Michael Gerrity: Good afternoon. I'm Michael Gerrity, Chief Advancement Officer for the Midwest Augustinians. Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Ryan Gandurski. Ryan is a graduate of Saint Rita High School. He and his young family are relatively new members of Saint Jude's, the Augustinians' parish in New Lenox, Illinois. Ryan's a volunteer and a new donor to the province for which we are very grateful. He has also been active in helping make calls for the Continuing our Journey of Faith campaign. We are very pleased to have his support. Ryan, Thanks for agreeing to this interview. How are you doing today?
Ryan Gandurski: I'm doing well, Michael. Thank you for allowing me to do this interview. I'm honored.
Gerrity: We know you're very busy, and we appreciate the sacrifice of your time, your treasure, and most certainly your talent. Let me share some questions with you, Ryan, and please answer from your heart and mind as you see fit. For our audience, could you share with us how you came to know the Augustinians?
Gandurski: Sure. My first experience with the Augustinians was back in 1991. I was a freshman at Saint Rita High School in Chicago. I remember Father Bernie Danber and Father Reinhard Sternemann. They were standing by the doors welcoming all the new incoming freshman class into Saint Rita to start the new year. As I continued my years at Saint Rita, I got to know many of the Augustinians through retreats and peer ministry work, student Masses, and always caught a glimpse of the priests attending a lot of our sporting events. I played football at Saint Rita and I always would see them on the sidelines helping, supporting us, and cheering us on.
Gerrity: Oh, that's great. It sounds like you had a really full and interesting experience at Saint Rita's. You mentioned quite a few men or that you at least came across quite a few of these dear men. Are there any particular Augustinians that would you say stood out for you, that impacted your life?
Gandurski: Yeah, I would have to say the most influential Augustinian that impacted my life would have to be Father Tom McCarthy, who is currently at Saint Rita. I first met Father Tom during my senior year at Saint Rita, which would have been the school year of 1994/1995. That's the year that Father served as a school chaplain. Father Tom, to me, is a very special person. He shared many special events in my life. Just to name a few, he presided over the marriage of my wife, Jamie, and myself. He baptized both of my sons, Jacob and Joshua, at Saint Rita High School in Chicago, and actually most recently, maybe about two months ago, he baptized my nephew, Samuel, as well at Saint Rita.
Gerrity: Wow, so he's really involved with the family, to say the least. You can see why they're very grateful that Father Tom is now the Director of Vocations, because he's bringing that same dynamic spiritual attitude to a young candidate that's showing now, because we have up to 14 candidates in this Province alone where five years ago we had two.
Gandurski: Yeah, he's definitely the right person for that job.
Gerrity: Thank you so much. Ryan, I know you work a lot out in the day-to-day world, what some people call the real world. It's frankly all real to us. It's still Christ's world, but many people say the world is getting increasingly secular. They're not sure of the relevance of the Church today or orders like the Augustinians. Could you comment on what you think the Augustinian Order's role is today? Are they relevant in this society today?
Gandurski: Yeah, I think the role of the Augustinians today play a vital part in our Catholic society. They continue to educate at all levels, elementary, high school, college levels. They play an instrumental role with helping with the poor, as we know from their works down in Peru. They've helped hundreds of thousands of people throughout the years. They provide us with guidance and ministry through parish outreach programs. The Augustinians are definitely a key and vital role into the world that we live in today and need to be at the forefront with all the stuff that's going on.
Gerrity: Thank you for that. I know you're really helping the Journey of Faith campaign, Continuing our Journey of Faith campaign. Why are you doing that? I mean you're a family guy, a busy guy. You have a lot of commitments to your parish. Why this campaign?
Gandurski: The Augustinians have always played a role, a vital role in part of my formation throughout my life. My education, work ethic, career, my spirituality, all have had an influence from the Augustinians. I was honored when I was asked to participate in whatever way I could in helping with the Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign simply because I feel that it's my opportunity to give back in a small way the life lessons that I've learned from the Augustinians, so I'm honored to help in any possible way I can.
Gerrity: Thank you for that. This may sound like an obvious question, but I think it bears mentioning. If you were talking to others, fellow alumni, other "Ritamen," or anyone else, say at the parish level, why would you encourage or what would you say is the reason for them to make an extraordinary gift to this extraordinary campaign and to go that extra mile?
Gandurski: Sure. I would ask that anyone who had the opportunity to have the Augustinians be a presence in their life to reflect how that presence made an impact on who they are today. As you well know, Michael, from the calls that we have occasionally with some of the cabinet members as well as some of the folks that are helping out in the campaign, you hear the stories of how the Augustinians have touched their lives.
Behind every great school and parish or ministry work that the Augustinians are a part of, they've been the foundation for all of us, so I would definitely ask anybody who has had the opportunity to either be taught or to have the Augustinian experience to continue to support the needs of the campaign, obviously, to grow vocations and support the men in formation, support the professed working currently in the field, help all the men and folks that are retired and the infirm as they live in community. We want to make sure that they have a dignified retirement, and I would just ask that people consider helping that cause.
Gerrity: Thank you so much for that. I'd like to ask all of our listeners, too, if you want to hear more interviews like this wonderful one with Ryan that you go to augustiniancampaign, all one word, augustiniancampaign.org. You can see other interviews, information on the campaign, ways to donate, our campaign prayer, ways to get involved. We've put the campaign under the protection of our Mother of Good Counsel, and we hope you'll participate. I want to thank you again, Ryan. Is there anything in closing you'd like to say?
Gandurski: Yeah, my prayers are obviously for the success of the campaign. I know a lot of people are working hard behind the scenes as well as yourself and the cabinet members, and I do pray that this campaign is a success and I'm sure it will be.
Gerrity: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Ryan. Take care and have a great rest of your day.
Gandurski: You too, Michael. Thank you.