River Forest church greets two new priests
The Rev. Tom McDermott (left) and the Rev. Matthew Strabala stand outside St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest on July 22. McDermott is the new pastor and Straballa will be the associate pastor. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 5, 2012 1:35PM
RIVER FOREST — Two priests joined St. Vincent Ferrer Parish on July 1.
The Rev. Tom McDermott became the new pastor of the parish, which includes the church and school. He replaces the Rev. Herbert Hayek, who transferred to a different location.
The Rev. Matthew Strabala is the church’s new associate pastor, replacing two part-time ministers. They will be installed in a ceremony this weekend.
McDermott, 59, is originally from Nebraska and spent his career teaching at a seminary, serving a parish in Lagos, Nigeria, for 18 years, and working for four year in Rome on his doctorate in theology. Priests usually don’t stay at one location permanently so when it was time for McDermott to move on he was given a choice of three locations including St. Vincent Ferrer Parish.
“I thought I would be comfortable with the people here,” he said.
One of his goals as the new head of the parish is to revive the life of the parish.
“My main goal is the spiritual revival of the congregation,” McDermott said.
Organizing church retreats, more Bible studies and faith-sharing activities for men, women and the youth are some of the things he plans to implement to make it happen. He is currently working on a parish picnic in September.
It’s a tall order, but he’s not alone, his associate pastor is ready to help.
Strabala, 43, said being of service to others was the reason he entered the priesthood 13 years ago.
“It was really was a calling,” he said about becoming a priest. “I felt that this is where God wanted me to be and I wanted to be in a life of service of some kind and through twists and turns this is where I ended up.”
Strabala was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but grew up in El Paso, Texas. For most of his career in the ministry he has worked in New Mexico, then Washington D.C. for six years and then back to New Mexico for about three years before heading to St. Vincent Ferrer. He looks forward to helping make an impact here.
“I’m happy to be at St. Vincent Ferrer,” Strabala said. “It’s a culturally rich parish. I hope to continue the tradition of good preaching and good liturgy.”
“I’m hoping to be working a lot with our youth minister,” he said. “I hope to do work for ongoing adult Catholic education, helping to continue to build up people’s knowledge and understanding of the faith.”
Both say their vocation is something that could not be denied.
McDermott said that when he told his parents that he was going to enter the priesthood, they said, “We’re not surprised.”
“It’s good,” Strabala said about being a priest. “It can be a challenging life, but a very fulfilling one.”
McDermott said a Bible passage spoken by Jesus in the New Testament sums it up for him. “If anyone be a disciple of mine, he must be last of all and servant of all.”