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Archives Preparing for ordination to the diaconate

June 22, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

Potsdam – “There are a lot of emotions, and certainly excitedness is one of them,” said Lukas Gruber, a seminarian for the Diocese of Ogdensburg who is preparing to be ordained as a deacon on his path to the priesthood. “This is something I’ve been working toward for five years now. I have a tinge of nervousness, as well, but it’s definitely not the primary feeling.”

Through the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Terry R. LaValley will ordain Gruber as part of a Mass to be celebrated at 11 a.m. on June 25 at St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam. The Ordination Mass will also be livestreamed at rcdony.org/ordination.

Gruber has been studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He is currently on summer assignment at St. Mary’s in Ticonderoga and Our Lady of Lourdes in Schroon Lake.

“There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being able to perform some of the sacraments. My first baptism is scheduled here in Ticonderoga on July 24. That’s very exciting! I’m looking forward to preaching homilies. It’s something new, but it’s probably what my nervousness is most attached to. I’ve only ever done practice homilies.

“I’m looking forward to assisting at Mass in a new way, and I’m looking forward to sharing that ministry with so many people of the North Country that I’ve gotten to know over the years.”

In addition to his summer assignment and the ministry he’ll be involved with there, Gruber said he hopes to visit other North Country communities where he’s served in the past to share his ministry, including Potsdam, Colton, Canton, Gouverneur and Watertown.

Gruber also looks forward to continuing to grow in his ministry when he returns to the Josephinum later this summer.

“At the Josephinum, when you’re in third year Theology, you’re assigned to a parish in the Diocese of Columbus,” he said. “You get to learn that parish. When you’re ordained a deacon, you serve in that same parish. I’ll be continuing to serve at St. Paul’s in Westerville, Ohio. By some statistics, it’s the largest parish in the State of Ohio. I joke with the pastor, Father (Jonathan) Wilson, that it’s sort of like having al the activities of the whole Diocese of Ogdensburg in one parish. I had a great experience there my first year, and I look forward to the ministry opportunities there. Father Wilson and I talked about how I’ll serve. It’s a large parish, and they have baptisms every Sunday. I’ll be helping with those, Stations of the Cross in Lent, and assisting at Sunday Masses and things around the parish.”

A native of the New York City metro area, Gruber was introduced to the North Country when he became a student at the Crane School of Music, part of SUNY Potsdam.

“I originally grew up in Queens, New York, until I was around 5,” he said. “My father’s side of my family is Catholic, and my mother’s side of the family is Lutheran. I was baptized Lutheran. We attended both Lutheran services and Catholic Masses.”

When he was 5 or 6, his family moved to Smithtown on Long Island, Suffolk County. While he said he participated in music ministry at his parish there, St. Patrick’s, but was otherwise not very involved in the parish. His love of music and the influence of music teachers in his formative years led him to pursue a degree in music at Crane.

“I didn’t really have a tangible concept of what a vocation was at that point, let alone that I had one,” Gruber said. “I started experiencing a call in prayer. I was able to meet so many great priests here in the North Country through Campus Ministry and the Newman Club. That was a very formative part of my process. The Newman Club had great retreats. They had adoration every week. I had never even heard of adoration before. We had a Bible study every week.”

Gruber said he started to consider his calling even more when a classmate left college to study as a seminarian for the Diocese of Buffalo.

“Around that time, a vocational discernment group started in Potsdam,” he said. “It was run by Father (Bryan) Stitt and Father (Howard) Venette. Not only did I start to discern a call to the priesthood, I started to discern a call to the priesthood here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. I didn’t have much connection to my parish at home other than regular Mass attendance. I had a lot of connections up here. I felt called to stay.”

Gruber continued to increase his involvement in the community in Potsdam, joining Knights of Columbus and learning the organ to assist in music ministry. He also continued to have conversations with Father Stitt, who was serving as diocesan Vocations director at the time.

“We agreed it made sense to continue on with my final year at Crane and finish my degree there,” Gruber said. “By waiting, I earned a degree and could start the pre-theology program, which is a six-year program. If I had left Crane to go to seminary, I essentially would’ve been starting from scratch and starting an eight-year program.”

While completing his degree at Crane, Gruber served as interim campus minister for a time and as pastoral associate in Potsdam.

“That was a great formative experience,” he said. “I was living in a parish, experiencing parish life, navigating all that stuff and having the experience of being a campus minister and pastoral associate. Eventually, I also became music director in Colton. I spent summers at Guggenheim, and that was a great formative experience.”
As he approaches ordination to the diaconate and, God willing, eventually to the priesthood, Gruber said he is grateful to God, Bishop LaValley and the people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

“The people I’ve met throughout the North Country have been one of the tools God has used to help me discern my vocation specifically to this diocese,” he said. “I have a great sense of gratitude to the people of the North Country for all their support, primarily prayerful support but also financial support and friendship. My gratitude extends to Bishop LaValley for accepting me as a seminarian for this diocese and to all the priests and laity I’ve come to know through these years and who I look forward to serving and serving with.”

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