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.

5 Comments

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  1. Sr. Mary,
    I thank you as well for such a wonderful tribute to “Truke”. I don’t express well but wanted to share. My former parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary is where Fr. Bill performed my marriage twenty years ago. He had this “contagious wonderfulness” wherever he ministered. We looked forward to our Christmas/Birthday correspondence and always enjoyed parish visits with him. Fr. Bill never forgot a name and kept patience in always making you feel special. I’m fighting back the sting of tears, as our time with him was too short. “Truke” deserves all the blessings of heaven. He is sadly missed.

  2. Mary, what a wonderful tribute you wrote about a great, great man and priest. Oh, the memories…and how he cared for us in novitiate. He encouraged, prayed and loved us during those formation years and following. He ALWAYS made my heart smile…I had such sadness when he died. I KNOW so many people are who they are today…because he took the time to “simply care.” May we all be a little like “Truke”/Fr. Petrunak. Thanks for expressing so much of what I too felt.

  3. Father was a great man and he meant so much to me, as well as the family of John F. Kennedy High School. I knew him as a teacher,priest, as well a inspirational man. He served as my religion teacher and he told us about the bible and much more. The thing that i loved the best is his advice. He was a very cool teacher who was “down to earth” and knew teeangers very well. He will be dearly missed.

  4. Thanks for your memories of Fr. Bill, Barb. I know what you mean. He treated every person as a friend. I know he is praying for all of us now from heaven.

  5. I am not a lifetime member of Holy Trinity, I have belonged to other parishes, but when I heard Father Bill, I knew I was home. He was more than just a priest, he was a friend, easily approachable, someone you could always count on. We have a small parish and he would comment if we sat somewhere different or came to a different mass, because he was so accustomed to see us in a certain place. That is one of the best parts of being in a small parish, he knows when you aren’t there and would be genuinely concerned about you. Never did it sound like he was lecturing you, it always felt like you were visiting a friend. When he also paired our Parish with Sister Theresa Wilson, our CCD classes could compare to no other….When we had meetings throughout the years for different things myself and others would ask questions and talk about whatever was on our minds….they were always the same, are you ok, is your family ok, do you need anything…..you knew they were praying for you and those prayers were going straight to heaven. As a Parish we knew he was ill, but were praying that he would return to us. We are all aware of his dedication to us and heaviest on his mind was the decision that is going to be made soon about our Parish. He was more than a priest, he was a friend.

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