Service to others is something that people often think to do in passing, or perhaps in their free time. For Father Patrick Wedeking, it’s a way of life. In his 25 years as a priest of the Diocese of Gallup, he’s lived and worked in many places – up north in Farmington with the Knight of Columbus, in Gallup, and far down at the south end of the Diocese, in the vast and beautiful area which includes town such as Reserve, Datil, and Glenwood.
Along with his standard duties, he also gave 34 years of service to the United States Air Force, fulfilling the duties of a chaplain for the reserves until his recent retirement. In fact, his time in the military began long before he entered seminary at Holy Apostles in Connecticut, and it was while he enlisted that he began to consider a call to the priesthood.
“It really goes back to the Air Force,” Fr. Wedeking says. “I began to help the chaplains there, and saw their work.”
Originally from Kansas, Fr. Wedeking had a friend who was a priest in the Diocese of Gallup. He decided that this was where he wanted to be, and after being ordained, he balanced service to the people of the United States with service to the people of the southwest. Each assignment enhanced the other.
“Along with Masses and Confessions [in the Air Force], there’s a lot of counseling and visitation,” said Fr. Wedeking. “You never know who you’ll counsel. Here, [in the Diocese] my experience counseling soldiers helps because I’ve learned how to ‘plant the seed’. Many times, people aren’t going to come to you. You have to go to them. Maybe they have excess baggage of some kind that keeps them from going to church. You have to have patience and be hopeful.”
He recalls one encounter with a man in Reserve while serving as the pastor.
“I did a lot of maintenance around the church. One time, while I was outside working, I met a nearby neighbor. We got to talking, and he turned out to be an inactive Catholic.” Fr. Wedeking said that this was an example to him of people who might be in need of someone to listen to them, and a reminder to always be helpful and patient in his encounters with people inside and outside church life.
Currently, Fr. Wedeking is stationed in Catron county, New Mexico, in the southern part of the Diocese. While beautiful – it is home to the Gila National Forest – it is also remote, and Fr. Wedeking says that his goals for the future include learning about the people who make their home there.
“I really want to reach out to people in the area,” he says. “Families are very sparse, so I’d like to update a census – find out where people are and what they need.”
Although his military years are behind him, Fr. Wedeking still has much he hopes to do for the people encounters everyday as a priest. And as he’s always done, he will continue to “plant the seed”.