His students called him “Truke,” his colleagues at the high schools called him “Trunes,” his family and the people of Holy Trinity called him “Fr. Bill.” Whatever name, Fr. William Petrunak was beloved.
I have been thinking about him a lot since I learned of his death (he died on Saturday Feburary 13, 2010). He was a teacher at Ursuline High School when I was a student there in the early 1970s. I taught with him on the faculty in the late 70s and into the 1980s. In between my graduation and when I returned to the faculty he was one of the priests involved in our formation for Ursuline Religious Life. He was always a promoter of vocations – for the priesthood and for nuns. He prayed regularly for vocations and encouraged his students to consider becoming a nun or a priest.
So what do I remember most about Fr. Petrunak? First of all, he loved the priesthood. One of his favorite days was Holy Thursday when he joined with the other priests of the Diocese of Youngstown to renew and remember his ordination. Second, he was devoted to high school age students. Even before Catholics talked much about “youth ministry,” he was drawn to young people and they to him. What is even more impressive is that he kept in touch with so many of his former students. They would return to seek his counsel and his blessing when they got married, when they had their own children, and when they were in trouble, whatever it was. Third, though he was committed to high schoolers, he was also a beloved pastor. Just ask anyone at St. Mary, Orwell, Little Flower, Middlebranch, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Austintown, or his beloved Holy Trinity, Struthers, his home parish. Last year when he celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination people from all of those places joined with his former students at Ursuline and JFK to celebrate with him.
I will miss him. The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown will miss him. He was always a good friend to us.
Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.