|Deacon Ron Deal is leaving his position at the Diocese of Nashville as Project Development Manager and Director of the Permanent Diaconate to become the Director of Operations and Supporter Relations for the Nashville Soccer Club, the city’s new professional soccer team. Photo by Andy Telli
Deacon Ron Deal wasn’t a soccer player growing up, but after going to games of the former Nashville Metros soccer team, “I kind of got bit by the bug.”
That interest grew into a passion. And the passion has led to a new job as Director of Operations and Supporter Relations for the Nashville Soccer Club, the city’s new professional soccer team.
Deacon Deal will leave his positions as Project Development Manager and Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Nashville in April to start his new job.
The jump to professional sports is another twist in Deacon Deal’s life that has zig-zagged in several career directions.
He started his professional life as an architect, earning a degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee in 1988. His career took a turn when he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh in a combined program that allowed him to earn a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a law degree in 2000.
Deacon Deal also became certified as a Rule 31 General Civil and Family mediator and works with the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center.
He added the title of deacon when he was ordained in 2006. “I’ve always been drawn to service,” Deacon Deal said. “The diaconate is service that is sacramentalized.”
Deacon Deal put his experience in architecture and the law to use for the Diocese of Nashville when he joined the diocesan staff in 2008 as Project Development Manager helping parishes and schools in the diocese with their construction, renovation and maintenance plans.
One of the first projects he worked on in that role was finding the original storefront location for the Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill. He later helped the new parish select a site for a permanent home and through the construction of its current facilities.
Over the years, he’s also helped St. Francis Cabrini in Lebanon and St. Luke in Smyrna with the planning of the construction of their new churches.
Among the biggest projects he’s worked on while working for the diocese has been the purchase, renovation and maintenance of the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike in Nashville.
In 2009, the diocese added to his portfolio by naming him as Director of the Permanent Diaconate. In that role, he serves as a liaison between the bishop and the permanent deacons of the diocese, organizing annual retreats, helping with assignments, and organizing the selection process and formation program for new candidates for the diaconate.
“Getting to know my brother deacons and their wives has been nice,” said Deacon Deal. “It’s been fulfilling to me. I hope it’s been fulfilling for the other deacons.”
He took over the position just as a new class of deacons was forming. That class, which saw 29 men ordained in 2014, was the largest in the diocese’s history, and it included several who speak Spanish to help serve the growing Latino population in the diocese.
Deacon Deal has been involved in the selection of a new formation class, and interviews with applicants and their wives are scheduled this spring. “Just as we’re replacing aging priests, we need to replace an aging diaconate,” he said.
The diocese has about 100 permanent deacons on its roster, and 75 to 80 are involved in active ministry, Deacon Deal said.
Among the goals in assembling the new formation class is to continue the ethnic diversity and to reach farther toward the edges of the diocese, instead of a class made up mostly of men from Nashville and the surrounding area, Deacon Deal said.
To make it easier for men who live farther from Nashville, the diocese is considering holding its classes on the weekends rather than weeknights, Deacon Deal said.
Bishop David Choby has authorized Father David Perkin, the Vicar General of the diocese, and Deacon Hans Toecker, the Chancellor of the diocese, to start the search for a new director of the diaconate, Deacon Deal said.
As he begins his new job with the Nashville Soccer Club, Deacon Deal will continue to serve as a deacon at Holy Family Church in Brentwood.
As Deacon Deal’s interest in soccer grew, so did his involvement with the Nashville Football Club, the city’s amateur soccer team. For the last three seasons, he’s been involved operationally with the club and has served as the volunteer public address announcer at games the last two seasons.
The Nashville Football Club was acquired by local investors who were awarded a franchise in the United Soccer League, the nation’s second division of professional soccer, one level below Major League Soccer.
The team will compete this spring as an under-23 amateur team and will begin play as a professional team in the United Soccer League in the spring of 2018.
After the investors bought the amateur club, they asked Deacon Deal to create the non-profit Nashville SC Supporter’s Trust, which will serve as the fans’ voice with team management, he said.
The Trust also will support various charities in the community and help promote soccer in the area, explained Deacon Deal, who will continue to work with the Trust in his role as Director of Supporter Relations.
“The club’s motto since day one was ‘Our Town, Our Club,’” Deacon Deal said. “That same community vibe will be going into the professional club.”
The other part of his job will be managing game-day operations, overseeing all aspects of the in-game experience for the fans, he said.
With the growing ethnic diversity of the Nashville area, there is growing potential fan base for a professional soccer team, Deacon Deal said. “They are people,” he said, “who grew up with the beautiful game,” as soccer’s fans refer to it.
“This is something the city needs and deserves,” Deacon Deal said.