Deacon Jack Ruzicka held the attention of about 25 youth group members at Sacred Heart Parish in Troy Dec. 13 while preparing them for giving witness talks at an upcoming Luke 18 retreat for eighth-graders.
A similar retreat Deacon Ruzicka attended as an eighth-grader was the kindling that sparked his own faith life. He’s now a seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon.
He grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in St. Louis, the youngest of four children. Youth ministry was a big factor in remaining active in his faith. As an eighth-grader, he attended a Luke 18 retreat that influenced him, and the importance of his faith grew in his high school years. Through youth ministry he met a priest who heard his confession, and it was both the sacrament of reconciliation and this priest’s personal witness to the Heart of Christ that inspired him to think and pray about the priesthood. “I can look back and say the Lord was pursuing me and putting all these things in my path that would bring me to this point,” Deacon Ruzicka said. “It’s very humbling to look back.”
‘Be the Bridge’
At the parish-based Luke 18 retreats, high school students relate how they have applied their faith through the challenges of growing up. Deacon Ruzicka urged the speakers to “be the bridge” and tell stories that reveal how God has worked in their lives. Later, he checked on them and answered questions as they spread out while working on outlines of their talks.
Isabel Holland, a junior at Troy Buchanan High School who was one of the students helped by Father Ruzicka on her witness talk, said seminarians assigned to the parish have been a big help with the youth group. She described them as “people who love God a lot and decided to go to the seminary. It’s cool to see all that they’ve learned.”
Deacon Ruzicka and seminarian Joe Martin are assigned to the parish in Troy on weekends as part of their training. Deacon Ruzicka entered the seminary in 2013 after graduating from St. Mary’s High School and is in the class of six seminarians anticipated to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2021.
He explains to people that they have a role in seminary formation. They participate by praying for vocations, the seminarians and work of the seminary and by giving to the annual Christmas collection, which, along with the annual auction and Annual Catholic Appeal, help keep Kenrick-Glennon operating.
People deserve “healthy, holy and joyful priests who will generously lay down their lives in service to them,” Deacon Ruzicka said.
It’s important for them to know that “priests don’t just pop out of the sky, they don’t just appear in a vacuum,” he said. “It’s a joint effort.”
He touts Kenrick-Glennon’s pastoral internship, when seminarians spend a year full-time in a parish. He served at St. Joseph Parish in Imperial between his second and third years of theology. He taught every day in the parish school, helped with the youth group and brought Communion to people who are homebound.
“I got to see the inner workings of a parish and have community life in the parish with the priests I lived with,” he said.
The experience enabled him to put into practice the formation he received and see where he still needed assistance.
He’s also spent time serving at other parishes as part of his theology education — St. Paul in Fenton, the Cathedral Basilica Parish and Ste. Genevieve Parish in Ste. Genevieve.
The seminary regime of communal prayer — three chapels down the hall, having “the Blessed Sacrament in my house” — is hard to beat, he said. “The bonds of brotherhood that are forged in the pews is a very real thing, really beautiful, as we strive to be holy pastors.”
Deacon Ruzicka has met devout and zealous priests who generously give of themselves in service of the people of God. It’s part of what has inspired him to want to bring hope to people when they’re despairing.
“I want to speak truth into their lives. I want to bring people to Jesus.”
>> Collection on Christmas
A collection on
Christmas in parishes will support the formation of the 139 seminarians
at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
Father James Mason,
president-rector of Kenrick-Glennon, said the future of access to the
sacraments and the Word of God rests in priest formation. “Our whole
mission is to form healthy, holy joy-filled parish priests to serve the
people of God.”
The collection allows the ministry to continue. ”I
thank people for their constant and continued support, for remembering
us in this Christmas appeal,” Father Mason said.
While efforts are
being made to halt the spread of COVID-19, the seminarians are
ministering in parishes with the support of pastors through phone calls,
Zoom meetings and more. Six men are to be ordained next year as priests
for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Formation is continuing at the
Other ways to give include online at kenrick.edu/support
or by mailing a check to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, 5200 Glennon Drive,
St. Louis, MO 63119. For information, call (314) 792-6100.