied for the diaconate program. 

“I can remember getting the letter saying I had been accepted into the aspirancy portion, which is the part where you are really discerning and the church is praying for you. My wife brought it to me at the church where we were meeting after work.” When he opened it, he was surrounded by a small group of parishioners who quietly celebrated with him.

“I realized this is kind of the beginning of a journey in my life,” said Deacon Slayter. “It is a shift in what it meant to be a Catholic, in the way I may be helping God’s family here in the Diocese of Arlington.”

He began his formation journey in 2011 and six years later was ordained a deacon by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge in 2017 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences,” he said. “I will never forget the rush of emotions, sounds and the beauty of it all.”

He also was touched by the outpouring of support he received, not just from the church community, but from his colleagues in the public school system who attended or sent him notes of encouragement. He remembers getting an email from an administrator who said, “I didn’t know you were in the diaconate. I’m praying a rosary for you tonight.” 

“I’m discovering how many other public school employees are also Catholic or faithful Christians,” said Slayter. “You find out there are lot of people who are motivated or supported by their faith and there are a lot of Catholics out there.”

Since his ordination, Slayter slowly transitioned into work at Sacred Heart Church, which has been good for the full-time principal and father of three. While he loves being able to preach the Gospel at Mass, baptize, and be involved with the parish youth groups, he really enjoys the opportunities to reach people beyond the parish boundaries, wherever they are.  He sees his job as a principal in a secular school as another place to meet people in the “marketplace.”

“God intertwines different aspects of our lives all the time,” said Deacon Slayter. “I know in my heart that where I am is a continuation of God’s mission.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018