Bringing Others to Christ

From darkness to deacon studies: Gez Ford’s pathway to faith

January 16, 2024 at 11:14 a.m.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., greets Ford during the 2022 Rite of Candidacy for men who were admitted to pursue formation in the diocesan diaconate program. Joe Moore photo
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., greets Ford during the 2022 Rite of Candidacy for men who were admitted to pursue formation in the diocesan diaconate program. Joe Moore photo

By MARY STADNYK
Associate Editor

The following story is part of BE INSPIRED, a new feature of The Monitor reporting on ordinary people who inspire others through their extraordinary stories. 

Gez Ford no longer asks “Why?” when it comes to circumstances surrounding his life.

    Gez Ford, left, and other music ministers play for the 2023 Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Mass. Joe Moore photo
 
 


Instead, the only question he continually asks is “What does God want from me? Where is God’s hand in all of this?” Ford speaks from personal experience of how he came to know God’s faithfulness during a very dark period in his life – when being passionate about his Catholic faith and working for the Church were the last things he thought he would do.

Personally, he’s a beloved son, brother, husband, father and grandfather. Professionally, he is well known as the fulltime family life minister overseeing youth and young adult ministry in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, and he is a steady presence at diocesan-sponsored events such as the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conferences and those sponsored by the diocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal, both of which he has served as the keynote speaker, workshop leader or in the music ministry. Recently, he became a co-host on Domestic Church Media’s First Friday Show, “Brothers in Arms.”

In general, he is regarded as a man who lives his Catholic faith and loves to share it with others.

Tough Journey

Gerard Ford was raised in a traditional, devout Irish-Catholic household in Manchester, England. He attended Catholic schools and was active in his parish as an altar server. His mother, as he described her, was “nothing short of a saint.” His father was “an active, rampant alcoholic” and exhibited behavior that strongly influenced Ford who, at a very young age, headed in a similar direction.

“I was 7 years old when I got drunk for the first time,” he said, and by the time he reached adolescence, “I was making a lot of bad choices.”

“It started off with things like missing school,” Ford recalled, “but slowly these choices became deeper, darker acts of sin.” For about eight years, his increased struggles with alcohol and substance abuse led to several suicide attempts, homelessness and hospitalizations.

“I became a slave to my own addiction,” he said. With that, any traces of his Catholic upbringing were not to be found. By age 19, Ford regarded himself as an atheist with no interest in Church or faith.

“I was angry at a God who I didn’t think existed,” he said, but that changed Feb. 22, 1988, the day he hit “rock bottom,” when he found himself in a police van as a suspect of a “heinous crime.”

“There I was, on my way to jail,” and it was then he realized “that I couldn’t live like this.”

Even though he doubted God’s existence, Ford prayed to “whoever was out there and said, ‘If you exist, I surrender,’” he recalled.

“And immediately, I knew he did. I knew God loved me and wanted me to love. … This has been the fundamental point of my life ever since!” Ford said. “It was then my life began to change.”

A New Day

After he was released by the police, Ford headed straight to Alcoholics Anonymous, “and I haven’t had a drink or used drugs since,” he said. “It’s almost 36 years that I’ve been clean.”

Though Ford fully focused on his recovery and had his newfound belief in God, it took time for him to decide on his religion. He explored various faiths but continued to avoid Christianity.

“I avoided my Catholic roots,” he said. It was during his search when he met a priest and, in their conversation, the priest asked him if he wanted to go to Confession.

“That opened the door for me to return to the Catholic Church,” Ford said, adding that his focus on full-time ministry work was largely inspired by clergy he had met along the way, both in England and the U.S. His schooling has included theology and religious education studies in The Victoria University of Manchester, England; St. John’s University, New York; and Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

Rooted in Faith

    Gez Ford stands in front of Tabor House, which he co-founded as an outreach for men recovering from addictions. Courtesy photo
 
 


A major draw for Ford to relocate to the U.S. was the desire to join the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a community based in New York City. His ministry endeavors, however, led him to his current work in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish. With time, he evolved into an internationally respected conference speaker, retreat master and worship leader who preaches on the Gospel message of Christ’s redeeming love and salvation for all.

Ford’s desire to serve St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish on a deeper level motivated him to pursue a vocation as a deacon for the Diocese. He is now about halfway through his formation, which includes earning a master’s degree from Seton Hall University, South Orange. He is expected to be ordained in the spring of 2026.

