Priest turns 90 Easter Sunday: Time to celebrate

| March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Father Robert Valit is looking forward to his 90th birthday, which comes Easter Sunday. He will have a party the next day at the parish where he is serving, St. Michael in Stillwater. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Robert Valit will turn 90 on Easter Sunday, April 1. After 57 years of ministry, he has one wish yet to be fulfilled.

“I always say, my greatest ambition is to die in my sleep while I’m still active [in ministry],” he said.

Although he officially retired in 2001, Father Valit has been serving at St. Michael in Stillwater for 17 years, hearing confessions and celebrating Mass, both on weekends and weekdays. The way he talks about his vocation, it’s hard to believe he would ever want to stop.

“These last years have been the happiest of my life,” he said, “because I love the people, and I have a wonderful relationship with the people. I’m celebrating Eucharist regularly, doing what I love doing.”

He was born in Maryland, and his family later moved to the Twin Cities. He graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1946, and then he spent a few years figuring out what to do with his life. He landed at St. John’s University in Collegeville and spent two years there. After feeling called to a religious vocation, he left St. John’s and joined the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, aka the Trappists. That brought him to New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, where he was ordained a priest in 1961.

Later, he left the Trappists to minister in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and he was incardinated, or made a priest of the archdiocese, in 1978. In the archdiocese, Father Valit has served as a hospital chaplain and at nine parishes, including St. John the Baptist, Dayton (1983-89); St. Peter, Forest Lake (1989-93); and Our Lady of Grace, Edina (1993-2001).

“I never could have imagined I would have such a rich, full and beautiful life,” Father Valit said.

He wants friends to join him April 2, when he will celebrate a 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Michael, followed by a gathering with appetizers, cake and ice cream. He said he looks forward to the celebration, but his ministry, not his age, is his focus. In addition to celebrating Mass, he has a particular love for offering the sacrament of reconciliation.

“I understand that the priesthood is always in the service of God and his people — always,” he said. “A priest was never ordained for himself. … That’s taught me to be available to people.”

There are nine priests in the archdiocese older than Father Valit, five of whom have priestly faculties, or permission from the archbishop to offer the sacraments. As for turning 90 himself, “I don’t feel old at all,” he said.

“I thoroughly love being a priest, and I wouldn’t want to be anything else,” he added. “Once I knew that I wanted to be a priest, my life had meaning.”

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Local News