Interview with Fr. Joe Stobba, O.S.A.

Patrick Murphy: Hello everyone. This is Murphy with the Midwest Augustinians. Today I am here with Father Joe Stobba, who currently resides here in Chicago. In the past I know that he has been the pastor of St. Rita Parish in Chicago, as well as the St. Rita Parish in Racine, Wisconsin, among other ministries.  Father Joe, it's a pleasure to have you with us today.

Fr. Joe Stobba, O.S.A.: Thank you.

Murphy: The first question that I love to ask all of our friars to begin with is what was it that called you to be an Augustinian?

Stobba: I came from an Augustinian parish, St. Rita’s in Chicago. I grew up there. At a very early age, while I was still in grade school at St. Rita’s, I was attracted by the priests of our parish, the Augustinians. I said to myself, "That's what I want to be. That's the kind of life I want to live." That's how it began, and I just pursued it until it happened.

Murphy: Where there any particular Augustinians of the parish that really helped move that along?

Stobba: Yeah. Sure.

Murphy: I know that's a dangerous question. Sometimes there could be a lot.

Stobba: Yeah. I admired very much our pastor, Father Patrick Kehoe and Father John Reidy, Father Luke Sweeney, Father Ed Griffin. These priests, of course, they're all deceased now, but they certainly influenced me quite a bit. Father Clem McHale, who went away to the military service. He was in the Navy, and that caught my attention, too.

Yeah. All of them along the way had a great influence on me.

Murphy: Looking over your ministry over the past years, as well as where the Augustinian Order can go, what would you say the role is of the Augustinian Order in today's society, and are they still relevant in today's society?

Stobba: Yeah. Are they...?  Certainly. I see us as a sign of hope. A sign of hope that in a world that faces so much violence, and crime, and selfishness, and despair, and blatant dishonesty. It's a sign of hope, and I think that we emphasize the establishing of Christian communities. We emphasize that idea of community to preserve and to live the gospel values.

I think people see that as an oasis in our world. This is a place where I can really experience Gospel values. I can experience the presence of Jesus and God in the community, and it gives me a great deal of hope.

Murphy: I like that you... Well, not only just the message of overall hope, which I think that a lot of people in today's Church at least are sensing, or are hoping for, but I, also, like how you say it's an oasis. There certainly is a lot of awful things and a lot of even, yes, sometimes horrific things going on in the world, but the Augustinians, I think they are trying to provide that oasis to people, whether if it's as a friend, or in the schools, or the parishes. I like how you phrase it like that.

Stobba: Yes. It's how I think people experience it. They come there to... "Wow. This is what I've been looking for. I feel good here. I feel peace." Yeah.

Murphy: As you know, we, also, want to talk about the campaign today, the Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign.

Stobba: Yes.

Murphy: That campaign, it hopes to build the Father Ray Ryan Trust and the Journey of a Lifetime Trust. Those two trusts care for the vocations and the retirement needs of the Province. Given that, why do you think the campaign is particularly important right now?

Stobba: Yeah. I would say that it is an investment, an investment in Gospel values. An investment in spirituality. An investment in our Church.

The Father Ray Ryan Trust, you know he spent many of his years in formation, and contributing to that, I would say, would be an act of faith, an act of faith that we are going to invest in these men to provide for us leadership and for the next generations, we're going to provide sound spiritual leadership for people. As we have received so, we want to provide that for the next generations. I would see that part of the campaign as an investment in faith, an act of faith.

The other part of it, about the elderly and all that, I would see that as an act of gratitude, of thanksgiving for the act of love. That these men gave their lives in order to provide the spiritual nourishment and guidance for people along the way, and people recognize that. They know, they realize that they have received something special, and they want to be thankful for that, and grateful for that. I would say that part of the campaign, contributing to that is an act of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Murphy: Faith, love, thanksgiving, and gratitude. Those are all things that we definitely need more of in our own lives, and I can definitely see how all of those really play into the campaign.

This is a silly question, but did you know Father Ray Ryan before he passed very well?