Putting a plug in for his music ministry, Ford said he began playing the guitar when he was discerning his vocation as a Franciscan Friar and a friar suggested “that we learn how to play for the Lord.”

“And I have been able to play for the Lord all over the world for the past 30 years,” he said.

Ford also brings his past experiences and his faith into the wider community in his work with Tabor House, a Trenton-based, privately owned adult residential outreach that he co-founded in 2003 for men in recovery from addictions.

“I get so much more out of Tabor House than I put into it,” he said. For Ford, the true joys of Tabor House are the relationships he’s forged with the residents – a number of whom Ford even invites to his home for holiday dinners – and witnessing their commitment to recovering from their addictions.

The heartache of Tabor House, he said, is the increase in the number of deaths of residents in the past 20 years.

“In the first 10 years, there were a handful of deaths, maybe two or three,” he said.

“In the past 10 years, I can’t count the number of deaths,” he continued, then emphasized that the increase of deaths of addicts is due specifically from the increased use of fentanyl.

“It’s an ongoing problem,” he said.

Reflecting on his New Life 

Reflecting on the past 36 years, Ford smiles when thinking about “meeting many great people and having many great encounters.”

Most especially he is grateful for his strong relationship with both of his parents, with whom he speaks several times a week, and he is also grateful to have repaired his relationship with his father, who sought help for his alcoholism. His father is also now an ordained Catholic deacon.

At home, Ford treasures his wife of 18 years, Nadine, who “is my rock.” he said.

“Nadine is likely way further along in her sanctity than I am,” he said. “She is the one that affords the time and the support for all [of my] various ministries.”

Along with Nadine, Ford has loved taking on the role of fatherhood to her three children and having grandchildren – “seven and counting.”

“I love it,” he said, but ultimately, “Whether I am playing music or giving keynote talks or I’m home or on the streets with the drug addicts, it is all about worshiping the Lord.”

“Every moment we have is about worshiping the Lord,” Ford continued. “If we are going to sing the song or talk the talk, we better walk the walk.”

In all aspects of his life, Ford said it’s prayer that sustains him.

“I’ve learned that without prayer, you dry up very quickly. Prayer provides the foundation for any daily life,” he said, then added, as Catholics, “we do not have priorities. We have only one priority and that’s God,” Ford maintained

“When we put God first, everything else follows and makes sense.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.


The following story is part of BE INSPIRED, a new feature of The Monitor reporting on ordinary people who inspire others through their extraordinary stories. 

Gez Ford no longer asks “Why?” when it comes to circumstances surrounding his life.

    Gez Ford, left, and other music ministers play for the 2023 Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Mass. Joe Moore photo
 
 


Instead, the only question he continually asks is “What does God want from me? Where is God’s hand in all of this?” Ford speaks from personal experience of how he came to know God’s faithfulness during a very dark period in his life – when being passionate about his Catholic faith and working for the Church were the last things he thought he would do.

Personally, he’s a beloved son, brother, husband, father and grandfather. Professionally, he is well known as the fulltime family life minister overseeing youth and young adult ministry in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, and he is a steady presence at diocesan-sponsored events such as the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conferences and those sponsored by the diocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal, both of which he has served as the keynote speaker, workshop leader or in the music ministry. Recently, he became a co-host on Domestic Church Media’s First Friday Show, “Brothers in Arms.”

In general, he is regarded as a man who lives his Catholic faith and loves to share it with others.

Tough Journey

Gerard Ford was raised in a traditional, devout Irish-Catholic household in Manchester, England. He attended Catholic schools and was active in his parish as an altar server. His mother, as he described her, was “nothing short of a saint.” His father was “an active, rampant alcoholic” and exhibited behavior that strongly influenced Ford who, at a very young age, headed in a similar direction.

“I was 7 years old when I got drunk for the first time,” he said, and by the time he reached adolescence, “I was making a lot of bad choices.”

“It started off with things like missing school,” Ford recalled, “but slowly these choices became deeper, darker acts of sin.” For about eight years, his increased struggles with alcohol and substance abuse led to several suicide attempts, homelessness and hospitalizations.

“I became a slave to my own addiction,” he said. With that, any traces of his Catholic upbringing were not to be found. By age 19, Ford regarded himself as an atheist with no interest in Church or faith.

