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The Light of One: In Gratitude


Continuing our daily Christmas reflection series, Valerie Ellis writes about how her faith has been shaped through the caring presence of her pastor, Fr. Len Plazewski.

As my family and friends will tell you, I have never been much for seeking advice. In fact, I have prided myself for many years on self-sufficiency. Even more so, when I needed help I would typically be reluctant to ask. This all changed over the past couple years when I faced an overwhelming problem. It was so outside my control that I had to ask for help.

I am thankful beyond words to my family and close friends who stood beside me when the rains fell. Two days after tragedy set in, I went to seek the help of a priest.

Father Len Plazewski has been a significant foundation in my life ever since.

I still remember the first conversation we had, and how full of compassion he was. He intently listened to me, without judgment and with a serene composure of quiet strength. As the months passed, I continued to seek his advice. He always knew the right thing to say, offering pastoral guidance that lifted me up and challenged me.


We always prayed during our conversations, and his prayers touched my heart and reminded me that someone cared.

I was thrilled when he became pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa, that I was able to support him in some small way by attending the mass and celebration to wish him well!

To this day, I seek his advice whenever I have a burning moral issue, and I know that he will point me in the right direction.

His humble way of leading our parish is a wonderful example of true leadership in its purest form. The same way he answers my questions, encouraging me while showing me the narrow path, is the way that he leads the congregation.

He always maintains a professional pastoral demeanor, and somehow manages to let the light of God shine through our interactions.

It has been a year since I applied to go on mission with Franciscan Mission Service. I remember when I met with Father Len to ask him to be my pastoral reference, and how supportive he was. I explained that I did not want my current contribution to the world to be the end, and he replied, “I am confident that your contribution to this world has only begun.”

As the holiday season approaches, I pray that I am able to find a way to shine the light of God to others in the example that Father Len has so simply and eloquently provided.

I Want to Set the World on Fire

Coming up tomorrow: “A Father’s Love” by Catherine Giller!

Valerie served for two years (2014-2015) in Cochabamba, Bolivia working with CUBE (Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza) to raise sexual violence awareness and prevention, and in CEV (Comunidad Educativa Para La Vida) teaching and nurturing children six months to 8-years-old. Valerie grew up outside of Wichita, Kansas and graduated from The University of Tampa. She found her way to Franciscan Mission Service after 12 years of working in higher education where she worked with international students and designed and taught a class called "Avoiding Violence: Be A Part of the Solution."