By Father Marty Goetz
(Editor’s note: Father Marty Goetz, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, shared his reflection on Father Tom Stratman, the most senior priest in the Diocese of Davenport, who died Aug. 19.)
May 6, 1950. That is when Father Tom Stratman was ordained a priest for our diocese. He served God in nine different parishes and continued to offer Mass in retirement at St. Vincent Center in Davenport. Father Stratman died this past Saturday — serving in the priesthood for 73 years.
He was my friend and played an important part in my vocation and my priesthood. I spent time with him during my second-year internship while I was at Mundelein Seminary in 1990. He was there at my diaconate and priesthood ordination. He was there when I shared the good news of my first hole-in-one (we went to Whitey’s to celebrate with a hot fudge sundae) — and he was there when I needed confession or a little pick-me-up.
He was assigned to St. Peter’s in Keokuk and was there when I was born. He always spoke highly of my parents and was one of the first to offer sympathy when they died. He coached basketball — receiving a technical foul one time — and was always interested in what I was doing in his hometown of Burlington. And we played some golf together.
When he was reflecting on his 70th anniversary, he said two things that stuck with me. First: “The process of becoming a priest is not a straight line. There are detours along the way. But that’s how God works — in the mystery.” (I would say that is true once you’re a priest!) Second: “I’m very thankful to have been chosen by God for the priesthood. God has provided me with a wonderful life and I feel I have helped many people. I have always wanted to follow where I thought God was leading me.”
Rest in peace, Father Stratman. Thank you for following God’s call and going where he was leading you. Thank you for your faithful service of 73 years — and for your guidance and friendship. I’ll miss you. May you come to the altar of heaven with Jesus the High Priest.
Pray for the gift of vocations. May many more say yes to God and the wonderful life of the priesthood.