By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
Father John Judie Ministries is nearly 20 years old, and its founder — who is also pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary churches — says little to none of what’s happened in that organization’s ministry in Africa has sprung from his own mind.
“It’s always been God at work, unfolding something before me,” Father Judie explained during an interview last week at the Maloney Center.
So much of what’s happened during the past two decades, he said, has been “just good things God has set before me and asked me to do.”
That’s what’s happened, he said, with the latest “good thing” God has set before Father Judie to help with his African ministry.
“The story goes like this,” he said. “When I am involved with medical doctors, with appointments and the like, beyond discussing medical and health issues, we often talk about prayer and spiritual healing — and we even talk about ministry.”
He was having such a conversation recently with his brother’s doctor, he said, who happens to be Jewish.
“And he said to me, ‘I play in a band and I was wondering if some day we might come and play at your church?’ ” Dr. Albert Goldin asked.
That band plays traditional Jewish music — it’s called the River City Klezmer Band — and Father Judie noted that “it was really he who approached me; it was really God at work again in this conversation.”
Once the discussion of music began, both Dr. Goldin and Father Judie struck upon the idea of expanding the concert into something broader and more meaningful to the community as a whole.
“He said ‘let’s promote this as a celebration of religious and cultural diversity,’ ” Father Judie recalled.
And so “A Celebration of Religious Cultural Diversity” was born.
It will be held at 4 p.m. March 16 at Christ the King Church, 718 S. 44th St., and in addition to featuring the River City Klezmer Band and Dr. Goldin, Father Judie said the Good Shepherd Parish Choir and the Christ the King Gospel Choir also will lend their voices to the celebration.
“The Good Shepherd choir will sing religious songs that represent the European and American cultures,” Father Judie explained. “The choir from Christ the King will perform traditional Gospel music and our friends from the Jewish community will perform the traditional Klezmer music.
Offerings collected at the event will be used to support Father John Judie Ministries, Inc., and as impossible as it might seem, the March 16 concert will represent the first fundraising event ever held to benefit the ministry.
“In the 20 or so year’s we (the ministries) have existed, we’ve survived on God’s grace and the contributions of donations and other gifts that help us,” Father Judie explained. “God just seems to open doors for us, and we’re somehow able to make our annual budget.”
Since that budget averages about $60,000 a year, coming up with those funds — without previous fundraising efforts — is quite an accomplishment.
The goals of the ministry are three-fold. In addition to supporting seminarians in Africa, Father John Judie Ministries, Inc., “is about re-educating Americans about Africa; it’s about bridging the gap across the cultural divides, across continents; and about simply helping to forge closer relationships with brothers and sisters in the human family.”
Two decades ago, when Father Judie first visited eastern Africa, he discussed the trip beforehand with then-Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.
“He said ‘what you learn over there, bring back here,’ ” Father Judie recalled.
The ministry has done most of its work in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia. Early in his visits, he learned that some seminaries were turning prospective priests away if their families couldn’t afford the annual educational cost of $100.
“God showed me this and we began to sponsor seminarians at three seminaries there,” he said. “All our contributions went to support the educational costs, not only for seminarians, but the cost of living for priests in those countries who do not receive salaries.”
Father Judie also takes regular trips to Africa accompanied by parishioners and others from our community who want to help with the ministry or learn more about their “brothers and sisters” living across the water in a completely different world.
“No one who makes that trip comes back the same,” he said. “Visiting Africa, meeting those wonderful people, changes the lives of those who make the trip.”
In fact, Father Judie regularly produces a newsletter that includes the comments of those who have made the trip, along with a calendar of pictures and quotations from the travelers. Each person echoes Father Judie’s notion that the mission trip is a life-changing experience.
And that evidence of change warms Father Judie’s heart, he said, and helps him to better understand God’s purpose for his life.
“Anything we can do to broaden everyone’s perspective about the world is a good thing,” he said. “We try to teach people that diversity is a source of richness and that difference is a good and beautiful thing.”
That diversity will be on display at “A Celebration of Religious Cultural Diversity,” March 16 at 4 p.m. at Christ the King Church, 718 S. 44th St.