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(Editor’s note: Six archdiocesan priests are celebrating their 50-year jubilees in 2008. This week, we conclude our series with stories on Fathers Herman Lutz and Joseph McNally.)
As valedictorian of the Class of 1950 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Herman Lutz had no idea that God would call him to the priesthood.
Years later, after completing his collegiate and seminary studies, Father Lutz returned to his former high school building—which became the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in 1982—to serve as a notary and advocate for the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal.
During most of his priestly career, he served in a dual role at the tribunal and in parish ministry in central Indiana.
Those were busy years, Father Lutz recalled during a recent interview at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove, where he serves as chaplain and lives in the priests’ wing of the retirement home operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.
He grew up in St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis, but didn’t consider the priesthood until after he graduated from high school and began working as an underwriter at the former Farmers Mutual Insurance Co., now the Meridian Mutual Insurance Co.
He liked his work, but felt that something was missing from his life.
“I didn’t want to work for an insurance company for the rest of my life,” he recalled. “My life didn’t seem to be going any place. I would go to Mass every Sunday at St. Anthony Church and stay after Mass to pray. At that point, I wanted to work some place where I could live my faith and support myself. I started praying more.”
He later learned from one of his four sisters that his mother, Mary Catherine (Kieffer) Lutz, had taken him to church as a baby to thank God for his birth and prayerfully give him back to the Lord.
Occasionally, his mother would ask him about the priesthood. A family friend and several priests also talked with him about pursuing the priesthood.
He told his mother that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to become a priest because he wouldn’t know what to say on Sunday mornings during the sermon, but he continued thinking about the possibility of studying for the priesthood.
With money saved from his job, he decided to enroll at St. John’s College in Collegeville, Minn., where he lived in a residence hall reserved for men who were considering the priesthood. He enjoyed studying Latin and took accelerated courses in the ancient language.
Two years later, he contacted the archdiocesan vocations office then transferred to Saint Meinrad Seminary to begin formal studies for the priesthood.
“First, I thought that I would like to be a teaching priest,” he said. “Then I decided that I wanted to be a parish priest.”
Archbishop Paul C. Schulte took note of his excellent grades and fluency in Latin then sent him to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
He was ordained to the priesthood at age 26 on Dec. 20, 1958, by Bishop Martin J. O’Connor in Rome.
Father Lutz began his priestly ministry as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood and also served as a notary, or advocate, for the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal.
In 1961, he was named assistant pastor pro-tem of the former Assumption Parish in Indianapolis. Later that year, Archbishop Schulte sent him back to Rome for two years of graduate studies in canon law.
Back in the archdiocese a second time, Father Lutz was appointed associate pastor of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield while continuing as notary for the tribunal.
He received his first pastorate in 1971 at Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville and continued his tribunal ministry.
Two years later, he was named co-pastor of the former St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Indianapolis, again continuing as notary.
He began working full time at the tribunal in 1976 and was named a judge for the Provincial Appellate Tribunal in 1983.
“I wanted people to know that the Church cared about them,” he said, “and would help them.”
In 1984, he was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg, and helped with the tribunal ministry on a part-time basis.
In 1995, Father Lutz was named an archdiocesan judge for the tribunal then a year later also was appointed pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis.
At the center city parish, Father Lutz even fixed the school’s ice machine and did other maintenance work when funds were not available to pay for repairs.
In 1999, he began his final pastorate at St. Mary Parish in North Vernon. Four years later, he retired for health reasons, but missed his priestly ministry.
Now Father Lutz keeps busy at St. Paul Hermitage, where he lives with Msgr. Richard Kavanaugh and Fathers Thomas Murphy, Henry Brown, Patrick Commons, James Rogers and Gerald Burkert.
Msgr. Frederick Easton, vicar judicial of the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, remembers how Father Lutz helped him when he was a seminarian with advice about living and studying in Rome.
“For many years, he served in a dual ministry in parishes and on the tribunal staff,” Msgr. Easton said. “He was dedicated to the tribunal ministry for 25 years and was good at that. He felt it was his duty to use his canon law degree at the [tribunal] office. He also liked his parish work, which kept him extremely busy.”
Father Lutz is “a very good listener,” Msgr. Easton said, which made him well-suited for the tribunal ministry.
“He is quiet and humble,” Msgr. Easton said of his longtime friend and tribunal co-worker. “Still waters run deep. He is a deep thinker and likes to engage in intellectual debates. We have had many good times talking about canon law.”
Father Lutz will celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination on Aug. 3 during a Mass and reception with family members and longtime friends.
It will be an opportunity to look back at his priestly ministry during a half century of serving God and the people of God, and to reflect on the religious vocation that his mother had known would be right for him.
Parents: Herman J. and Mary Catherine (Kieffer) Lutz
Parish where he grew up: St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis
Seminary: St. John’s College in Collegeville, Minn.; Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad; Pontifical North American College in Rome; Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, graduate studies in canon law
Hobbies: Walking, enjoying nature and reading canon law books
Favorite Bible verse: Matthew 28:20: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” †