We often hear stories of how our religious came to be part of the Holy Cross Community, but what’s not trumpeted as loudly are the stories from the parents of our religious. We caught up with Dennis and Carla Strach, to talk briefly about what it’s like to be the parents of a young Holy Cross Religious.
When you learned Fr. Dennis was interested in discerning a vocation to priesthood, what was your reaction?
Carla: Dennis always expressed an interest. After Mass, we would come home and he’d put out my old shirts as a vestment, flatten out white bread for the Host … the dog would get Communion …. Later on, for career day, he wanted to dress up as a priest. He wasn’t obsessed, but we thought he would maybe grow out of it. In high school, at the very first parent/teacher conference, one of the Marist priests who ministered at the school said, “I think your son has the calling.” That was the first time that someone else had mentioned the priesthood as a possibility for Den. We were really taken aback!
Dennis: Dennis wanted to enter formation right out of high school … but he was just 17 and barely driving. We thought he ought to go to college first, and have an education to fall back on in case he changed his mind. He went to a local college and got his B.A. in music and a minor in Spanish. Then it came to a point where Dennis said, “I can only talk to so many people and read so many books – it’s time to give this a shot.”
What were your feelings toward the Congregation of Holy Cross?
Carla: As a mom, I never thought he’d want to (nor did I want him to) go away. I knew he wanted to check out being a priest, but where was Moreau Seminary and what was “Holy Cross”? Dennis had never talked about religious orders. I didn’t even know what that was!
Dennis: Our first assumption was that he was going to be a priest in a parish somewhere in town – somewhere we could drive to every Sunday. We had to learn a bit more about it. When I visited the University of Notre Dame with Dennis, I was particularly impressed. Fr. Tom Eckert, C.S.C., made a comment, “I’ve had guys in my dorm that want to be a chemical engineer or a lawyer, and two years later they decide it’s not for them … this is also Dennis’s time to determine if he has a calling.” It was a clever way of introducing it to us. This was a trial time to make sure he loved it. Our attitude changed seeing him happy here.
Carla: I only have one child and I don’t know why he can’t keep doing Mass in our family room! But the more I learned, the more I cried, because I knew it was right. After understanding and being a part of Holy Cross ourselves, we see how there’s so many ways for him to grow.