Priests celebrate significant anniversaries of ordination

The jubilarians attending the Jubilee dinner May 1 posed with Bishop Johnston in front of the Catholic Center’s Chapel of Our Lady of Ephesus. From left: Fr. Joe Powers, Fr. Paul Turner, Redemptorist Fr. Gary Schmidt, Bishop Johnston, Msgr. Gregory and Fr. Rotert. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — On May 1, the diocese celebrated priests observing significant anniversaries of their ordination to the priesthood — 60 years, 50 years, 40 years and 25 years — with a gathering of priests, dinner and socializing in the Baum Room at the Catholic Center. Ten priests were honored as Jubilarians: 60 years, Benedictine Father Kenneth Reichert; 50 years, Msgr. Robert Gregory; Redemptorist Father Gary Schmidt; Precious Blood Father John Wolf; 40 years, Father Joseph Powers; Father Paul Turner; 25 years, Benedictine Father Patrick Caviglia, Precious Blood Father Tim Coday, Father Matt Rotert, and Benedictine Father Samuel Russel. Five of the Jubilarians — Msgr. Gregory, Fr. Schmidt, Fr. Powers, Fr. Turner and Fr. Rotert — attended the celebratory gathering with about 50 of their brother priests.

Father Matthew Brumleve, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, served as emcee. After welcoming the attending priests and leading them in grace before meals, Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., joined a group of priests at one of the tables. The first order of business was the meal catered by Classic Catering — a spinach and berry salad, beef tenderloin medallions with Bearnaise sauce, grilled asparagus and parmesan potatoes, followed by chocolate cake or apple pie and coffee for those who wished it.

After dinner, Fr. Brumleve called the priests’ attention to a candle and sign honoring Father Ambrose Karels on a table in the front of the room. Fr. Karels was the only priest who died in the past year. Fr. Brumleve requested a moment of silence and prayer for Fr. Karels, a priest for 59 years, diocesan director of music and conductor of the Pontifical Choir for 35 years. He died April 7, 2018.

Beginning with the quarter-century Jubilarians, he called out their names, and their parish or religious order. The Precious Bloods of Liberty were celebrating their own Jubilarians and holding a business meeting that same evening, and the two Benedictines were unable to attend. Fr. Rotert, pastor of St. Peter’s and St. Therese Little Flower parishes, rose and took a bow.

Fathers Powers and Turner have known each other since seventh grade, and both attended St. John’s Minor Seminary in Kansas City before enrolling at Conception Seminary College and later Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Both priests have been busy since their ordinations at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 12, 1979. Fr. Powers joked, “I was ordained first, alphabetical order.”

He served as assistant at St. John LaLande, Christ the King, St. John Francis Regis and St. Mary’s-Independence parishes, and pastor at Immaculate Conception-Montrose, Holy Cross, Our Lady of Lourdes-Raytown (his home parish) St. Mark’s and St. Joseph the Worker parishes, as well as rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City and of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in St. Joseph.

He has been actively committed to Catholic Boy Scouting since he joined the Cub Scouts at Our Lady of Lourdes when he was 8 years old. That’s almost 58 years of continuous participation, leadership and since ordination, chaplaincy.

“It’s been a good 40 years,” Fr. Powers said.

Father Turner, who recounted some of his memories, spoke of “’the common spirit [we] share as Priests.’ That … comes from the Apostolic Tradition, the same source from the fourth century or so that supplies the foundation for Eucharistic Prayer II and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Some of the earliest evidence we have of priests, then, is that they shared a common spirit, and we share that spirit with newly ordained when we impose hands on them. I usually say, ‘Peace’ [to a newly ordained priest], because it’s what I truly wish the new priest will experience throughout his ministry, but it would be as fitting to say something like, ‘Welcome to the presbyterate,’ because of the common spirit we share. On my ordination day … I was deeply moved by the stream of priests who poured out their spirit upon me through the laying on of hands and the fraternal embrace. Many … have died, but their spirit lives within me. When a new ordination class enters the cathedral, I have the same happy duty to share my spirit with them. … I am continually inspired by the exceptional ministry I witness in … my brother priests — your steady dedication to prayer and faithful service to the people of God.”

Father Turner served as assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth from 1979-82, as pastor of St. John Francis Regis, St. Anthony and since 2017, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City. In between parish assignments, he served on the staff of the of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry. He received an STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology) from Sant’ Anselmo, Rome, Italy, in 1985. He has served on the diocesan Building Commission, as officer and chairperson of the Ecumenical/Interreligious Commission and is the director of the Diocesan Office of Sacred Worship. He is an author and a musician.

He concluded his talk saying, “I can honestly say I have been happy to be a priest for each day of those 40 years!”

Precious Blood Father John Wolf, director of the Precious Blood Associates, celebrated his 50th Jubilee with his confreres in Liberty. He sent a letter that was read aloud by Fr. Brumleve. In it he shared some memories, some humor and concluded with gratitude for the relationships with priests in the diocese, especially those in the Northland deaneries.

Fifty-year Jubilarian Msgr. Robert Gregory, former rector of the Cathedral, retired since 2012, recalled his vocation story for his brother priests. A member of the ordination class of 1969, he was ordained at his home parish, St. Joseph’s Church in Easton. He said there were six ordained from his class — “two died, two left, one was removed, and me — I’m the last one standing.”

He shared how he experienced doubt as to his vocation — “I didn’t think I’d received God’s call to the priesthood — and finally requested a leave of absence from Bishop Charles Helmsing in 1973. During the next four years, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he knew no one, kept his priesthood to himself and found work for a construction company, doing grunt work. Some months passed, and he got a surprise interview with the Tennessee Valley Authority and was hired to work in the Public Relations office in Chattanooga. Not happy there, he pulled up stakes and moved to San Diego, because he’d always loved the water. Still unhappy, one day he went for a walk on the beach near his home. “God spoke to me that afternoon. He asked me if I had everything I wanted, which I did, and was I happy? I said, ‘No!’ God said, ‘Let me make you happy.’ I asked him, ‘How can I trust you?’ He said, ‘I died for you, didn’t I?’

“That was my call to the priesthood that I hadn’t received before!”

“I returned to Kansas City and met with Bishop Helmsing, who took me back as a priest of his diocese. I have been grateful for the mercy God showed me.“

He concluded by reading a poem by St. Augustine of Hippo, which described his vocation, and 50 years of priesthood:

‘Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking
there for you,
and upon the shapely things
you have made
I rushed headlong –
I, misshapen.
You were with me, but
I was not with you.
They held me back
far from you,
those things which would
have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished
my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance,
I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now
I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and
I burned for your peace.’

Msgr. Gregory received an ovation for his memories.

The program and dinner ended soon after and the priests dispersed to their parishes and homes.


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October 31, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph