Deacon Stuart Priddy lives life of service

By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor

Deacon Stuart B. Priddy

Deacon Stuart B. Priddy, who will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, May 26, at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, has always been drawn to serve people.

As a seminarian, his call to service has found plenty of activity through parish and hospital ministries.

But long before he realized his vocation to the priesthood, Deacon Priddy’s career helped to prepare him for the life of a pastor — he worked in the restaurant industry for much of the decade of his 20s.

“I’ve always enjoyed serving people, whether it’s at a table or somewhere else,” he said during an interview last Friday in Bardstown, Ky. “I started out as a server, became a bartender and went into management. I learned to interact with people from all different races, creeds, backgrounds. It really helped me to meet people where they are. I’ve really honed my skills of hospitality.”

Deacon Priddy, 37, believes the Holy Spirit was at work within him even then.

He found it easy to be sincere in his service in an industry where friendly service is often fake, he said.

It’s as if the Holy Spirit found “a pearl of great price in a place you wouldn’t expect it,” he noted. “The Holy Spirit finds us and speaks to us. You really have to listen, and prayer helped me to do that. It helped me hear God’s call.”

Deacon Priddy acknowledged that he did get wrapped up in the restaurant night life briefly, but he also is an avid reader and that led him to bookstores rather than bars. He found himself often visiting the religion section of nearby bookstores.

“I would get to a bookstore almost everyday and scour the Catholic books, especially (Blessed) Mother Teresa — I love Mother Teresa,” he said. “The Holy Spirit was leading me in a way I didn’t know. I read the Bible. I’d crack it open at night, read some passage and pray over it.”

Deacon Priddy was engaged in the ancient practice of Lectio Divina and didn’t know it.

Ultimately, he said, “I got so enthralled in the church, that’s what really led me to the priesthood.”

Deacon Priddy’s path to the diocesan priesthood for the Archdiocese of Louisville was a circuitous one, both geographically and personally.

He’s a native of Elizabethtown, Ky., and considers his home parish to be St. James Church in that Hardin County city. He was raised solely by his mother, Judy Roguz, after his father left when he was two-years-old. His mother is his greatest inspiration and role model, he said.

“My mother has been a mother and a father. I get her both a mother’s day and a father’s day card every year,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from her; she’s a very strong woman. By the time I was six-years-old, I knew how to cook and clean and do laundry.”

She also let him choose his own path in his faith life. She required him to attend Mass with her each week. But she didn’t have him baptized until he was 16, when he could choose it.

Mother and son have moved a lot. They’ve lived in Jeffersonville, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Elizabethtown; and in South Florida.

Deacon Priddy attended the University of South Florida in Tampa and earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications.

While in Florida, he worked in the restaurant industry and actually became engaged to be married. It was when the engagement was called off that Deacon Priddy found himself focusing on his faith and scouring bookstores for Catholic books. This reading, coupled with prayer, led him to apply for seminary, he said.

He hoped to apply to the Archdiocese of Louisville, but the local church was embroiled in lawsuits stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by some priests. Deacon Priddy’s spiritual advisor directed him to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia.

He attended seminary and earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. But in the last days of exams prior to graduating, his stepfather, whom he loved, died unexpectedly. He had already signed up for a Spanish-language immersion program in Mexico, so he went ahead with it. But when he returned, he said, thoughts about married life made him balk. That was in 2004. He withdrew from formation in West Virginia and moved back to Florida where his mom was living.

But his prayer life remained intense — he prayed the liturgy of the hours and attended Mass as often as he could. In the meantime, he began dating again and became engaged. But that ended, too.

“She told me, ‘You pray more than anyone I know and you’re always going to church. I don’t think this is fair to you or to me,’ ” he said.

That was a turning point. Deacon Priddy said, “I realized the Lord was still calling me to priesthood.”

In 2006, he decided to return to Kentucky and contacted the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office. He entered seminary in 2007 at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Southern Indiana. He graduated this spring with a master of arts in Catholic philosophical studies and a master of divinity.

Deacon Priddy said plainly that school was not his favorite thing, but he loved his summer assignments that took him to various parishes for ministry.

He used his Spanish skills — which he picked up in restaurants and honed in Mexico — to serve in Hispanic ministry at St. Rita and St. Luke churches. He visited the sick and did hospital ministry the next summer at St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky., and at Holy Name of Mary Church in Calvary, Ky. He also spent a summer at Baptist Hospital East where he visited the sick.

“I really enjoyed working with patients,” he said. “I enjoyed going in at 3 or 4 in the morning to be with a family. It was a wonderful experience.”

His summer assignment last year took him to St. Gabriel Church where he focused on preaching.

As a priest, Deacon Priddy said he wants to be “the best spiritual father I can be.”

Growing up, he said, “I told my mom I want to be the best dad, father that I can be because my dad wasn’t one to me,” he said. “That was really important to me.

Noting that his father abused his mother, he said, “I saw the pain she went through and I thought I would never want to do that to somebody.”

Deacon Priddy said he looks forward, especially, to serving in Hispanic ministry.

“Working with Hispanics is something I really enjoyed for the years I worked in Florida — a lot of the employees were Hispanic, so I had to learn the language. There is a level of poverty (in Hispanic communities) and I like being around people who need help — people who are poor and underprivileged.”

Deacon Priddy has been assigned as the associate pastor of Holy Spirit Church and part-time associate of Immaculate Conception Church in LaGrange, Ky., where he will offer the 12:30 p.m. Sunday Mass in Spanish and hear confessions afterward.

He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. James Church in Elizabethtown on May 27 at 10 a.m.

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