November 2023 By Father Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Through this holy anointing, may…
Priestly Ministry Inspired by the Lessons of the Last Supper
By Father Stephen Durkee
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were adjusting to a slow-moving world. We were shut-ins – quite literally, not allowed to leave our homes. During this time, I was living at St. Robert of Newminster Parish in Ada with Father Len Sudlik, then the pastor. A couple of years ago, I wrote in this column about Father Len’s pastoral heart and concern for the people of his parish. He would spend a couple of hours each week calling parishioners, checking on them and finding out how they were handling the pandemic. I also admired his ability to think creatively. He was acutely aware of parishioners needing to feel connected to their parish, even though they were unable to come to church for worship. He would record YouTube videos for his parishioners. Some would contain a lesson, some involved instruction about how to pray at home and other videos would just be something fun to share. One of those YouTube videos was a cooking class with Father Len. Someone from the parish even asked if I was going to record a video teaching people how to cook my favorite dinner recipe. Both Father Len and I laughed about that one. To record a video teaching people how to cook, one needs to know how to cook! Cooking for me is going to a restaurant, and a recipe is really a menu. All joking aside, I was grateful for Father Len’s kindness. During those first few months of the pandemic, he would cook dinner for me once or twice a week. It was during this time that our friendship grew, and I appreciated the chance to ask him questions and learn from his priestly experience. I also enjoyed another type of meal with Father Len. Each day, we would meet in the church to celebrate Mass together. During the intercessions, we would both just sit for 10 minutes and mention parishioners, friends and family that we knew needed prayers. It was a powerful experience. And it was in this time together that I saw Father Len’s faith and his love for the Eucharist. As I reflect on my appreciation and gratitude for Father Len’s priestly ministry, this Scripture comes to mind: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable-able servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” (Lk 17:7-10) This Scripture passage so aptly describes Father Len Sudlik, because his ministry is about hospitality and serving God’s people. By Father Len’s priestly witness, may we all be inspired to invite people to partake in the Lord’s banquet, to see Jesus in the Eucharist and to serve others as Christ taught us at the Last Supper.
Fr. Durkee is the Director of Priestly Vocations and Pastor at St. Pius X Parish.