Fr. Raj, parochial administrator at Good Shepherd, Rib Lake, stands April 20 in vestments made in India for his jubilee. (Submitted photo)

Mary Kauer, parish secretary

We recognize the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us when it comes to baptisms, weddings, funerals, and even anniversary celebrations in our communities, but that does not stop the people of Good Shepherd Parish in Rib Lake.

Fr. Hrudaya Raju Sunkara arrived in October and was assigned as parochial administrator of Good Shepherd, after Fr. Otto Bucher’s retirement to St. Fidelis Friary in Appleton in August.

This was a difficult time for the parish, with no priest for about two months. Fr. Raj was accepted with open arms, and he and the parish looked forward to celebrating his 25th priestly jubilee on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Invitations had already been mailed or handed out, only to discover the public celebration needed to be cancelled for that day. But that did not stop the people from letting Fr. Raj know how much he was appreciated. The week following his anniversary was proclaimed “Make a Joyful Noise Week.”  The parishioners received an email asking them to participate any way they could in wishing Fr. Raj special anniversary wishes.

There was “Honk for a Happy Anniversary,” whereby parishioners passed by the rectory honking and waving from their car windows to him. Other wishes included phone calls, cards, and a song of blessing by the parish secretary. The church entrance bulletin board was emptied for people to post a card with their spiritual prayer wishes for Fr. Raj. Banners were hung in the rectory window and in the doorway of the office with congratulatory wishes.

But the parish decided to have a bit of fun with Fr. Raj, too. The local police officer came by during the week with lights and siren to see Fr. Raj. He was told by the officer that he was required to give out a citation, a ticket, to Fr. Raj. The picture of Fr. Raj expresses his surprised and bewildered look – his mouth dropped open, wondering what he had done.

The ticket said it all – it was from the people of Good Shepherd, saying, “The issuance of this ticket is for being a devoted and faithful servant of Good Shepherd, in recognition of your 25th anniversary as a priest.”  Attached to the “citation” were tickets for the local pizza parlor.

COVID-19 will not stop our ability to bring Easter joy into our lives.  The parish looks forward to celebrating his anniversary at a later date.