Father Dominic Clemente '16 (Archdiocese of Chicago), St. Edward Catholic Church, Chicago, IL
Watch this video with Father Dominic Clemente to hear about his creative digital outreach to his parishioners that he plans to continue beyond the pandemic.
Submitted by: Mary Ann Dardugno
The pandemic swept the entire world very rapidly. What was unforeseen and unthinkable happened almost overnight. Our very natural reaction was one of fear. So I am grateful everyday that, in God’s infinite wisdom, Father Dominic Clemente is the pastor of St. Edward Parish. There has been no hand-wringing, no uncertainty from Father Dom. In fact, each potential obstacle became an “opportunity” to create.
Fr. Dom welcomed four seminarians who needed a place to reside when Mundelein Seminary was asked to shut down. These four young men, under Father’s direction, prepared and celebrated beautiful liturgies daily that were live-streamed on our own YouTube channel. (He spearheaded an immediate effort to get the necessary number of YouTube subscribers to access livestream capabilities.) Once that was in place, Father Dominic began hosting and posting features such as “Meet the Parishioners,” and “Are the Seminarians Smarter than a Fourth Grader?” In addition, he posted teaching lessons about the richness of our Catholic faith and assisted one of our seminarians in conducting a Bible study with in-person and virtual participation.
Father Dom did not let us get stuck in the anxiety of the moment. He helped us to focus on God’s plan for us and for our parish. He worked with our phenomenal building engineer to ensure that we were safely prepared for in-person liturgies and times of prayer. He coordinated teams of volunteers who consistently and joyfully maintain our church so that we can celebrate the sacraments together as we follow the guidelines. Father continued his involvement and commitment to our parish school and worked with the principal to prepare the school building for a safe start to the school year. This was no small task! Our families know that Father Dom values them and that he is a champion of Catholic education.
But wait, that’s not all! Father Dom continued the Youth Ministry with virtual meetings each week. With safety protocols observed, the youth of the parish completed a week of service which included the cleaning and repurposing of the parish’s recently vacated convent. He outlined plans for converting the convent into space for various parish ministries and retreats. During this time, he asked us to begin two new ministries, a garden ministry for the beautification of our parish environment and a video ministry to assist with the live-streaming projects.
Father Dominic had his own personal challenges during this time. His father had open-heart surgery following a very serious heart attack. Father assisted his mother in caring for his dad as he recuperated and, with the help of his fellow priests and seminarians, ensured that the spiritual life of our parish was well tended.
Recently Father’s grandfather passed away. In a beautiful homily given at his grandfather’s funeral, he shared part of a conversation that he had with his grandfather when they were last together. These words made a lasting impression on us – “Everything in life is a gift. Live in gratitude daily.” -- What comforting and encouraging words for these difficult times!
I think that Father Clemente has affected the faith life of St. Edward Parish in some very simple, yet profound ways. He is a genuinely happy priest. He is joyful and unambiguous when he preaches the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. He calls us to become saints in these three “do-able” steps: pray every day, receive the Holy Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, and go to confession often. His personal evangelization brings to mind the very moving scene from Jesus’ life when Jesus said, “Come and see." Our parish community has been awakened by that invitation.
Father Dominic Clemente certainly deserves to be recognized for the 2020 “In Service of One Another” Catholic Humanitarian Award because of his energetic work, his creative ways of communicating, and his undeniable love for the St. Edward Parish family. But I think there is an even more compelling reason that he should be given this consideration at this time. When our world, our country, and sometimes our families seem to be wondering what is the next best step, St. Edward Parish is “prepared to give a reason for our hope.” As our pastor, Father Dom has guided us during this time to move out of the confusion and look to our future. And in his words, “to become the saints God intends us to be.”