Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Deacon takes charge of programs, hospitality at retreat center

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Feb. 7, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Deacon Dave Dudinsky’s life keeps coming around to education.

Ordained in 1999 by Bishop William Skylstad, Deacon Dudinsky recently took up a new ministry: manager of programs and guests at Spokane’s Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

Although not strictly a teaching post, there’s certainly an aspect of the job that involves meeting people’s hunger for information, for learning about prayer and Catholic spirituality.

Although he describes his position as “basically being a good host,” he’ll also be lining up retreat masters and presenters, bringing together the people in search of a deeper prayer life, lining them up with those who might be able to help.

What characteristics does he look for in a retreat master?

“In my own heart, I’d be looking for people who have that compassion, that pastoral concern for people,” he said during an interview recently at IHRC. He wants to seek out individuals who give retreats with a crucial perspective about the retreatants.

He wants retreatants “to have a spiritual experience they carry away with them, that will be part of their spiritual journey for the rest of their lives,” he said. He wants speakers and presenters who can “make an impact on people that is so strong, it’s going to enhance the stature of the retreat house, and make people come closer to God in their spiritual journey.”

He knows that spiritual depth and insight aren’t limited to “professionals.”

“I’ve been blessed, that I’ve been able to come into contact with ordinary people who are religious, ordinary people who have made an impact on my life and added to my life, who have made me a little bit better person than I was before I met them.”

He admits its great fun – researching potential retreat masters, topics, approaches to prayer and the spiritual life. “I’m in awe” of the qualifications of the individuals he’s learned about, he says with a laugh.

The education part of the job is a pretty natural fit.

Long before his ordination to the diaconate, Deacon Dudinsky served as a teacher and administrator for both public and Catholic schools in the West.

He was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, and attended the University of Wyoming on a music scholarship – for one year. That first attempt at college didn’t work very well. “They told me I ought to be doing something else – far away from the University of Wyoming,” he said, smiling at the memory.

He married his wife, Cathy, in 1965. (They have two adult daughters: one, a stonemason; the other, a firefighter; and four grandchildren.)

For nine years, he did several “somethings else,” including manual labor in a sawmill, a credit manager. After nine years, “I decided it was time to go back to school,” where he earned his teaching certificate.

He taught in Rathdrum, Idaho, and in time earned his master’s degree and principal certification. The family moved to Kake, Alaska, for a year; Wyoming; more schools in Idaho; and three years as principal of Cataldo School, Spokane.

At the end of those three years, he wanted to do another “something else.”

He made deliveries for a pharmaceutical company, ran his own lawn care business, and completed the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program. In time he became “Dungeon Dave,” head of maintenance for the Catholic Pastoral Center for nearly four years.

At the end of that time, “I was looking forward to retirement,” he said. The Pastoral Center had been sold, and the maintenance function was being transferred to the new owners. “I had some projects I was going to do around the house. And out of the blue, I get a call” from Deacon John Ruscheinsky, Director of Immaculate Heart. “‘Would I be interested?’ I couldn’t believe it.”

Part of it will be hosting retreatants: showing them around, seeing that they have what they need during their stay. Part will be working with the retreat masters – researching them, scheduling, about two years in advance.

Part of his duties will include visiting parishes, to preach as a guest homilist, spreading the word about Immaculate Heart and what it has to offer to anyone seeking a deeper relationship with God.

There’s no question but he believes in what he’s doing.

“I’ve loved the retreat center all of the time I’ve known about it,” he said.

“Each day, I feel fulfillment I have not felt in a long time. As close as God has stayed with me in the past, I’m asking God to stay even closer in the future.

“Every retreat I’ve been on, the presenters have given me information, and time for reflection, that I believe had an extremely positive impact on my life,” he said. Now it’s time to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the community.

And maybe teach a little bit, too.

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