Fostering Deacons and Aiding Communities in Need: Ministry Focus of Former Archdeacon

After more than twelve years of service as Archdeacon for the Diocese of Texas, the Venerable Russ Oechsel, Jr.  is saying goodbye to that position. During his ministry, Oechsel has not only helped amplify the growth in the formation of deacons, but he has also helped the most vulnerable after being devastated by natural disasters in Texas and across the country. 

“It has been a joy to work with Archdeacon Russ. I first met him as part of the first formation of deacons. We worked closely to respond to Hurricane Ike which hit in the fall of my first year after election as coadjutor bishop,” said the Bishop of Texas, Andy Doyle.  “He was a great choice as archdeacon, and he has shaped our diaconal community. He is always an advocate for the vocation of deacons and the voice of deacons in the wider diocese.” 

Oechsel, a cradle Episcopalian, worked in an automotive business until attending seminary and being ordained as priest. After college, he taught grade school before moving into human resources work, first for building material companies and then for oil companies, where he spent nearly 30 years in various positions. He attended the Iona School for Ministry and was ordained a deacon in February of 2007. He was appointed archdeacon in October of 2008.

“In the twelve years that I have been archdeacon, the most amazing thing has been to watch the number in our diaconal community grow and prosper,” said Oechsel. “I describe my work as creating and fostering a community of deacons that truly values and loves each other.”

In addition to serving as archdeacon, Oechsel supervised the rebuilding work of Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief in Galveston after Hurricane Ike. The work lasted for two-and-a-half-years and involved over 2,500 volunteers from colleges and universities who wanted to give back to society.

“We learned of the huge needs for cleaning out homes and for rebuilding,” shared Oechsel. “We created a steering committee where we met often and participated in the long- term recovery committee for Galveston County. It was very rewarding work.”

Oechsel was also involved in the relief work following the Bastrop fires and the repeated flooding around the greater Houston area. His vast experience in relief and rebuild work throughout the years qualified him to be part of Partners in Response and Resilience—a group within Episcopal Relief and Development that sent him around the country as disasters occurred to consult with bishops and their staffs and other clergy and to assist in getting them emergency grants.

Without a doubt, Oechsel’s service and ministry have been an immeasurable asset throughout the years in the Diocese of Texas. He will continue to serve in ministry at St. Mary’s, Cypress.

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