For some time, probably the most face-to-face contact Father Robert Dziedziak had along with his new parishioners was a masked wave as he ran previous on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
The brand new pastor at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church would run alongside the island’s primary street through the early days of the pandemic, typically seeing church members additionally making an attempt to get out and about safely.
“I at all times see them, but it surely’s unusual as a result of they’ve pulled up their masks,” Dziedziak stated. “They are saying, ‘Good morning, Father Robert,’ after which I see them on the church. However I don’t register that (I noticed this particular person). Then I see you on the church and I don’t know if that was you or not.”
Such is life within the midst of a pandemic. Dziedziak started his tenure as lead pastor on March 16, a Monday. He was directed by the Diocese of Venice to shut the church on that Friday, March 20, because of COVID-19. For a very long time afterward, his solely approach to hook up with his new congregation was through video companies. Even because the church reopened for in-person companies, Dziedziak noticed the folks there by means of masks.
“I met my parishioners in a wierd approach,” Dziedziak stated. “I’m nonetheless coming to know them and it’ll in all probability take longer than regular due to the pandemic, however nonetheless, I am actually enthusiastic about being right here and serving this excellent parish household.”
Even with out the conventional trappings of church life, Dziedziak is diving into the scene at St. Mary’s in any approach he can, stated males’s membership President Chuck Sobieck. Any assembly for the lads’s membership or girls’s guild, Dziedziak is there. With seemingly unbound shops of vitality, he additionally spends two days every week in Venice, appearing as a tribunal decide and lawyer for the Diocese.
“He’s concerned in every part and he’s a hard-charger,” Sobieck stated. “He’s pushing issues on a regular basis. It’s actually refreshing.”
At 43, Dziedziak is the youngest priest to serve the Longboat Key Catholic neighborhood since Father Edward Decide got here to Longboat Key to discovered the church in 1973, when he was 38. Dziedziak is simply the third priest of the church, following within the footsteps of Monsignor Gerry Finegan, or “Father Gerry,” who died in February 2020 and had served the church for 12 years.
“As a lot as we miss Father Gerry, it has been an absolute pleasure to have Father Robert,” girls’s guild President Sue DiNatale stated. “He’s younger, energetic, joyful and he has a really brilliant persona.”
His persona comes by means of throughout his sermons and homilies. He makes use of no notes, simply speaks from the guts and in a approach that makes you sit up and bear in mind what he’s stated, whereas additionally providing you with one thing to take dwelling to consider, Sobieck stated. He’s inclusive, welcoming in those that are on the parish for the primary time and doling out completely happy birthday and anniversary needs. On prime of all of it, he’s humorous.
“Each time he does homilies and sermons he at all times interjects these jokes and so they’re fairly humorous,” DiNatale stated. “That was a primary for me for a priest, however he will get folks’s consideration and will get folks to hear.”
It’s a irritating time for Dziedziak, as he’s wanting to get the social lifetime of church again on observe, however he appears to be doing alright — optimistic opinions abound, Sobieck stated. There’s loads of time but to entrench himself into the social scene and construct it again, too. Dziedziak is in for the lengthy haul on Longboat Key and stated he hopes to retire right here. He’s right here to serve and develop, he stated, and has seen an eagerness from each him and his parishioners.
“Even with this COVID factor individuals are actually optimistic,” Dziedziak stated. “I had related experiences at completely different parishes however that is very distinctive. This is sort of a very peaceable, non secular place and filled with joyful folks. I inform them jokes on Sunday and no one’s wrote me as much as the diocese but.”