St. Mary’s new priest looks to guide his congregation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

When we’re young, there’s no telling how our lives will turn out. Take Lou Ruoff as an example.

&uot;Not to be too dramatic,&uot; he said, &uot;but I had a street-corner mentality in my teen-age years. I was hanging out with 100 guys and gals.&uot;

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But were they doing anything constructive during their time on the mean streets of Philadelphia? No, no, no. Instead they all had what Ruoff called a &uot;dumb and stupid mentality.&uot; In a word: shiftless.

He ended up doing factory work after high school, and in that time met a doctor friend who saw potential in Ruoff and suggested college. Persistence had its reward. Ruoff began going back to church, and &uot;as I started loving it, I wanted to repay God for all the people in my life.&uot;

Fast-forward several years: So instead of becoming a delinquent, a bum or worse, a criminal, instead he’s risen to become the priest at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church on South Broad Street.

In describing himself, Ruoff said, &uot;I’m an outspoken person of peace. I certainly challenge as Jesus has challenged us (he emphasized), that we should be a holy people and mindful, and to refrain from retaliation and revenge.&uot;

Before coming to St. Mary’s in the first day or so of June, Ruoff was the priest in Waynesboro, N.C. Having already served earlier for 10 years in Norfolk, he wanted to make a move back to the region before the diocese became so large and a transfer would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.

As for his time here with a new congregation, &uot;I hope my presence will be one of joy, with a challenging aspect, and I can be challenged by their acts of love, which makes me a better person.&uot;

Name? Father Louis &uot;Lou&uot; Ruoff

Age? I’m 57 and will be 58 in January

Hometown? Philadelphia, Pa.

Family? Single. My natural parents are deceased (mother had died at an early age). I was adopted. Back in 1999, I discovered that I have a half-brother and half-sister.

Education? Shippensburg State University, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.

Career/occupation? Priest at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church in Suffolk.

Volunteer activities? In college it was Big Brothers and Big Sisters. In Washington, D.C., serving food for the program, &uot;So Others May Eat.&uot; In 1979 I took a year in New York City to work with runaways. Early in the priesthood I did prison work, but it’s not part of my ministry now.

Favorite thing about Suffolk? I’m just getting to know the people. Being a big-city person, I’m surprised by the size of Suffolk.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? When I first became a priest, I asked what should I do. I was told: &uot;Know your people, visit the sick and love the children.&uot; And I add: You have to preach well.

Favorite thing about your job? Preaching. Writing my column, &uot;Reflections.&uot;

Least favorite thing about your job? I don’t find anything least favorable. That doesn’t say there’s not going to be conflict and loneliness. You accept that.

What accomplishments are you proudest of? I’ve written four books. I am a storyteller. I’ve edited one other book and I’m editing one now, which is a compilation of my &uot;Reflections&uot; from the past 10 to 15 years.

Who or what motivates you? My love for God, and the people of God to be directed in ways different from what the secular world might lead us.

Favorite way to spend free time? Writing is a labor of love.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? I’ve a motto in life: If you’re not humble in life, life will make you humble. We have to be as simple as children. As an aside, I follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice: &uot;Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.&uot;

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? To always be challenged by what we’re called to be. We’re made in the image of God and should reflect that in all that we do.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How you like to spend your time in the spotlight? I don’t seek the spotlight. But if thrust into it, to some way put a right face on the Church’s mission, and that we are to be a peaceful people.