News: Deacon Kirkman, a husband, father & friend, dies at age 78

June 17, 2021

Deacon Pat Kirkman

Deacon Pat Kirkman was a builder.

He and his wife of 51 years, Christine, raised a family with five children. He built a business, a  home and a life that centered on God.

“To love Pat was to love a man who knew how profoundly lacking and meaningless his life had been before (God) and how profoundly everything changed after that,” said his pastor, Father PJ McManus of Christ the King Parish in Des Moines.

Now, Father McManus envisions his parishioner building a mansion in heaven for those will follow him.

Deacon Kirkman died June 2. He was 78.

Born in Des Moines in 1942, he served in the U.S. Army and served as a Des Moines fireman and emergency medical technician for five years. He was a carpenter by trade and owned his own construction company before managing property.

In 1997, he was ordained a deacon.

“He was ordained a deacon and appropriately so because he had a servant’s heart,” said his good friend, Monsignor Frank Chiodo.

The pastor of St. Anthony Parish recalled a time when he was serving in Leon and was supposed to go to the airport but a snowstorm prevented him from getting there. Deacon Kirkman drove from Des Moines to Leon and back to get his friend to the airport on time.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. If somebody had a problem, he would help,” said Monsignor Chiodo.

Deacon Kirkman used his carpentry skills to help the needy, said Deacon Dave Bartemes.

"Several years ago, I became aware of a structural problem at one of The Catholic Worker houses in Des Moines. The problem was well beyond my capability and would be too expensive to hire a contractor,” he said. “Pat met me at the home the next day, evaluated the situation, proposed and executed a solution within a week. That’s the Pat Kirkman I knew. He was a man who understood his skills and a man who would share those skills with others when needed.”

“Deacon was a man you rarely see these days: A man of honor, strong conviction, and strength,” said friend Lois Brookhart. “He loved Jesus, his family and he seemed to know no stranger. He would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it.”

During the funeral Mass, Father PJ McManus reflected on the foundation upon which Deacon Kirkman built his life.

“Marriage and family life, work and, of course, ultimately ministry as a deacon in the Church, it was entirely dependent on this relationship (with God) that meant everything in the world. And the relationships that meant the most to him took their meaning, shape and form from Him,” said Father McManus.

Though he suffered successes and failures both professionally and personally, Deacon Kirkman wouldn’t let pain define him.

“Instead, he defined himself by victory, the victory of the Lord Jesus on the cross conquering sin and death, the promise of eternal life not only after death but right now,” said Father McManus.

In the final words of Mass, a deacon says, “Go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord.” Deacon Kirkman did that in many ways, not only in the context of the Mass, but by bringing healing and hope to others, said Bishop William Joensen.

Brookhart said: “Whenever he did a kindness for me or my family, which was often over our years of friendship, I would say ‘God bless you, Deacon.’ His response was always, without fail, ‘He has!’”