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FATHER TODD UNGER

Let me introduce myself, I am Fr. Todd Unger, presently the pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Redmond, Oregon. I was ordained June 29, 1982.

I was born and raised in St. Thomas Parish, so it is an added blessing for me to return and minister to the parish that fostered my vocation to the priesthood. In those first 18 years in Redmond I did the normal things of a Catholic boy and young adult. In the early years the Sisters of the Holy Names would spend one or two weeks in the summer teaching summer school. I think that they were the first to plant the seeds of a vocation in my soul. Growing up, lay members of the parish would teach the release time religious education classes and the classes for sacramental preparation during the year. Fr. Francis McCormick, Msgr. William Stone and Fr. Thomas Moore were the pastors in those formative years. My service at the altar started as an altar boy in cassock and surplus just as the Mass began to be celebrated in English. In hindsight it would have been good to have known all the Latin responses. With two older brothers and one younger brother, there was an Unger on the altar for over 12 years. After the Holy Names Sistersí encouragement, and the different parish priests, it was Fr. Thomas Moore who raised the question at one Sunday Mass, "why has this parish never had a religious vocation and the parish should be thinking about the answer". Someone said, with a smile on their face, they thought that only men from Ireland could be priests. For the first 25 years as a parish, we had only Irish pastors.

It was as a freshman in College that I seriously thought about being a priest. That was my year at Oregon State University. My sophomore year was spent at University of Portland, in an overseas study program. During that year I was able to focus on the call to priesthood with the resident priest. It came down to taking the next step and that was to go to Mt. Angel Seminary as a junior in College. That is the purpose of the Seminary, to help discern the call and if the call might be there, to form oneself in this lifelong vocation. I graduated two years later from the college seminary and under advisement of the formation team; I entered the graduate school at Mt. Angel Seminary for further study with the strong idea that I was called to the priesthood. On June 11th, 1981, I was ordained a deacon and then on June 29th 1982, a priest, both at St. Thomas in Redmond for the Diocese of Baker. The Diocese of Baker is all of Oregon East of the Cascades. Thus began my last thirty years.

My first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Maryís Catholic Church in Pendleton for four years. It was in those years that I really found out what priesthood was all about. There were the joyful moments of weddings and baptism, first communions and first confessions. The sad moments of family tragedies and deaths. I learned very quickly that it is not what one says at these times, but that one just is there. There were many life changing experiences in those first years. After four years at St. Maryís it was thought that I had learned enough to become a pastor in a small parish. My next assignment was St. Elizabeth church in John Day and including all of Grant County. There I had the main parish church and three mission churches to minister to. There I learned that no matter what I did, if I communicated with the people of the church of the direction I thought we needed to go, they would support me and if they needed to pick me up if I fell, they would. After four years in John Day, Bishop Connolly asked that I move to St. Patrick Church in Madras. St. Patrickís is the only tri-lingual parish in the diocese with the mission of now St. Kateri Tekakwitha church on the Warms Springs Indian Reservation, and the English and Spanish speaking members in Madras. I was able to be pastor here for eight years. Each parish presents different challenges and different joys. Each parish allows for new and lasting relationships with the members of that community. My next assignment was to St. Peterís church in The Dalles. I was able to minister there for eleven years. St. Peterís presented a bi-lingual parish of English and Spanish as are most of our parishes in the Diocese. The new opportunity that St. Peterís offered that I had not had up to this point was a Catholic school. St. Maryís Academy (SMA) was founded by the Holy Names Sisters in 1864, making it the oldest continuous running school in Oregon East of the Cascades and one of the four oldest schools in the State of Oregon. SMA is a pre-school through eighth grade school. The school let me strengthen my administration skills when twice I become the Principal of the school. My next and present assignment was to St. Thomas in Redmond. I have been here for three and half years. The worry at first was "can a prophet be accepted in his native place"? After 27 years of priesthood I have felt very accepted in returning to my native place. The parish community had already built a new church before I came and then turned around and built a new parish center to house the church offices and St. Thomas Academy, a Catholic school of pre-school through fourth grade. For the parish to come together and put all the parish activities on one campus is a real testimony of faith.

Growing up in Redmond, I came from a family that always saw service as a part of our life. The priesthood became my way of being of service to those around me. I have been challenged in many ways these last thirty years but there has always been the support of my faith and the people of faith to keep me going or to know when to try a new path in ministry. Yes, I would do it all over again.
 



 

Prayer for priests

 

Lord Jesus Christ, bless and strengthen those you have chosen to share your priesthood. We intercede for them all Ė from the Pope, to whom you entrusted the office of Peter, the rock, to the most obscure of your priests wherever he labors. We pray especially for priests who have touched our lives most closely; the priests who presently serve in our parish and former parishes where we lived. Those who have ministered your grace to us in the sacraments; the priests who have taught us and counseled us, the priests who have married us and buried our loved ones. Give them above all, holiness of life, courage and zeal in the times of trial, wisdom and compassion in dealing with others. For our part, good Lord, grant that we respect the consecration of their lives, recognize their humanness and sustain them by their cooperation in the work of your Church. O Divine Master, open to our youth your vision of the fields ready for harvest. Bless our families and parish with many priestly vocations and keep all your have called close to Your sacred heart.            AMEN.


 


 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baker 
641 SW Umatilla Ave  .  Redmond, OR  97756  .  (541) 388-4004


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