Since he was about five or six years old, Fr. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., says the Catholic Church has always felt like home to him. Back then, Mass was still in Latin and at that young age he memorized all the responses.
“When I was a very young child, I was just fascinated by the Church,” said Dlugos, who grew up in the Philadelphia area. “I liked going to church with my parents and I became an altar server before I received my first Holy Communion.”
That fascination and affection never waned and ultimately led Dlugos to his life’s vocation. This month he marks 40 years as a priest in the Order of St. Augustine. A celebratory Mass open to all will take place on Sunday, Nov. 26, at 5 p.m. at Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher, exactly four decades to the day from Dlugos’ ordination Mass.
“It has gone by pretty quickly…it is hard to believe it has been that long,” he said.
Dlugos was drawn to the Order of St. Augustine while attending an Augustinian high school, saying it was the Order’s dedication to living in community while serving in ministry, as well as the opportunity to do work in many different places and missions around the world, that appealed to him.
Since his ordination in 1983, Dlugos has served as a parish priest, a high school teacher, the vocation director for the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova, CEO of a psychological treatment center for priests, nuns, and others in religious life, and a variety of roles at Merrimack.
“In my 40 years as a priest, I have had two jobs that I had training for,” Dlugos said, who earned his doctorate in counseling psychology from SUNY Albany. “A parish priest and a staff psychologist. But my vocation is not my job. It is not my job to be an administrator or a classroom teacher. I am a priest and a religious. The most important thing I can do wherever I am is to pray for people.”
Dlugos has spent almost half of his priesthood at Merrimack College, arriving in 2008. In his first semester, he was tapped to develop a mission statement for the College. Despite being new to the campus community, Dlugos worked with students, faculty and staff to craft the mission statement that is used to this day: Enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower lives.
“These words ‘enlighten, engage and empower’ had come up during the process and they are words that also appear in St. Augustine’s theology of grace,” Dlugos noted.
As he reflects on his time as a priest, Dlugos said one thing he has learned from the totality of his experiences and mission is to have a deep appreciation of the sacredness of being a human being.
“One of the themes of my preaching is we are called to be human as Jesus was human, we are not called to be gods as Jesus was God,” Dlugos notes. “Being human is hard but it’s filled with invitations. What gives me hope, especially when it comes to our students is when they are their honest and true selves, they are fabulous. They are a source of great hope and they have a lot of faith.”