A Priest Life

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing." -St. Paul

Dial correctly

It’s part of being a new pastor: fiddling with (and praying over) the A/C unit at 5am so I could fulfill my first promise to the parish (it did!), cleaning out the brochure display, picking up trash, and trying to deposit the collection.

Left three times, right two times, left again and finish on the number. The instructions were supposed to be simple: rotate the dial to the correct combination, turn the lever, and deposit the collection. Twenty minutes later I had tried every possible combination of steps. I gave up and dialed a gracious staff member. It turns out I wasn’t even using the correct combination.

I thought I had it all figured out standing at the safe late this evening. It turns out I didn’t have the correct combination. A quick call for help righted my wrong.

It’s the lesson You taught me today. If I want to keep safe the gifts entrusted to me, I need to always

dial correctly.

Thankful for firsts

My second day as pastor was a day of firsts. I heard my first confessions, I introduced myself for the first time, I celebrated my first weekend Mass, and I made my first promise to the parishioners to fix the church’s A/C that broke my first day.

It was a day of firsts also for St. Henry’s new parochial vicar, Fr. Arvind Minj, HGN. Today was first time he ate BBQ ribs and cantaloupe, met my extended family, and his first time to go swimming.

Today I am

thankful for firsts.

Fr. Starkovich and Fr. Minj

You Provide

Today I begin to serve St. Henry Catholic Church as pastor. It’s my first pastorate, and that’s not to mention my new assignment as Director of Vocations. The schedule for the day was light: unpack boxes in the office and serve Benediction at 5pm. I wasn’t scheduled for daily Mass because the schedule is lighter in July.

I told the crowd of 5 after I finished Benediction that I simply couldn’t begin to be a pastor without celebrating Mass. They accepted my invitation to stay. I was a bit surprised when I exited the sacristy in my vestments. My crowd of 5 had grown to 10. By the time we finished the penitential rite, we were 12.

I expected 0; You provided 12. Perhaps this is the lesson You are teaching me about being a pastor,

You provide.

Yeah, you right!

My truck was parked in a friend’s gravel driveway. He told me about the staggering number of catfish they had caught over the last few weeks.

“They want me to go with them tomorrow morning, but I can’t. I told them I have my holy hour in the morning,” he said proudly.

I listened attentively as he continued.

“The benefits of that hour far outweigh whatever benefits I might pull up on a hook.”

He told me the guy who extended the invitation had just one response: he smiled and said,

Yea, you right!

What Our Lord Saw from the Tomb

It must have been quite dark.The sun wasn’t over head yet, and the opening was still barred.

Darkness: It probably doesn’t realize it yet, but the light has already conquered.

Standing in the church two thousand years later, I had to fight a few tears next to the baptismal font. The paschal candle provided the light, and the water provided new life.

Then the stone was rolled away. Now they rise from the water.

You taught me something new. This is

What Our Lord Saw from the Tomb.

What Our Lord Saw from the Cross

Fr. Jeff, you like to look around while you are on the altar.

The little boy is right. Our sanctuary is surrounded by pews on three sides. Part of my routine is to look at the entire church gathered during the Introductory Rites. As I see different people, I formulate prayer intentions for each of them.

I came across James Tissot’s What Our Lord Saw from the Cross before I presided over the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. Gazing at the image, I was transported to Your perspective. I was looking through Your eyes at Your people for whom You suffered.

Standing at the altar on Good Friday, the painting came to mind again. This time, I understood that You were teaching me the meaning of priesthood. I watched as people came to venerate the Cross. I knew their pains, their struggles, and their weaknesses. I knew the faith of their children and the faith of their parents. They give me insights into their hopes and their prayer intentions. I knew of their repentance and their desire for conversion. Most of all, I knew of their love for You.

There in the Sanctuary and looking out, I knew that I was standing in Your place and seeing

What Our Lord Saw from the Cross.

James Tissot (French, 1836–1902). What Our Lord Saw from the Cross, 1886–94. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green wove paper, 9 3/4 x 9 1/6 in. (24.8 x 23 cm). Brooklyn Museum.

Serve, wash, and feed

I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. –John 13:15

As the pastor knelt before the men to wash their feet, the expressions on each man changed. Removing their shoes and socks was humbling. We rarely show our feet to another. He knelt before them all and washed them all the same: young and old. Some smiled, some cried.

For me, it was an insight into the life of the priest. We serve all people the same: some in moments of rejoicing, others in moments of sadness; some are clean, others need more care. In each and every case, we try to serve as we are commanded.

Gathered around the altar, You feed them. Teach me to follow Your commands, that I may

serve, wash, and feed.


Fr. Jeff! I know what I want to be when I grow up!

The first graders in our religious education program were really excited I stopped by their classroom. They were learning about Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.

I pointed to him and asked him what it was he wants to be:

Excitedly, he explained that he wanted to be someone who did lots of different things each day. When he grows up, he wants to be a


We don’t understand

We had just finished practicing for the Easter Vigil liturgy. I was standing outside in front of the church greeting a family as we prepared to celebrate a funeral for a young man who died at only 37.

His brother expressed faith profoundly:

I know we don’t understand, but I know it’s because we aren’t supposed to. If God tried to show us the truth of his love, it would be far greater than anything we can comprehend.

The beauty of the mystery we prepare to celebrate is far greater than we know. Today, I’m thankful that

We don’t understand.

Transition from the Cross to the Resurrection

The joy of watching students express their faith is unlike any other. I imagine it’s like the joy of a parent watching their children accomplish something beautiful.

After celebrating Mass at St. Louis Catholic High School, the transitions students led the entire student body in the Way of the Cross. Narrators lead the prayer and reflection while the students created each scene as a silhouette.

As we draw near to Holy Week, teach us to model Your passion in our daily lives, that we may

Transition from the Cross to the Resurrection.

Way of the Cross