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September 13, 2009

He learned from boyhood to care for others

By Dolores Madlener



Father Ronald Gollatz, pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Wauconda, stands beside one of his favorite pieces of art given to him by a friend.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Ronald Gollatz, pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Wauconda. Former pastor at St. Francis de Sales, Lake Zurich. Ordained 1972.

Family life: “We lived in a twoflat in Our Lady Help of Christians and my grandparents lived upstairs. My sister, a nurse at Loyola, is four years younger than me. Dad was a gear cutter for Illinois Gear & Machine Co. on the Northwest Side for over 30 years. He only went to high school a couple years but he was knowledgeable in the seasons and growing things, or fixing, repairing and building things.”

Priesthood: “My parents were regular weekend Catholics, but didn’t do much more in the parish. Vocation encouragement came more from the BVM nuns in school and the many priests living in the rectory. There were always one or two recently ordained priests talking with us. They were all good mentors.” Eight of the boys in his graduation class went to Quigley.

Seminary: “I went one year to Niles and decided I didn’t have a religious vocation, so I left and went to DePaul.” He has an undergraduate degree in psychology from DePaul. “But after I graduated, and had been dating, I had a sense that maybe God was inviting me to consider priesthood. I had to give the idea one more opportunity. I ended up at Mundelein in the same class I had left.”

His secret to building community: “I suppose it’s being present for key moments of a parishioner’s life, and present at parish events so people get to see and know me and vice versa. My leadership style is collaborative. I might have a preference for something but if my pastoral staff or faculty has a different consensus, I think the whole of us may know better than the one of us.”

He cooks: His best dish? “I cook anything.” He doesn’t have a lot of time for it, but he makes dinner for the staff and faculty once or twice a year. “I’ve cooked Thanksgiving for my family for the last 18 years or so. It’s relaxing and therapeutic.” He has contributed recipes to many local cookbooks. “We’re just offering one now from Transfiguration and I’ve got eight recipes in that one.”

Prayer: “I’m part of a priest prayer-sharing group.” They follow the Marriage Encounter/ Priest Encounter process of caring dialogue. “There are four of us at the present time. We’ve been meeting monthly for about 32 years. After that many years sharing our hearts in the context of the Lord, a lot of truth is spoken lovingly. It’s a holy and wholesome gathering that sustains us.”

Day off: “I take Thursdays off ‘religiously.’ I have a little place my folks and I bought 27 years ago on a lake.” He calls it his padded cell. “I do a lot of things in and outside the house, following in my father’s footsteps (not that I’m that handy), or just raking seaweed. People ask why do that on my day off? Because I can see clear results, unlike the rest of the week. And I like being outside as well.”

Foundational memory: “My mother had polio as an infant. As a handicapped person a lot of our family friends were also disabled. Friends would come for a gathering in our two-flat, and Dad and I would go out and lift their wheelchair and bring them up stairs. It became second nature for my sister and me to assist people. We never questioned it — never had to be told. It was a good beginning for our two lives of service.”