At the Sixth Annual Augustinian Gala, on April 27, we will be celebrating the service of four very special honorees: Fr. John Merkelis, O.S.A., Br. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A., and Augustinian Affiliates Tony and Phyllis Lauinger. For those of you who will not be able to join us in celebrating these honorees, we ask that you consider taking out a congratulatory ad in our Program Book or making a Tribute Donation to honor one specific honoree.
In celebrating Fr. John Merkelis, O.S.A, we honor a man who has provided extraordinary spiritual care and guidance to the community of Providence Catholic High School, to the friars he serves as Personnel Director and Vicar Provincial, and to all those who are blessed to call him a friend.
Fr. Merkelis had recognized his call to the priesthood from a very early age, though his call to the Augustinian Order happened without his even knowing it. As he said in a 2015 interview:
I knew I wanted to be a priest. I guess you could call it dumb luck or the Holy Spirit. One day, the Augustinians came into my 7th or 8th grade classroom when they were doing grade school visitation. They said, "If you want to be a priest, here's how you do it." I remember running home to my mom saying, "Mom, I found out how you have to be a priest. It took me about a year in the seminary before I found out that Augustinian religious life is different than diocesan priesthood.
At the age of 14, he entered the Augustinian Seminary in Holland, MI and continued his formation at Villanova University. He made his solemn profession of vows to the Order in 1984, and, following a diaconate internship at St. Joseph Parish in Pekin, IL, was ordained a priest in April of 1985.
His first post was as Associate Pastor at Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish, St. Louis, MO, which he held from 1986 to 1988. In 1988, Fr. Merk became Director of Pastoral Ministry at Providence Catholic High School, where, in 1994, he was named Principal.
Though it is hard to believe a Principal could take on a second job, Fr. Merk took over as Director of Vocations in 1999. He moved to the position of Pastoral Director of Providence Catholic in 2004, and he stepped down as Director of Vocations in 2006, when he became Director of Pastoral Ministry at the school.
In 2012 he was appointed Province Personnel Director. He was re-elected to this office in 2014. Also in 2014, Father Merkelis was appointed a member of the Province Council. He continues to serve as Province Personnel Director, Vicar Provincial, and Director of Pastoral Ministry at Providence Catholic.
“Merk has been a very pastoral person in all if his ministries, most especially at Providence Catholic High School over these many years. His work with the Kairos Retreat Program has been a wonderful way for him to communicate with the young people to help them realize more fully, God's endless and unconditional love!” said Fr. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A..