By Father Rudolph Juarez
(Editor’s note: Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, shares his reflection about Father Tom Stratman, the most senior priest in the Diocese of Davenport, who died Aug. 19.)
Yesterday I went to the Clarissa Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf to visit Father Tom Stratman, whom I served under as his associate priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf after I left St. Anthony Parish in the early ‘80s. I was still very green as a priest and had much to learn.
For instance, one time during morning Mass I was saying the prayers over the gifts at the altar and instead of saying: “Blessed are you Lord of all Creation for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you ….” I started saying grace: “Bless us, O Lord and these thy gifts…” I have to admit, at that time mornings were not my strong point.
Now, I can’t sleep much past 6:30 a.m., but in those days, it was a chore to get up in the morning, so much so that I was often late for the early Mass during the week. After a couple of instances of not getting out of bed on time, I would wander downstairs to the kitchen very embarrassed to find a very unhappy pastor.
I was finally cured of my affliction. One morning, well before I was supposed to say the early Mass, I sat up in bed startled by the sound of a really loud bell. The sound was coming from an alarm clock underneath my bed that someone had mysteriously placed there.
That morning, after Mass, as I walked into the kitchen I saw Father Tom looking up from his newspaper with a smile on his face as big as the Cheshire Cat. He greeted me with the loudest, “Good morning Father!” I have ever heard in my priesthood.
I will never forget my years at Lourdes and the pastoral guidance I received from Father Stratman, who was a quiet and unassuming pastor with a tender heart for his people. Father Stratman entered eternal life on Aug. 19, 2023. He will always be etched in my memory as a good and holy man. It is true as we hear in Sacred Scripture:
“… Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, for their works accompany them’” (Revelation 14:13).
God with us! Father R.