“With great joy,
St. Mary’s Catholic Center
At Texas A & M announces:
“Fr. David” Konderla
beloved pastor and director
of campus ministry,
will be ordained and installed as the
Diocese of Tulsa
On June 29, 2016”
I remember Fr. David as a grinning, ramrod straight young priest who laughed at his own jokes. I was charmed.
I will miss coming in and seeing him there waiting for mass to start at the back of the church. He usually smiled and patted my shoulder or gave me a hug.
For my family, he was a constant in our daily lives when we needed that so much. Over the years, his voice has become like home to me.
A month after my first husband’s death in a car crash, I was standing at the back of the silent church crying, when I felt a strong, supportive hand on my shoulder, and heard the whispered prayers of Fr. David. All these years later, that brief and powerful act of kindness remains vivid in my memory.
When my kids were little, I pretty much took them to Mass with me every day at St. Mary’s.
My girls had a routine at the end of daily Mass, of racing each other down the stairs from the balcony where we always sat, and opening the doors for the priests. Sometimes Fr. David and Fr. (now Bishop) Mike Sis would stand and wait at the doors until the kids could get down the stairs and fling the church doors open for them. Fr. David would grin and ruffle their hair, listen to them.
“So I asked Fr. Mike, ‘Who does most of the cooking over there at the rectory? He said, ‘Fr. David! You know, he makes a very good squirrel stew!” ~ Jocelyn Jones
The story behind that stew is that a squirrel kept getting into Fr. Mikes’ truck at night and eating the wiring. So Fr. David waited up for it in the truck one night, shot it, and made squirrel stew.
Special to me is his homily some years ago about Elijah and the widow of Zaraphath. He talked about what a widow is to God. He said a widow is beautiful to God because her heart is in heaven. He mused that perhaps she is so glorious to Jesus that she must be radiant to him. It must be hard for Him to look at her shining face, so bright it is in His eyes.
That lifted me up, reminded me that my purpose and value is in God. Things like this I will always remember and carry in my heart.
Fr. David’s homilies are often beautiful, always wise, and you can expect to laugh at some point, and for him to laugh too. He thinks of off the wall comparisons, childhood stories, quirky one liners, and then he chuckles to himself. Then there is his famous shortest homily ever:
“I know there’s no air conditioning and we’re all miserable so I will keep this short. It’s hot in here. Hell is hotter. Straighten up.” ~ Fr. David at an “Aggie Awaking” mass.
Fr. David said that every Jedi has to make his own light saber. So, as a lot of people know, being an excellent wood worker, he has made his own crosier (a bishop’s “shepherd’s crook.”) He was able to use the wood from some of the trees that were taken down in order to build the new student center at St. Mary’s.
Fr. David’s mother, (the gold of whose wedding ring was used to make his episcopal ring) is buried just a short distance from my two husbands. Father doesn’t know it, of course, but I nearly always say hi to her when I go there. I thank her for giving us a priest, and such a great one that we all love so much. I tell her he’s a real good boy, and he’s doing well.
On Holy Thursday one year, I ended up being one of the people set to have my feet washed at the Mass.
I was seriously nervous. In fact I had considered not doing it. But when Fr. David humbly came my way with his towel and bowl of water, and began to gently wash my feet, I just felt peaceful and safe. I knew he understood all of my suffering, and wanted me to feel the restoring and even reverential love of God toward me.
I had recently lost both my second husband and my mother within a six month period. That Holy Thursday I felt deeply that I was loved, and that the simple, reverent love that came from Fr. David was from Jesus, who wanted me to know He was with me and respected my sorrow deeply. I cried quite a bit. I will always remember it.
When I heard Fr. Michael Sullivan say that Fr. David spent long periods of time every morning in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hands open, eyes closed in the semi darkness of the chapel, I was not surprised. He speaks with an authority that comes from inside, the kind that someone who is deeply connected to God as well as being learned speaks from. He has a strong inner center and you can feel it.
As my friend, Nan Prikryl put it, “It’s not really anything he did or said so much, it’s just his presence.”
My friend Jocie mentioned the way Fr. David loves little kids, and seems to really enjoy watching them come up the communion line with their parents. She noted that he seems to take a gleeful delight in the ones who were the naughtiest and had made the most ruckus at Mass.
