Chattanooga native and Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul deacon selected by Bishop Stika for fundraising leadership role
By Bill Brewer
Bishop Richard F. Stika only had to go as far as Chattanooga to find the Diocese of Knoxville’s new director overseeing diocesan-wide giving programs, including planned giving and development, stewardship, and strategic planning.
Deacon Hicks Armor has accepted the position of director of Stewardship and Strategic Planning for the diocese and began his new role Oct. 1. Deacon Armor is a lifelong resident of Chattanooga and has 40 years of experience in business, development, fundraising, and leadership.
He succeeds John Deinhart, who left the Chancery in August to accept the position of president and chief executive officer of NPH-USA. NPH, or Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters), is an organization of nine homes for youth in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Mr. Deinhart had served the diocese since 2012.
Deacon Armor has emphasized that business and volunteer positions are important, but the trust placed by God in him, his wife, and his family is most important. He said the privilege of being called to the diaconate and the opportunity to serve God’s people is humbling and special.
In his new role, Deacon Armor, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate in June 2016, will be a member of Bishop Stika’s leadership team and also will serve as an ex officio member of the diocesan Finance Council, the Catholic Education Trust Fund, and the Catholic Charities of East Tennessee board. He will be a staff officer with the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation and serve as the executive director of the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee.
The Chattanooga native previously served in executive positions in the health-care and insurance industries. He and his wife, Vicki, have two grown children: daughter Alex, 22, and son Hicks J., 29. He attended St. Jude School as an elementary school student and then graduated from Notre Dame High School.
The Armors are members of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, where Mr. Armor serves as a deacon.
He intended to attend college on a swimming scholarship, but he was drafted into the Army out of high school and joined the Army Reserves, where he served for eight years. He attended and graduated from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and then joined the Chattanooga business community.
“You hear people say, ‘I want to add meaning and purpose to my life.’ I spent 40-plus years in health care from an insurance standpoint and a provider standpoint. The meaning and purpose and passion in my life has always been volunteer work. That always brought me the most satisfaction,” Deacon Armor explained.
He learned that satisfaction at an early age when he pivoted from swimming competitively to coaching swimming.
“My satisfaction became coaching young people and seeing them reach their goals. I have always enjoyed helping people do things to make themselves better. In giving, you truly receive. The reward for me was greater in giving,” the deacon said.
His grasp of giving will serve him well in his new position, which involves managing gift programs for the diocese and the diocesan organizations he will be working with. The business expertise he has honed over the past 40-plus years will also serve him well.
Deacon Armor was already familiar with the ministry of the Office of Stewardship and Strategic Planning, having worked with Mr. Deinhart as a member of the basilica on fundraising projects.
Deacon Armor explained that in recent years, especially during his diaconate formation and since, he has spoken with Diocese of Knoxville chancellor Deacon Sean Smith, who is a former stewardship director for the diocese, about working for the Church in some capacity.
He then placed it in God’s hands.
After the director of Stewardship and Strategic Planning position came open in July, Deacon Smith suggested Deacon Armor consider pursuing it.
“I said, ‘God, if this is what you want me to do, I will do it,” Deacon Armor said. After going through the interview process, he was offered the position in September.
As he awaited the start date, he was a little anxious and a lot excited. His daughter, who is in graduate school studying marine biology in Miami, sent him a devotional encouraging him to do his best each day with God in mind, and God will get him through each day.
Deacon Armor radiates when speaking of his family, offering loving descriptions and compliments of his wife, daughter, and son, sharing how they enrich his life.
While his home is in Chattanooga, Deacon Armor said he will commute to Knoxville, where his office is located at the Chancery, part of each week and also will telecommute.
He said Bishop Stika and diocesan leadership support him continuing to live in Chattanooga and consider that an asset.
Bishop Stika is looking forward to working with Deacon Armor.
“I’m very pleased that Hicks is joining the team, especially in leadership. He has a great love for the Church. He’s a deacon of the Church. He’s very involved in the basilica parish. He also has a wonderful skill set in terms of organization and people skills, so he will truly represent the diocese in our faith in extraordinarily good ways,” Bishop Stika said.
“He also has been very involved in the civic community of Chattanooga, whether it was with United Way or Memorial Hospital. I think he’s going to be a great blessing and asset to the diocese,” the bishop added.
Deacon Armor said his goals for the Office of Stewardship and Strategic Planning are to plan effectively for the future of the diocese, including diocesan schools.
“I believe stewardship is more than money. It’s the way we give back to God a portion of the gifts He has bestowed on us,” he said.
That involves the offering of time, talent, expertise, and treasures as well as the development of a theology of stewardship for the diocese.
“That is what I’m trying to do. It’s how I believe God wants us to look at stewardship,” he added, noting that Sister Maria Juan Anderson, RSM, the new diocesan director of Christian Formation, has introduced him to the principles of the theology of stewardship.
Catholic education is an emphasis for him.
“I want to help the diocese look to the future, such as with Catholic education. We, as Catholics, need to foster education in our faith,” he said.