by Barb Mazarakos
When I was in my 2nd year of high school journalism, we were tasked with writing an article on someone local for the Penny Saver. For this writing we had to come up with interview questions, set up an appointment, and conduct the interview to gather our information before putting it in writing and submitting it to the paper to be printed and distributed throughout the community. I came across that issue in my file cabinet a little over a month ago. My article, titled “Luck of the Draw”, was about a local pastor who had been brought to his church with the daunting task not of growing his congregation, but instead, to close it down. That was in 1965.
Since Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church is still open and receiving worshippers each day, we already know how the story ends. Pastor Walt Ledogar and his beloved wife Carol ministered not only to this congregation but to the greater Orland community for more than 50 years. She as a dedicated nurse and mother who made worship and their two sons Mark and Paul her top priorities, he as Pastor of our flock, Chaplain of the Orland Park Police and Fire Protection District, Director of the Orland Park Civic Center Authority, Director of Metropolitan Family Services, Director and Samaritan of the Year of Lutheran Church Charities. Both as remarkable examples of love, compassion, humility, and faith.
On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 our beloved Pastor Walt was called to glory, and we can only imagine that he was greeted by his Sainted Carol when he got there. And though we are glad that he is now safe in the arms of Jesus, our hearts are heavy with grief. To many of us, Pastor and Carol were more than just faces we saw at the church. They were there when we were confirmed and married, when our children were born and baptized, when we laid loved ones to rest. They celebrated the high points in our lives with the true joy of the Spirit (and the occasional glass of wine!) and mourned the darkest hours of death and illness with an honesty and comfort that few can rival. They were family. We loved them, and today, we grieve for them.
As Lutherans, we put a lot of weight on the term “Grace”. And it has been largely through the example of the Ledogars that I have seen grace in action. Grace when anger over the illness of a loved one overwhelms us. Grace when fear takes over as towers came down and we gathered as a church family to cry, to remember, and ultimately to heal. Grace when the fire alarms went off in the middle of the Sonrise Service sermon the first year we had the new kitchen and forgot to turn the vents on before making pancakes (although we made sure never to let that happen again!) And now I know that it wasn’t through luck at all that Pastor Walt Ledogar received his call to a small church in suburban Chicago all those years ago. No more than it was luck that he knocked on the door of a young couple who had just moved in a few blocks away from the church with their 2 year old daughter and invited them to attend his church in 1977. It was Grace. The Grace of God brought him to us, kept him with us, and finally brought him Home.
When it comes to saying goodbye to someone who has filled my life with so much faith, hope and love throughout my life there really are no words. So I close with the blessing I will always envision Pastor Walt giving us at the end of each service from Number 6:24-26:
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine unto you, And be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” Amen.