For the young men preparing to enter religious life, and even those well into their ministry, a spiritual director is that special person who walks with them, listening and offering counsel deepened by their own spiritual journey.
Fr. Frederick Sucher, CP, is 91. He has served as a teacher, novice master, community leader, scholar and spiritual director for some 60 years. Today, in any gathering of the body of Passionist priests, brothers and lay people, all heads turn and listen when Fr. Fred shares his thoughts on the matter at hand. His grasp of Passionist history and the charism of St. Paul of the Cross, seasoned by decades of life as a vowed religious, have earned him not only respect, but enormous affection as well.
A Worthy Goal
As a boy of ten Fr. Fred lost his father, and with the Great Depression weighing hard, he and his sister went to live at a nearby orphanage. It was here that he met the Passionists who were chaplains. “They were the saints I knew,” he says, “men who seemed happy and were trying to be holy.” Fr. Fred prayed and read about going to the minor seminary, and at the age of 14 he made a choice that would alter his life’s course. Today, of the 36 young men that entered the minor seminary that year, only Fr. Fred remains. “I am the ‘last of the Mohicans,’” he says with humor, a touch of grit, and wonder tinged with humility.
How does he cope with the reality of loss? “I characterize myself as a ball bearing. I roll in any groove you put me in. I believe in the will of God. When He wills a change and it’s clear, then it’s time for me to say yes.”
Time may have shortened his step a bit, but his mind remains sharp as ever. His most recent contribution was the translation of all the letters of St. Paul of the Cross in chronological order from Italian into English, a project undertaken with classmate Fr. Roger Mercurio. He also still travels to Whitesville, KY, to provide spiritual direction to the Passionist nuns.
Finally, what does Fr. Fred want to say to the young people who journey today? “I’m convinced God is in our lives. I truly believe that the Son of God so loved you and me that He was willing to die so that he could bring us with Him into a happiness that will never end. Ask yourself whether you could take even the first steps to embrace that and spend your life learning how to do that better and better. I ask you to consider whether that is or is not as worthy a goal for your life as it has been for mine.”