May 2023 Making a gift of myself: From the introspection of formation to offering the…
Two weeks, eight funerals, and lessons learned.
Two weeks, eight funerals and lessons learned.
By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations
I pulled up to the conference center at Mundelein Seminary to pick up Father Mark Peacock. We did not know each other well yet. I was assigned to his parish, St. Patrick in Parnell, as a seminarian intern. The six-month internship would begin the following month. I was driving us to dinner during Father Mark’s visit so that we could get to know each other a bit and discuss the internship.
I’ll never forget his reaction as I pulled up. He started laughing, with this boisterous laugh, and immediately I thought, “What did I do?” He gets in the car, a 2000 Saturn, and says to me, “Dude, this is a go-cart, man. Are you sure this car can get us to dinner and back?” He wasn’t wrong. It was a small car, and it wasn’t in the greatest shape, but as a college student it’s what I had at the time. We both laughed. Only later did I realize that he was legitimately nervous about the car – he never got into it again.
Over dinner, Father Mark said he was excited for me to be at the parish, the staff was excited to have a seminarian and the parish would love having me around. Then he asked, “Stephen, what are you most worried about experiencing on internship?” Without missing a beat, I responded, “Funerals.” I was worried I wouldn’t know the best way to comfort a grieving family. With confidence he encouraged me and said, “You’ll
be fine, just love the people.”
I arrived at the parish a month later. Wouldn’t you know it, we had eight funerals in the first two weeks. As a seminarian, I could not celebrate funeral Masses, but I was definitely thrown into the fire quickly. Whether it was a funeral Mass preparation meeting with the family, a wake service or a committal service, I had plenty of experience by the end of those first two weeks. After those two weeks, Father Mark and I were sitting in the rectory watching the Red Wings. With this exhausted look, he said to me, “Hey Stephen, are you uh … nervous about anything else in ministry? I want to be prepared for what’s coming …” We both just started laughing.