Fr. David Reith has served the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 44 years and says he’s been blessed to love each one of his assignments. He serves as the Vicar for Catholic Charities and at Saint Francis De Sales Seminary as an adjunct human formation advisor.
- He was born in Milwaukee in 1950 and said that he “was blessed to have two wonderful parents who were very faith-filled people” and one sister who was born in 1953.
- Reith’s parents were active members of Immaculate Heart of Mary in West Allis for more than 50 years, where he was baptized, had his first communion and was confirmed.
- He was ordained in 1976 and his first assignment was as associate pastor at St. Mary Parish in Burlington, where years later he served as head pastor.
- He was associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Milwaukee, and chaplain and the head of the religion department at St. Joseph High School in Kenosha before serving as pastor of St. Dominic in Brookfield for 13 years.
SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Did you know early on that you wanted to be a priest?
My parents were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I remember my dad saying to me, “just do something with your life that you feel would be right for you.” At that time, Immaculate Mary didn’t have a school so we went to St. Aloysius and we had enough religious-based teachers, sisters and priests; it was hard to get through a month where there wasn’t religious reinforcement. We had missionaries that came into the parish grade school to tell us stories and I would really credit them for opening up the possibility of religious life to me.
Was that something that you remember a lot of your classmates feeling?
Around the time Paul VI became the pope, when I was in eighth grade, there was an explosion of people getting more involved in the Church and you saw so much excitement and so many new things. Around half of the boys who graduated with me from eighth grade in 1964 went on to seminary high schools. It was remarkable. I grew up in an era where it was very normal. I felt so blessed to grow up in that environment.
In 2016, you were appointed as Vicar for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Why are you passionate about serving the poor? And what do you think Christ told us about the importance of it?
The archbishop has put such a wonderful importance on Catholic Charities and has given his genuine support for everything they do and I think that really speaks to a lot of us here and reminds us that serving the poor is an absolute necessary component of our Catholic faith. In the Gospels it’s clear that Jesus had a way of seeking out people on the fringe, and discovering people in the crowd who needed healing, a listening ear, or a physical here and then he’d challenge them when they were healed to go and tell of His glory. I think it’s truly an enormous part of the teachings of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Jesus reached out so often and fed the hungry of heart and soul and stomach. Social ministry and social work is part of who Jesus was and who he asks us to be.
Which saint do you feel closest to?
I would say Pope Paul VI and that may not be the one that’s on a lot of lists, but he was chosen in 1963 the first part of my eighth-grade year, and he died in 1978 on Aug. 6, the feast of the transfiguration, when I’d been a priest for just two years. So for most of my formation I got to experience this marvelous man who was the first modern Pope. He was the first to visit the UN, the first to travel widely, and in my mind, he set the stage for Pope John Paul II, who took the Vatican to a new level of being an ambassador to the world. I have a favorite quote from him that I hold close to me in my present ministry: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
Do you remember a time when you stepped out in faith and relied fully on God to see you through?
I still remember leaving Saint Francis De Sales seminary when I was a newly ordained priest. I loaded my last box in the car, drove down that long beautiful drive all lined with trees and stopped at the end of the road and walked across the street to Lake Michigan. I looked out at the water and said to the Lord, “Well, it’s been 12 years of study and I’m going off to Burlington for my first assignment. I sure hope I made the right choice and this is what you want from me. Please God, bless this journey.” Well 41 years later, on Sept. 11, 2017, I drove back down the drive to spend my first night back in the seminary since I’d left in 1976. I got out of the car and looked back toward the lake and remembered that prayer and the young man I was then full of hope and a little fear. I said to God again, “Lord, if I’d known that it was going to be as great as it turned out I would have gotten down on my knees and thanked you right then.”