“I was angry at a God who I didn’t think existed,” he said, but that changed Feb. 22, 1988, the day he hit “rock bottom,” when he found himself in a police van as a suspect of a “heinous crime.”

“There I was, on my way to jail,” and it was then he realized “that I couldn’t live like this.”

Even though he doubted God’s existence, Ford prayed to “whoever was out there and said, ‘If you exist, I surrender,’” he recalled.

“And immediately, I knew he did. I knew God loved me and wanted me to love. … This has been the fundamental point of my life ever since!” Ford said. “It was then my life began to change.”

A New Day

After he was released by the police, Ford headed straight to Alcoholics Anonymous, “and I haven’t had a drink or used drugs since,” he said. “It’s almost 36 years that I’ve been clean.”

Though Ford fully focused on his recovery and had his newfound belief in God, it took time for him to decide on his religion. He explored various faiths but continued to avoid Christianity.

“I avoided my Catholic roots,” he said. It was during his search when he met a priest and, in their conversation, the priest asked him if he wanted to go to Confession.

“That opened the door for me to return to the Catholic Church,” Ford said, adding that his focus on full-time ministry work was largely inspired by clergy he had met along the way, both in England and the U.S. His schooling has included theology and religious education studies in The Victoria University of Manchester, England; St. John’s University, New York; and Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

Rooted in Faith

    Gez Ford stands in front of Tabor House, which he co-founded as an outreach for men recovering from addictions. Courtesy photo
 
 


A major draw for Ford to relocate to the U.S. was the desire to join the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a community based in New York City. His ministry endeavors, however, led him to his current work in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish. With time, he evolved into an internationally respected conference speaker, retreat master and worship leader who preaches on the Gospel message of Christ’s redeeming love and salvation for all.

Ford’s desire to serve St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish on a deeper level motivated him to pursue a vocation as a deacon for the Diocese. He is now about halfway through his formation, which includes earning a master’s degree from Seton Hall University, South Orange. He is expected to be ordained in the spring of 2026.

Putting a plug in for his music ministry, Ford said he began playing the guitar when he was discerning his vocation as a Franciscan Friar and a friar suggested “that we learn how to play for the Lord.”

“And I have been able to play for the Lord all over the world for the past 30 years,” he said.

Ford also brings his past experiences and his faith into the wider community in his work with Tabor House, a Trenton-based, privately owned adult residential outreach that he co-founded in 2003 for men in recovery from addictions.

“I get so much more out of Tabor House than I put into it,” he said. For Ford, the true joys of Tabor House are the relationships he’s forged with the residents – a number of whom Ford even invites to his home for holiday dinners – and witnessing their commitment to recovering from their addictions.

The heartache of Tabor House, he said, is the increase in the number of deaths of residents in the past 20 years.

“In the first 10 years, there were a handful of deaths, maybe two or three,” he said.

“In the past 10 years, I can’t count the number of deaths,” he continued, then emphasized that the increase of deaths of addicts is due specifically from the increased use of fentanyl.

“It’s an ongoing problem,” he said.

Reflecting on his New Life 

Reflecting on the past 36 years, Ford smiles when thinking about “meeting many great people and having many great encounters.”

Most especially he is grateful for his strong relationship with both of his parents, with whom he speaks several times a week, and he is also grateful to have repaired his relationship with his father, who sought help for his alcoholism. His father is also now an ordained Catholic deacon.

At home, Ford treasures his wife of 18 years, Nadine, who “is my rock.” he said.

“Nadine is likely way further along in her sanctity than I am,” he said. “She is the one that affords the time and the support for all [of my] various ministries.”

Along with Nadine, Ford has loved taking on the role of fatherhood to her three children and having grandchildren – “seven and counting.”

“I love it,” he said, but ultimately, “Whether I am playing music or giving keynote talks or I’m home or on the streets with the drug addicts, it is all about worshiping the Lord.”

“Every moment we have is about worshiping the Lord,” Ford continued. “If we are going to sing the song or talk the talk, we better walk the walk.”

In all aspects of his life, Ford said it’s prayer that sustains him.

“I’ve learned that without prayer, you dry up very quickly. Prayer provides the foundation for any daily life,” he said, then added, as Catholics, “we do not have priorities. We have only one priority and that’s God,” Ford maintained

“When we put God first, everything else follows and makes sense.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

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