November 2000

Father John G. Sturm, S.J. - 50 Years as a Priest

by Father John STURM

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I am extremely happy in my vocation. To live and work for the greater honor and glory of God is filled with countless built-in rewards.

I was well grounded in my vocation. My mother and father were my first channels of grace. Basic Catholic faith, reading and writing were learned at Most Holy Redeemer taught by the Sisters of St. Francis. My education continued at Canisius High school and I graduated in 1935. After two years of sports and studies at Canisius College I was convinced that the Lord was calling me. After much prayer I entered the Society of Jesus, on September 7, 1937.

There is a special place in my heart for the Society of Jesus. In my first year as a novice I experienced the Society’s love and companionship when my father passed away. I cannot speak too highly of the friendship, sharing and understanding of my brothers in Christ. This was notably evident during World War II, when two to three hundred men lived together for three years at Woodstock College and were never allowed to leave the property! It was, in its own way, a grace-filled period, teaching me a very valuable lesson of life: the acceptance of others.

I welcomed my first assignment as prefect of discipline at Canisius High School, which was my alma mater. Having been newly ordained, I was advised that it might be difficult to reconcile the responsibilities of Prefect with work as a priest. This was true, but like a seed buried in the ground, the grace of God was at work. I enjoyed being with the students and I eventually devoted 20 years of my life to them. One had to rely on the Holy Spirit in order to stay ahead of 900 young men, some rather mischievous. My line was simple: “If you want mercy, go to God. I hand out strict justice, don’t beg.”

I was brokenhearted when I left Canisius, but God opened another door called Marriage Encounter. For me, this was a new and thrilling way to experience the love of God. For 20 years I directed many “encounters”. The love of God, so evident in the love of these couples, spilled over into my heart and opened it even wider to welcome and embrace God’s people. My own spiritual life deepened as the Scriptures and the love of these couples revealed in a profound way the beauty of God’s love and mercy in creation. I became a new person, a new creation, free in the love of God.

My next assignment was to serve at St. Michael’s Church, and here you will find me still. Our Jesuit community is yet another source of peace and joy for me. Life for me is like the ice cream on a piece of apple pie. Our parishioners are models of deep faith and dedication to prayer. Their personal example and their practice of the sacramental life have urged me to deepen once again my own spiritual life. Channels of grace again!

I have been and continue to be a happy priest. I enjoy life and the goodness of God’s earth and people. Golf is my favorite hobby. My life has been filled with many wonderful surprises. Given other options, I would do it all over again. My heart is grateful to all whom I have encountered, for they - as channels of God’s grace - have molded me into the person and priest I am. I have no regrets. Thanks be to God and to our Blessed Mother and my loving mother and father!

Editor’s note: (Excerpt taken from a story previously printed on Tim Russert) “Tim did a marvelous job working at the door for us,” Father Sturm said. “He could really talk to people and sympathize with them.” Both then and now, Tim knows that’s an ultimate compliment from a man who demands only the best. “He was the prefect of discipline,” Tim said. “With just one look he could seriously alter my behavior—or else. It was behavior modification to the ‘nth’ degree. And if you didn’t respond he would use any necessary means to bring you into line. It worked. It worked in a very strong way.”


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