Began thinking of priesthood in middle school, has traveled the world since
For Father Stephen Dardis, the newly appointed Pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Luling, his thoughts of pursing a lifetime of service in the name of God came quite early, he estimates as early as the third grade and for the next several years.
“I thought about it a bit into high school, then decided I really didn’t want to think about it for a time,” Dardis said. “I got a little distracted … but then a lot of things started happening that really opened my eyes.”
Dardis quipped that as a boy, his early positive impressions of the calling came from a priest who tongue-in-cheek noted he didn’t actually own anything of his own.
“He was provided a house and a car …I thought, man, I could get on board with that for a career,” Dardis said with a chuckle.”Our Lord has a sense of humor.”
Of course, it was ultimately nothing material though that made Dardis answer the calling he ultimately received. During his freshman year at the University of Texas A&M where he attended on a Marine Corps scholarship, he became part of what he called a “tremendous and very spiritual” student ministry at nearby St. Mary’s Catholic Church where those involved carried out their service in an authentic, true way.
“It was an eye-opener for me,” he said.
He also noted the chance he had to get to know a priest during that freshman year of college who he saw “totally lay down his life for the flock.”
These things were part of the inspiration that in 1998 saw him join the Legionaries of Christ in Connecticut, ministering for 12 years in New England, Mexico, New York and Italy. With an associate’s degree in Humanities from Connecticut and a Licentiate in Philosophy and bachelor’s in Theology from the Regina Apostolorum Athenaeum in Rome, Dardis found himself ready for his new journey.
“There are so many things we want to do here in Luling … there’s a lot of desire to help and a lot of initiative.”- Stephen Dardis
The born-and-raised New Orleanian and Jesuit High School alumnus was ordained to the Priesthood in Rome on Dec. 15, 2012, by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis. After returning for further outreach in New York, he was sent to New Orleans in 2013.
He served for three years as Chaplain of Christian Brothers School with the Legionaries and in 2015 he began his transition into the Diocesan Priesthood as the Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell, his last stop before his arrival in Luling, where he took over as Holy Family Pastor in July.
He said upon arriving, he’s simply done a lot of listening to those in his community, which he notes has been very accepting and that he believes has shown a strong desire to make positive things happen.
“I think they’re ready to do a lot of beautiful things,” Dardis said. “Often times, you come into a new place and maybe don’t make changes, but there are so many things we want to do here in Luling. That can be a good and bad thing … there’s a lot of desire to help and a lot of initiative. You definitely see the desire and the ideas are flowing.”
Dardis said that much like those working in the medical field, a priest is always on call: it’s not a 9 to 5 job but more 24-7, but that the rewards are truly worth it.
“It’s people you grow to love … their life is your life,” Dardis said. “Their joy is your joy. You share in both the great moments and also their disappointments, but you experience it all together.”
The most rewarding part of this path he’s chosen is seeing tears of sadness turned to tears of joy among those realizing they’ve received a second chance from God, as well as watching teens and young adults delve into questions about their faith.
“When they ask those deeper questions and find real answers, they have the chance to experience the beauty of the teachings of Christ and the Church that many times we forget the significance of,” Dardis said. “And that’s a special thing to see.”