Retirement: Father Joseph Rudjak

A long, winding road led to priesthood

A long and winding road led Father Joseph Rudjak to the priesthood for the Diocese of Youngstown, a door which he walked through 23 years ago after serving as a deacon for 30 years.

Father Joseph Rudjak at his retirement Mass
Photo by Brian Keith

“To me, it was always about service,” said Father Rudjak, who retired in June as pastor of Holy Apostles Parish in Youngstown.

He started on the road that would take him to the priesthood when he was growing up in St. Casimir Parish in the Briar Hill neighborhood. He and his parents, Sadie and Joseph, and his four sisters attended the parish school and were very involved in parish life.

Father Rudjak has enjoyed, for most of his priesthood, serving as pastor with the parishes that merged into Holy Apostles Parish in Youngstown, which was established to serve ethnic communities in the Mahoning Valley. Through hospitality, the parish has grown and is finding new momentum for its work fulfilling the call to evangelize ethnic communities and live Mathew 25’s call to serve the poor. Until recently, part of the parish’s work has been to evangelize. 

Father’s Rudjak’s background includes years of study and scholarship. His studies were at the Atheneum of Ohio: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Xavier University, Catholic University in Lublin (Poland), Kent State University and Youngstown State. He has traveled to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, both Ephesus and Istanbul in Turkey, the Holy Land and 15 countries in Europe and has returned to Poland 14 times to study, teach and guide tours. Father Rudjak has worked with immigrants and ethnic communities through the International Institute of Youngstown and he has also taught at Kent State and Youngstown State Universities in courses such as Ethnic Politics, General Catholic Church History, American Catholic Church History, Communications, Philosophy and Comparative Religions.

Yet Father Rudjak mostly identifies with his role as pastor, enjoying the creativity that comes from working with people in ministry. He was ordained a deacon in 1970 and worked as a deacon at Mother of Sorrows Parish in Ashtabula, St. Bernard and Mother of Christ Mission in Cincinnati, St. James Parish in Warren, St. Luke Parish in Boardman, Youngstown State Newman Center, Kent State Newman Center, St. Rose Parish in Girard and Sacred Heart Parish (now St. Angela Merici Parish) in Youngstown. At St. Rose, Sacred Heart and Kent State Newman Center “Deacon Joe” strove to identify—by geographic districts and gifts of service—small Christian communities within each parish. 

Ordained a priest in 2000, Father Rudjak was associate pastor at St. Paul Parish in North Canton and has been pastor with the parishes of Holy Apostles merged parish—Saints Peter and Paul Croatian (2003), Our Lady of Hungary (2005) and St. Stephen of Hungary (2011)—since 2003. 

Father Rudjak loves God, the Church, extended family, ethnic heritage, Polish history, philosophy, sociology and motorcycling. 

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