Father John Guthrie recently sat down with The Bridge after joining the Mundelein Seminary faculty over the summer as a director of worship and formation advisor. The following interview conducted by seminarian Jared Rutnicki provides an opportunity to learn about Father Guthrie’s history, goals, and a few fun random facts.
How did you find your priestly vocation and hear your call?
“Thoughts of a priestly vocation began early in my life. I was a little boy when I first started “celebrating” Mass in the living room. After high school, I went to St. John’s, a Benedictine college in Minnesota. Then I taught in an all-black Catholic high school in Montgomery, Alabama. There, I lived with priests who each had their unique personality and gifts. I realized I could be totally who I was as a person and also be a priest. God accepts and forms our own individual humanity. As I lived and prayed with the priests, the thought of seminary kept coming back.
I attended the North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome. The best part about being in Rome was the catholicity. I loved going to papal audiences, Urbi et Orbi addresses, and seeing people from all continents. In particular, I remember a particular Pentecost Vigil when the Veni Sancte Spiritus was sung, each verse in a different language. It was like another Pentecost.”
What are some assignments you’ve had in the past?“
My love and my passion is being in a parish. I’ve been the pastor of four parishes (some clustered), ranging in size from 15 families to 1,500 families. I spent three years on staff at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington serving in the office for Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. I was also vicar general for the Diocese of Bismarck.
I have been blessed with a lot of perspectives on the Church. I know what it is to see things from the perspective of the parish and an entire diocese as well as from the national and international perspective. All of these have expanded my vision of the Church.”
What are some of your hobbies?
Who is your favorite artist or artwork?“I like to play golf, keep up with friends, read, and go to art museums. I’m partial to authors like Graham Greene, Dostoyevsky, and Mann. Good literature and art help one to see grace and beauty in the midst of life. It opens your eyes and having a sense of beauty is crucial in the life of a priest, especially in preaching and celebrating the sacraments. Beauty is an important part of liturgy and helps people enter into the faith; it helps to develop one’s human spirit and a sense of compassion and empathy.”
Who inspires you?
“My parents. They were interesting … and interested … people. They had an openness and a curious spirit. In high school, I had an elderly teacher who was a Benedictine nun who introduced me to the liberal arts. A professor in college, Father Godfrey Diekmann, taught patristics and made me feel like I was in the presence of the Fathers. These teachers were wonderful because they had incredible knowledge and a passion for their material.
My ordaining bishop was an incredible leader. He had an expansive vision of the Church and was constantly thinking outside the box. I also had a fantastic spiritual director in seminary, Father George Aschenbrenner, SJ. He introduced me to Ignatian spirituality and showed me how relevant it is for the diocesan priesthood.”
What are you looking forward to the most about working here?
“When you’re in a parish, your parishioners are the focus of your ministry. Here, the seminarians are. I’m looking forward to teaching the seminarians and learning from them. I will be 60 next year and hanging around with a younger generation brings new energy and zeal. I’m excited about what I have to offer them but also about what they have to offer me.
I’ve been celebrating liturgy for many years. What I love about liturgy is that it incarnates theology. Everything about liturgy flows from the theological disciplines. This new assignment gives me the opportunity to reflect on these things with the staff and seminarians here.
I said yes to this assignment because I saw it as an opportunity to grow. When one is ordained, you don’t know what’s going to be asked of you, but you have to be available to do it. Being available is essential to being a priest. I’m grateful to be here.”
Jared Rutnicki is a third-year theologian studying for the Diocese of Joliet.