A little boy named Yarrow, screamed his head off like some crazy animal at Mass one day. Fr. David was in the middle of the consecration but he still couldn’t stop himself from cracking up.
“He was a father to me. That’s so important to a student far away from home. And he gave me the fatherly love I never had as a child.” ~ Anonymous former student
He encouraged me in my writing, telling me whenever he particularly liked my monthly column in the local paper. “Beautiful stuff!”
He was (and is) a strong, kindly father, a wise and patient mentor, a courageous, and dedicated shepherd with big dreams.
“I asked him, ‘What’s it like to be a priest? He said, ‘I don’t know, it’s just what I get up and do every day.” ~ Shawna Marcontel
Fr. David was out praying with a group in front of the (now defunct) local abortion clinic. Someone yelled at him from a car, “GO HOME, PRIEST!” He smiled and shrugged, shouting back, “I AM home!”
Certainly. This is his home town. He WAS home.
Everyone knows about St. Mary’s, a place where there are an average of nine young people entering seminary or formation for religious life every year. It is a place in bloom with the “new springtime for Christianity,” St. John Paul II hoped for in the new melenium. A lot of this blooming has been due to Fr. David’s extraordinary vision and leadership. He would be the first to say it was also the work of those who came before him, and of many others, and of course it was. But we know Fr. David is unique and that he has accomplished amazing things.
When I think of him, though, I think of his gentleness, his simplicity, his humility and purity of heart, his quiet strength, his every day goodness and solidity.
“It’s hard to convey all the love, goodness, charity, wit, joy, quirkiness that man possesses. It’s incarnational. You have to know FDK to experience him.” ~Molly Milroy
He is still grinning, still ramrod straight. I’ve heard that Fr. David can speed by like a bullet train on his mountain bike, passing up others much younger than himself. This is no surprise. He may be in his 50’s now but he’s in great shape. He should be able to serve the people of his new Diocese for a long, lively time to come.
His farewell mass was standing room only. But I have to say that is not all that unusual for St. Mary’s. It was a nice mass, but not that different from the norm. It was, however, a big crowd given it was summer in a college town. He did seem touched that so many of his St. Mary’s family was there to see him off.
At the reception there were no speeches, no big deals. Just love. It’s all he wanted.
Everyone loves him. How could they not? We will miss him. All the same, this is a happy goodbye, a proud goodbye.
When Fr. Michael Sullivan said loudly at the beginning of Sunday Mass after the word was out about the appointment, “As you probably know, our PASTOR has been appointed as BISHOP of Tulsa!” There was the responding Aggie “WHOOOOOOOOP!” There were a couple of those.
“We are exporting …
~Fr. Michael Sullivan
Fr. David said becoming a bishop was not really a promotion after being the pastor of St. Mary’s. That is a very Fr. David thing to say, and it was appreciated.
If I am ready now to be a bishop, it is because you have all nurtured me as a priest. Give the pastor who comes after me the same love and support you gave me and let us keep each other in prayer. I love you all in Christ.
The day we found out the big news, I saw him outside the church, and even though I knew he had probably been hugged to death, I gave him a long, proud, happy hug, and told him how the girls and I love him. He said he loved us too.
You won’t get this, most likely, if you’re not from around here, but Marcel LeJeune (on staff at St. Mary’s) said that Fr. David had quipped that maybe now he is supposed to go off to “Bish Camp.”
I know. I know he has to go to his new flock. I am happy and proud like everyone.
All the same:
And thank you, God, for the great gift of Fr. David in our lives.
Prayer for the Ordination of Bishop-Elect David Konderla
Fourth Bishop of Tulsa
June 29, 2016
Father, you know all hearts.
You have chosen your servant,
For the office of bishop.
May he be a shepherd to your holy flock,
And a high priest blameless in your sight,
Ministering to you night and day…
May he be pleasing to you
By his gentleness and purity of heart,
Presenting a fragrant offering to you.
- The majority of these pictures were raided from the Facebook pages of Bishop-Elect David Konderla and of Fr. Michael Sullivan. So thanks.
- For more about St, Mary’s Catholic Student Center, see aggiecatholic.org