Isn't it Rich?
Serendipity, you say?
Word's come across the water that Cardinal Justin Rigali was spotted at a Roman trattoria last night noshing with Msgr. Richard Stika, the aforementioned pastor of Ladue -- and, more to the point, Rigali Protege #1.
Stika was 37 in 1994 when Rigali, the newly-arrived archbishop of St. Louis, catapulted the young priest, who had served for some months as his secretary, into the offices of Chancellor and, three years later, Vicar-General.
Stika was tapped to coordinate the 1999 Papal Visit to St. Louis -- an event which included the largest indoor gathering in American history when John Paul II celebrated Mass in the TransWorld Dome -- and has maintained extremely close ties with Rigali even after the Cardinal's departure for Philadelphia in 2003. (As a sidenote, at his installation Mass in Philadelphia, Rigali did raise some local eyebrows by inviting Stika and his other St. Louis priest-secretary, Henry Breier, to stand at the altar as chief concelebrants for the Eucharistic Prayer alongside the auxiliary bishops of Philadelphia. Breier was recently given papal honors.)
After undergoing multiple bypass surgery in the summer of 2004 -- at which time Rigali flew back to St. Louis for a week to aid his friend's first stages of recovery -- Stika was relieved of his chancery obligations and made pastor of the Annunziata, a luxe suburban parish located right off a golf course.
One of his primary claims to fame is that, when the then-bishop of LaCrosse Raymond Burke was walking into the St. Louis archbishop's residence for dinner with Rigali in August, 2003, Stika introduced the guest as "the archbishop-elect of St. Louis," an appointment Burke didn't receive for another four months.
Due to his personal vicinity to the metropolitan of the Philadelphia province, Stika's name has come up in speculative discussions for vacancies in Pennsylvania since Rigali's arrival here. As he's still at a tender age, and given Rigali's prolific record of placing sons of St. Louis at the head of dioceses, that buzz may have some life in it yet.
But all that aside, they surely had an enjoyable meal.