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Thursday, September 4, 2008
"New face at St. Sebastian's"
Below is a very good article about Fr. Valencheck who moderates the blog Adam's Ale.
Rev. John Valencheck is no stranger to Akron. He was guided to the priesthood at Sacred Heart Parish in Barberton
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer
Photo by Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal
Catherine Paparella nudged her college buddy more than 20 years ago during a Mass and told him he had the perfect personality to be a priest.
''We were listening to a seminarian who was talking about the vocations and who might consider being a priest,'' Paparella said. ''I elbowed him and pointed to him, saying, 'That's you.' ''
Two months ago, that college friend — the Rev. John Valencheck — showed up at Paparella's parish, St. Sebastian in West Akron, as the new priest.
''I'm really blessed. This is such a nice place to be. The people here are so involved with their parish,'' Valencheck said. ''We're still getting to know each other and I come with no intention to change who they are. I'm trying to get to who they are as a people so I can love them for who they are.''
Valencheck, who celebrated his 43rd birthday on Aug. 24, was assigned to St. Sebastian on June 24, succeeding the Rev. William Karg, who retired after 44 years in ministry. He came to St. Sebastian from St. Clare in Lyndhurst, but he is no stranger to the area.
A Barberton native, Valencheck grew up in Sacred Heart Parish, the place where he says he received nurturing that guided him to the priesthood. That influence came from the late Rev. Joseph Ozimek, a longtime pastor of the Barberton parish.
''He is the priest who affected my life most and first got me thinking about the priesthood. I remember showing up to serve at a Mass and saying, 'I've got to serve again,' '' Valencheck said. ''Father Ozimek stopped me and said, 'No. You get to serve again.' He helped me recognize that it is a privilege to serve God.
''When I got here, I discovered one drawer that wasn't cleaned out. When I pulled the last thing from the drawer, it was a rule book from the seminary from 1942. When I opened the book, I saw his handwritten name, Joseph Ozimek. It was his old book from the seminary. I saw that as a confirmation that I am supposed to be here at St. Sebastian.''
Valencheck was ordained a priest in 1998 and his first assignment was at St. Ambrose in Brunswick. One of his fellow seminarians, the Rev. G. David Bline, who was recently assigned to lead St. Francis de Sales parish in Coventry Township, describes Valencheck as a thoughtful, authentic, down-to-earth person and a great preacher.
''He's one of my favorite preachers. He has such a love for finding truth and as he works his way through finding that truth, he helps others find truth,'' Bline said. ''He's a genuine person who loves tradition. He's a throwback, but he has a great blog. He has a passion for traditions but knows how to bring them into the present.''
Among the traditions that Valencheck is attached to are a cup, foam, brush and razor for shaving, and windup clocks. He also has an affinity for 1930s radio shows and soundtracks from old movies. He continues the tradition of accordion playing from his Slovenian upbringing. He also wears the traditional black cassock.
Before embarking upon his six years of seminary study, Valencheck received a degree in theater arts at the University of Akron. He worked as a director, designer, prop master and set builder, but acted only ''if people were desperate,'' he said.
Nothing, however, compares to his current role.
''I cannot believe this is what I do. I serve Christ and I serve people,'' Valencheck said. ''My job is to make sure that I get into heaven and that other people get into heaven. What could be better?''
Valencheck said his hope for St. Sebastian is for it to continue to be a beacon of light in the community. He said his goal is for everything at the parish to be centered on the Eucharist.
''I like to take credit for his being in the priesthood,'' Paparella said. ''But I think the good Lord had much more to do with it than I did.''
H/t to Chrsitian