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The Villages
Monday, June 17, 2024

Villager with long career of service, embarking on a new journey

Gail Lazenby retired from the Villages Public Safety Department in 2014. He spent his career serving others, whether it was teaching CPR classes, training people on AED units or volunteering tirelessly at St. Paul’s National Catholic Church in Belleview. Now, he has decided to serve others in a new capacity.

Lazenby was ordained Sunday at St. Paul’s in an Ordination and Confirmation Mass. The Rt. Rev. Stanley M Bilinski, the Western District Bishop of the PNCC, officiated the Mass and was assisted by Rev. Mark Niznik, St. Paul’s pastor and Rev. Tom Basta, assistant Parish priest. Nearly 200 people attended the ordination which also included five people receiving their confirmation.

Rev. Gail Lazenby was ordained Sunday.
Rev. Gail Lazenby was ordained Sunday.

The journey for Lazenby began in 2010.

“I felt a calling, a tug if you will,” he said. “Father Mark and I had a long talk about this at Niagara Falls. I told him I felt someone had a hold of my hand and I needed to follow. That’s when I was taken to this point.”

Niznik, who is co-chaplin of the Villages Public Safety Department along with Lazenby, was also one of several pastors that preached at Church on the Square in Spanish Springs.

“Gail and I first met each other there. That was 15 years ago. He has completed a journey,” Niznik said.

To become a deacon, Lazenby had to go through a vetting process to be considered. It took over a year after his initial application before he was told he was under consideration. Classes in liturgy, church history and religion were required. Traveling to Chicago and Indiana for one-on-one instruction was also necessary.

Rt. Rev. Stanley M Bilinski, Rev. Gail Lazenby, Rev. Mark Niznik, Rev. Tom Basta, from left.
Rt. Rev. Stanley M Bilinski, Rev. Gail Lazenby, Rev. Mark Niznik, Rev. Tom Basta, from left.

“I could not have gone through this grueling process without the mentoring I received from Father Mark. He was instrumental in my formation,” Lazenby said.

It’s been a long journey.

“It was a long row to hoe getting to this point,” Lazenby said. “I have been taking online classes since 2012. Lots of reading and paperwork but it has all been worth it.”

Lazenby’s duties as deacon will be entirely up to Bishop Bilinski.

“Starting tomorrow morning, I will wait for instructions from him as to what I am to do. I will go where I am needed,” he said. ” It could be visiting hospitals, distributing communion in nursing homes or comforting the sick and shut-in.”

Lazenby’s retirement from the Villages Public Safety Department actually made him busier than he was before. He recently wrapped up a year as president of the Rotary Club of The Villages. He is running unopposed for another term as a Community Development District 3 supervisor.

Now serving as co-chaplin of the Villages Public Safety Department, he understands the drama the crews face.

“I served 47 years in the fire/EMS service. I have seen it all. As a chaplain, I hope I can bring comfort to people in need,” he said.

“It’s all about one word…Love.”

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