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Archives ‘So much grace’ in early priesthood

Sept. 27, 2023

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Staff Writer

“Each day is different, but most tend to be fast and furious,” is one way Father Lukas Gruber describes his first few months as a parish priest. Yet that is only part of the story: “There is just so much grace! And some days it is very, very clear how grace-filled this or that moment was!”

Ordained by Bishop Terry R. LaValley on May 27, 2023, Father Lukas reported to his first assignment at the end of June. As parochial vicar at the Catholic Community of St. Alexander and St. Joseph in Morrisonville (with parishes in Cadyville and Peru) the Diocese of Ogdensburg’s newest priest gladly welcomes both the joys and challenges of his vocation.

What does an “ordinary” day look like for Father Lukas?

“All our daily Masses are in the morning, so that comes first,” he said. “Then I check in with the parish office, do pastoral visits as needed, work on whatever project is current, attend meetings, and celebrate funerals as scheduled. On weekends, there are confessions and Sunday Masses. And I do whatever else I am directed to by our pastor, Father Scott Seymour. Recently, he asked me to update the parish website and the parish Facebook page. And we, like most parishes post-COVID, are working to rebuild our master lists, including lists of our parishioners who are homebound or in nursing homes. This is an important ministry, involving a number of committed parishioners. I know I, too, am blessed to bring Communion to our parishioners, wherever they live.”
Clearly, the summer was busy for Father Lukas, as autumn also promises to be.

“I enjoyed helping out at Vacation Bible School,” he notes, “and am looking ahead to involvement in Religious Education and youth ministry – now combined for better allocation of time, resources, and sharing of ideas. Also, I am assigned to regular visits at Seton Catholic, as our parish is quite involved with the school. There are always opportunities to join the good work being done at our outreach centers (Morrisonville and Peru). In addition, every priest is required, in rotation, to be on call to administer the sacraments in emergency situations.”

Providentially, none of this came as a surprise to Father Lukas. In fact, he was familiar with the demands of the priesthood long before he thought of becoming a priest.

“Before the seminary, I spent lots of time in parish work, in music ministry and as pastoral associate in Potsdam,” he said. “That gave me a solid sense of how a parish works, and what the priest’s role in that is. My summer assignments in parishes here in the diocese allowed me to build on that understanding, as did my deacon year assignment (via the Pontifical College Josephinum) to an exceptionally large parish in Columbus, Ohio.”

Even Covid helped shape Father Lukas’ expectations. The pandemic shut down the seminary just after he had arrived in Canton for a school break. That visit stretched into three months, “a unique and interesting experience in which I learned so much from Father Bryan Stitt, like the joys and frustrations of live-streaming, and of outreach in harsh conditions. I learned valuable lessons about flexibility,” says the young priest, “and about patience and kindness and being intentional in staying close to Jesus and finding ways to help parishioners do the same.”

Those lessons have endured. Noting that he can become impatient with himself as he continues to adjust from a life of serious study and formation to the demands of active ministry, Father Lukas explains: “I realize that what I really need is to remain open to the Lord, to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and to stay rooted in prayer. A blessing I had not anticipated was my new freedom to dive into Scripture. Rather than strictly academic, there is a new and different focus now. There are more opportunities for meditative prayer, of which Scripture is the cornerstone. Yet sometimes that must yield to legitimate demands, and I try to find balance. My prayer then is to be open in that moment to what God wants to grace my life with.”

Father Lukas said finds celebrating the sacraments to be a life-giving experience.

“For me as for all, the sacraments are wonderful moments of prayer, of encounter and conversation with God,” he said. “They are an endless source of grace.”

And while the new priest fully anticipated the wonder and joy in celebrating the Eucharist, he was surprised to discover the depth and power of other sacraments as well.

“Hearing confessions is an incredible ministry of great importance and beauty,” he explains, “and I am blessed to be able to do it so often. It is powerful and profound, and it has helped me to be a better penitent. An entirely unexpected blessing is how powerful it can be to celebrate someone’s funeral Mass and burial. Each is a different and beautiful moment of encountering God and his people as the Lord chooses to break through our deafness and blindness in unique and wonderful ways. Likewise, celebrating the anointing of the sick has been another series of grace-filled moments in my short time in parish ministry.”

As he settles into the life of a parish priest, Father Lukas finds himself filled with gratitude.

“I thank God for the joys of daily life, of meeting people and getting to know them, of helping where needed, for the warm welcome of parishioners, and for experiencing God’s presence at work in all of it,” he said.

Noting the irreplaceable importance of priestly fraternity, he is also grateful for “the truly wonderful priests of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, each of whom has modeled for me some part of what means to be a priest.”

Echoing St. John Vianney, Father Lukas understands that the heart of the priesthood is the love of Jesus Christ. “Listening to the Lord and directed by the Holy Spirit, we do our best to be a bridge to all we meet, to transmit comfort to our world that so desperately needs it. We try to live our priesthood so that Jesus can shine through to the Church and to the world.”

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