Fr. Max Striedl '96 (Diocese of Rockford), St. Gall, Elburn, IL (previously of St. Mary in Huntley, IL)
Submitted by: Kristin Kittelson
March through June 2020 felt like a time when just being allowed to do the ordinary felt extraordinary. The criteria mentioned to define a heroic priest is one who demonstrated a “resolve to continue serving as a bridge between Christ and His people.” When Illinois had a state mandated stay at home order Fr. Max Striedl was that priest, keeping God’s home open and allowing the faithful an extraordinary place to stay.
When public Masses were required to cease, Masses at the parish were livestreamed. Perpetual Adoration in the Chapel remained open until the last possible moment the diocesan directive allowed it to be. In person, masked and safely-distanced confessions remained in place 3 times per week and were never canceled. And through the Lenten and Easter seasons (and beyond) the church remained open for private prayer EVERY DAY.
Fr. Max held a virtual Easter Basket Blessing. He celebrated Memorial Day Mass from the Parish Cemetery. He reconsecrated the parish to the Blessed Mother, concluding with a blessing from the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel. “Your priests are here for you” was highlighted in the bulletins (both printed and online), a constant supply of holy water was available and video messages of hope were posted frequently. Most overwhelming was seeing a variety of people lighting candles, smelling Easter flowers, walking the Stations of the Cross. People from all over came in as visitors, and left feeling at home.
In addition to keeping the parish running and people employed, Fr. Max was simultaneously supervising the final stages of an enormous parking lot restructuring project and a substantial office building construction, both which he was unable to see the fruits of planning and preparation. Fr. Max faced a unique priestly challenge in June when he was notified of a change in parish assignment as his term as pastor had expired.
The pandemic robbed him of the traditional experience of a farewell reception of handshakes and hugs and expressions of gratitude. Instead, he had car parade, which I imagined would entail driving past the man waving, but no. Fr. Max spent nearly 3 hours in 90 degree heat, standing in direct sunlight stopping every car to talk. He only ceased because he was celebrating his final St. Mary Mass minutes later.
LINKS: Easter Basket Blessing, Reconsecration of Parish to the Blessed Mother, Memorial Day Mass from Parish Cemetery, Farewell Car Parade
A true man of God exudes hope, trust, peace and courage during uncertain times. Fr. Max has reinforced that we are all stewards of God’s blessings and called to demonstrate Christ’s call to love at ALL times. He could have easily been angry, fearful or bitter with the state of the world and in his unexpected change in life circumstances. Instead he persevered in service, love and in prayer, asking intercession for the incoming pastor, his new parish family and promising to always be united in prayer.
Through Fr. Max Striedl the people of God have been gifted a witness to faith and trust in God’s providence and a commitment to honoring Christ, particularly when it’s counter-cultural to be His disciple.