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(Editor’s note: Six archdiocesan priests are celebrating their 50-year jubilees in 2008. This week, we feature Father Francis Eckstein and Msgr. Harold Knueven. We will feature Fathers Herman Lutz, Joseph McNally, William Munshower and Harold Ripperger in upcoming issues of The Criterion.)
Even though he is pushing 76, Msgr. Harold Knueven is hard to keep up with.
At a time when many people have long since started relaxing in life’s golden years, Msgr. Knueven is leading a multimillion dollar project to move the entire campus of St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, where he has served as administrator since 2003.
“Everybody compares him to the Energizer bunny because he just keeps going,” said Donna Lecher, the outgoing president of St. Mary Parish’s parish council.
“I’ve often asked him how he does it because it exhausts me with all the meetings that have to be attended,” said Lecher. “He says that he’ll sometimes grab a 15-minute power nap. I know that he exercises, and he takes time for recreation.”
Ordained 50 years ago on May 3, 1958, Msgr. Knueven has kept himself on the go for the last half century by making sure he takes care of himself physically and spiritually.
“He’s high energy,” said Msgr. Svarczkopf. “At six in the morning, he’s doing his pushups [and saying], ‘57, 58, 59.’ And I’m in bed saying, ‘Harry, count to yourself.’
“He’s like the Army. He does more work before eight in the morning than most people do all day.”
Msgr. Knueven grew up in the 1930s and 1940s deep in southeastern Indiana, across the street from St. Paul Church in New Alsace, his home parish.
For many years, the parish priests had encouraged the young Harold Knueven to consider the priesthood. When it came time for him to enter high school, he decided to become a seminarian and study at Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad.
“My mom and dad took me [there] in the fall of 1946,” he said. “I saw them drive over the hill and I thought to myself, ‘What am I getting into?’ I didn’t know a soul at Saint Meinrad. I was a freshman in high school.
“But it didn’t take me very long to get acquainted with everybody.”
Seminary life agreed with him enough that, once ordained, he eventually served from 1962-75 on the staff of the former Bishop Bruté Latin School in Indianapolis, at the time, the archdiocese’s high school seminary.
Through his ministry there, he helped shape many priests in the archdiocese younger than him.
“It’s always good to know that you’d touched the lives of these young priests that are still active in the parishes,” said Msgr. Knueven.
One of them is Msgr. Svarczkopf, who has immediately followed Msgr. Knueven in four pastoral assignments, including his current one as pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish.
“[Msgr. Knueven] played on my intramural basketball team,” Msgr. Svarczkopf said. “He was our enforcer. He got most of the fouls.”
Although a physically active priest, Msgr. Knueven looks to his life of faith as the source of his vitality.
“The important thing is to say Mass every day and say the Divine Office every day,” Msgr. Knueven said. “I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t say my prayers.”
Msgr. Knueven said he prays the Liturgy of the Hours every day before the Blessed Sacrament in St. Mary Parish’s perpetual adoration chapel, which he helped establish. He also helped start one at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish.
“I really believe in the Real Presence,” he said. “If we have faith in the Real Presence, we’re going to do everything in our power to show our respect for Christ’s presence in the churches, in perpetual adoration chapels and in the Eucharist.”
According to Lecher, Msgr. Knueven’s deep life of prayer is the force behind his ability to lead a parish through large projects.
“To me, it’s his spirit,” she said. “You know that he is driven by God. There are no selfish reasons why he does this. He does everything for the honor and glory of God.”
Msgr. Knueven is trying to do this now at St. Mary Parish. He did it at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in the 1990s when he helped that Indianapolis South Deanery parish build a new church. And in the 1980s, he helped St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis retire an $800,000 debt.
“He’s been able to get people to get things done,” Msgr. Svarczkopf said. “People have been able to trust him.”
In the parishes where he has served, people have trusted Msgr. Knueven and turned to him for help at any time.
“I have my phone in my pocket all the time,” he said. “I’m available 24/7. Everybody in the parish has that number.”
For Msgr. Knueven, that availability to those whom he serves is at the heart of the priesthood that he has lived for 50 years.
“We’re not priests for ourselves,” he said. “We’re priests to help other people. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Parents: John and Leona (Easley) Knueven
Parish where he grew up: St. Paul Parish in New Alsace
Seminary: 12 years at Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad
Hobbies: Fishing. “I used to do a lot of water-skiing.”
Favorite Bible verse: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
Favorite prayer or devotion: Eucharistic adoration †