December 11, 2009

Example of boyhood pastor leads priest to the seminary

Father Anthony Volz poses for a photograph in Christ the King Church in Indianapolis, where he has served as pastor for more than five years. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Anthony Volz poses for a photograph in Christ the King Church in Indianapolis, where he has served as pastor for more than five years. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

(Editor’s note: In conjunction with the Year for Priests, The Criterion is publishing a monthly feature titled “Faithful Fathers.” We plan to profile a priest from each deanery during the next seven months.)

By Sean Gallagher

Father Anthony Volz is the pastor of Christ the King Parish in the Indianapolis North Deanery. He was ordained in 1985. He is 52.

Born in South Dakota, he and his family moved to Indiana when he was 5 and became members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis.

A “losing” fight—A 1975 graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, Father Volz was a college seminarian for the archdiocese for one year at the former Saint Meinrad College before disaffiliating and transferring to Butler University in Indianapolis, where he studied business administration.

“The thought of the priesthood really never left me,” he said. “I was kind of fighting it. I began to understand that, at least in my life, if you’re meant to be a priest, it will work out as such. There was really no peace until I said ‘Yes.’ ”

The power of a priest—The thought of the priesthood had such staying power in Father Volz’s mind because of the life and ministry of Father Edwin Sahm, the founding pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, who led it from 1946-76.

“He had a huge influence in my life,” Father Volz said. “I got to know him very well. He was very helpful in helping me discern that [priestly vocation].”

Memories of Father Sahm continue to influence the priestly life and ministry of Father Volz nearly 25 years after the younger priest was ordained. Father Volz said he tries to imitate “his good nature.”

“He was very friendly, very interested in what you were doing,” Father Volz said. “No matter what was going on, when he was talking to you, you felt you had his attention and that he was interested in you. … He probably had 1,000 things on his mind, like we all do. He was able to bring the priesthood alive for me.”

Love your mother—Father Sahm and the other priests that served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish also instilled a love for the Blessed Virgin Mary in the young Tony Volz that remains to this day.

“During the month of May at Immaculate Heart, in those days, we would all gather at the shrine every night,” Father Volz said. “And one of the priests would come out and say the rosary. It was after dinner, around 7 p.m.

“We all just gathered on the playground in the evening and played a lot. And when the priest came walking across, we all kind of dutifully went over to the shrine. We’d have a lot of people there, all different ages.”

The power of a parish—Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish is tucked away in a neighborhood in the north central part of Indianapolis. Father Volz, his family and other parishioners lived within walking distance of the church.

“You really didn’t distinguish between the parish and the neighborhood, and your family and being Catholic,” he said. “It all was there. It was all one thing in growing up in those days. It was a wonderful time and place for me to grow up in.”

Serving his family—Both of Father Volz’s parents are deceased. His only sibling is a brother, who is 10 years older than him and lives in North Dakota. He has only one niece.

But while he values and loves his kin, Father Volz has come to see the parishioners he has served over the years as his family.

“That’s where I live out my life,” he said. “When I became a pastor, that’s what I wanted to be and [I] enjoy [ministry] very much.”

Learning from each other—Part of living in a family is listening attentively to other family members.

“There’s a collective wisdom in any parish,” Father Volz said. “We learn from each other. And I learn a lot from just listening. I’ve learned a lot over the years to talk less, to listen more and to pray harder.”

The family table—Another part of living in a family is regularly gathering around the family table.

“When I get to stand [at the altar] along with the gathered community—that’s an awesome feeling, if you really think about it,” Father Volz said. “I really feel that. Being at the altar, at the table of the Lord, that’s the closest that we can be between heaven and Earth. So let’s give what we can in our prayers, our praise and thanksgiving.”

Teach your children well—Teaching the young is also an essential part of family life. All of the parishes that Father Volz has served have had a Catholic school as part of its ministry.

“I find that very life-giving,” he said. “… It invigorates me to do my best, to be a good example for our young people, because I think they have so much to offer and they have so many struggles that I never had. It’s harder, I think, to be a teenager now. But, at the same time, we have a lot of good, fine young people.

“The children are so impressionable. I try to set a good example and help them to grow in the knowledge of the Lord.”

Considering the priesthood?—“Pray. Prayer is just so vital,” Father Volz said. “… You can fight with God a little bit. You can argue with him.

“But if you’re really honest with him, and you find out what it is that you can do to serve God and serve one another, the answer comes, no matter if it’s as a married person or whatever vocation it is in life.” †


(Click here to read previous installments in the “Faithful Fathers” series)

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