Having worked as director of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein for the last seven years, Deacon Richard Hudzik was ready for a new challenge.
When the position of co-vicar of the Diaconate Community was created, Hudzik decided to apply because he saw it as a new opportunity to serve.
“The Diaconate is so important to me. I wanted to help the Diaconate in a new way. I thought I had something to offer,” Hudzik said.
Hudzik was one of a handful of candidates interviewed by a search committee in May. The committee submitted Hudzik’s name for consideration by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, who officially appointed him co-vicar in July.
Hudzik will be part time starting in September and will take on the job full time beginning in January. Fr. Mike Ahlstrom will continue as vicar for the Diaconate Community, but after July 1, 2013, will reduce his workload as Hudzik becomes more acclimated to the position.
Ordained in 1998, Hudzik comes with comes with practical work experience and a strong background in ministry and education. Not only is he a lawyer by profession, Hudzik has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology, a Master of Divinity and is a Doctor of Ministry.
He has ministered at two parishes – St. Maria Goretti in Schiller Park for 12 years and Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest since 2010.
Hudzik also has served as a Deanery Deacon Coordinator since 2011 for Deanery C of Vicariate I, been a group leader for the Emmaus program for newly ordained deacons and their wives, been a mentor group leader for the Institute for Diaconal Studies and is chair of Defense of Marriage Department for the Catholic Conference of Illinois. He also has given numerous retreats and workshops.
Hudzik is married to Rebecca is the father of three children and a grandfather of three.
While acknowledging his time at Stritch has been “a wonderful learning experience” and admits it will be difficult to leave, Hudzik said he saw the position as co-vicar as another step in his journey of service.
“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the deacons going through here (Stritch). It’s the advantage of having people stay at my house. It just seemed like a natural progression.”
Hudzik said he will be able to put his skills as a deacon and a lawyer to good use whether in mediation in ministering to his fellow deacons or in communicating with the Diaconate community at large.
“The lawyering skills combined with the Diaconate call and that vision of the world -- I feel blessed to have those two things in my repertoire of skills,” he said.
Going forward, Hudzik said he feels it’s important that people know the many good works and service that deacons perform.
“I’m amazed and humbled in meeting the deacons and all the good things that we do and don’t know about,” Hudzik said. “We don’t know each other well enough, what we do and the dedication of guys who have been deacons for 30 years or five years.”
Hudzik said he already has a rallying cry and a challenge in mind for the Diaconate community.
“It’s my slogan, if you will, if we are the biggest (Diaconate community) in the world, then why don’t we also be the best in the world? What does it mean to be the best? Let’s challenge ourselves to excellence. We’re capable of it,” Hudzik said.
As he transitions into his new role and gets a better idea of priorities, Hudzik has set a goal for himself – visiting deacons where they minister.
“One of the things I would like to do is visit deacons in their natural habitats so to speak. I want to go out to the other parishes and see the guys and their wives teach a baptism class or assist at a Mass and see our community do what they do. We’re not about meetings, we’re about service.”
(This article first appeared in the Flame newsletter serving Chicago’s Diaconate Community.)