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Ray Stroik, from Stevens Point, Wis., was raised in a family of 10 by parents of Polish ancestry -- his mother staying at home with the children while his father worked long hours at a factory. Not long after graduating from high school, Stroik was drafted into the Army; he briefly served as a communications officer at the Pentagon before assignments in Japan and Korea. As the secretary for a commanding officer while stationed in Korea, Stroik witnessed the establishment of the demarcation line between South and North Korea in 1953.
Stroik earned a doctorate in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while teaching at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., from 1963 to 1972. Stroik's conversion experience while walking back from daily Mass, as well as his discovery of the Catholic Worker, liberation theologians and the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero, guided him toward social justice efforts. His support of student protests during the Vietnam War preceded denial of tenure in 1972 and a return to his hometown in the La Crosse diocese.
Throughout this time, Stroik considered NCR "a most valued resource" that covered "not only narrow church matters but also what is called the secular world."
In 1975, La Crosse Bishop Frederick Freking appointed Stroik to his diocese's recently formed Campaign for Human Development committee. A year later, Stroik also served as a member of the Call to Action delegation to the U.S. bishops' Bicentennial program in Detroit. In 1980, he became a member of his diocese's justice and peace commission, and chaired this committee for nine years prior to its reconstitution by Bishop Raymond Burke in 1994.
Other experiences have been more international in scope, such as the Ground Zero Pairing Project, a program founded in 1983 that "invited people to imagine the humanity we share with the peoples of the Soviet Union," according to Stroik. The program paired Stevens Point with the Russian city of Rostov Veliky.
In 2001, at the age of 70, Stroik completed a Master of Theological Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif. An avid reader, he also regularly publishes columns in the Stevens Point Journal.