Stobba: Oh, my. We were very good friends. We vacationed together numerous times. I remember once I was celebrating my 15th anniversary, and I brought up the idea of going to Europe, and we were going to tour Europe with a group for thirty days. He said, "Well, okay, Joe, I'll do it, but one of two things is going to happen. We are going to be the very best of friends when we come back, or we're never going to talk to each other again. That's what's going to happen."

Yeah, sure. We were great friends. While we were both in Chicago at the same time, particularly while he was Provincial, we would meet every Wednesday afternoon. Right after lunch we would meet in Hyde Park where he was living at the St. John Stone Friary, and get on our bicycles. I introduced him to biking, and we'd bike the path down the Lake Shore path and back. Then we would clean up, and then we would have dinner together, and we would go to Theater on the Lake. It's an economy place for seeing some theater, and we would do that every week all during the summer. It was great. We were great friends.

Murphy: I knew him for a little while before he passed, but I hear so many stories of just the great fun-loving, charitable man that he was, and how many lives that he changed. For the benefit of the people that are listening that don't know Father Ray Ryan, or maybe don't know him very well, do you think it's appropriate that the trust that hopes to raise money for vocations is named after him?

Stobba: Yes, very much so. He gave not only the years, the years that he was in formation, the director of postulants. He was with the novitiate in two different times, two different locations. He was the director of professed. Yeah. He gave not only the years, but he gave himself. He gave himself totally when he was in those positions to the formation and education of those men, and, of course, he was a splendid example of an excellent Augustinian himself.

 Yes, very appropriate.

Murphy: Do you have any advice for anybody listening that might be discerning a religious vocation right now?

Stobba: What I would say was get to know as many Augustinians as you can. Attend Augustinian sponsored events. Visit Augustinian communities. Be there among us, and then ask yourself what do I feel when I'm among these men? What do I feel? I think that your response to that will give you some clue whether this is a good fit, the Augustinians are a good fit for you.

Murphy: Father, we, also, have... Interviewing you today, we, also, have the added benefit that you live with a lot of men right now that are in formation to be solemnly professed Augustinians, and to become ordained priests, since you live at St. Augustinian Friary in Chicago.  What's your experience been like being in a house of formation with those young men?

Stobba: It's great. It's really great. I enjoy it a great deal. I was at the the novitiate for 15 years. I was a pastor of the parish there. That was a formation community, so I lived with them there, and then I'm living with them now. It's been four years I've been with them now. There's so much energy among them, and to hear them discussing their various classes in theology, it's good to just listen to them and see how the presentation of these various truths of our faith are being presented, perhaps in a different way than we received, but still the same faith. I find that very interesting, and I enjoy living with them very much.

Murphy: In many ways when I hear the... Father Bernie Scianna, the Prior Provincial, when I hear him speak about the men in formation that are novices or pre-novices, he also talks a lot about kind of that sense of hope for the Church, because these guys that are joining the Order they're hope-filled, and they're full of energy. In a lot of ways, he says, that it gives him hope. It gives him inspiration.

Stobba: Very much so. I would agree with that. Yes, it does. It gives me a shot in the arm. Yeah.

Murphy: Well, the last question I have here is given all this information, and everything that you've experienced in your ministry and continue to experience, why should others go the extra mile to make a special gift to the capital campaign?

Stobba: I would say it's very basic, very simple, and that is because we need it. We need it. I reflect upon the fact that Jesus came to live among us, and He did that because we needed it, because we needed salvation. That's why He did it, because we needed it, and He loved us so much that I'm going to do it, and He did, and He did it in grand style. I think it's kind of patterned after that. We need it.

Murphy: Thank you. Thank you very much, Father. This has been great talking with you, and I hope that people enjoy listening to it. If any of the listeners want more information, you can find plenty more here at, or you can contact campaign director, Michael Gerrity at 773-595-4035.

Once again, Father Joe, thank you so much for taking up the time, and I hope you have a blessed day.

Stobba: Okay. Thank you, Patrick. Thank you. Bye bye.

Posted on December 8, 2014 and filed under Joe Stobba O.S.A..