January 7, 2011

Religious Vocations Supplement

Greenwood pastor seeks to make a difference in people’s lives

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, left, and Father Vincent Lampert, center, exchange the sign of peace during an Aug. 8, 2010, Mass at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Church in Greenwood. Father Lampert is the pastor of the Indianapolis South Deanery parish. Deacon Ronald Reimer, who ministers at SS. Francis and Clare, stands at right. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, left, and Father Vincent Lampert, center, exchange the sign of peace during an Aug. 8, 2010, Mass at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Church in Greenwood. Father Lampert is the pastor of the Indianapolis South Deanery parish. Deacon Ronald Reimer, who ministers at SS. Francis and Clare, stands at right. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

GREENWOOD—“In anything that I do as a priest, my number one goal is to make a positive difference in the life of the people around me.”

This is how Father Vincent Lampert summarizes the meaning of his priestly life and ministry.

He has ministered as a priest in the archdiocese for nearly 20 years. For the last eight years, he has served as the pastor of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood.

The number of people in that Indianapolis South Deanery parish has increased dramatically during his tenure there, growing from some 600 households to approximately 1,300 households.

Father Lampert is a relatively young priest. But not in his parish.

“This is a very young parish. The average age [of parishioners] is 35. I’m 47. That makes me above average,” said Father Lampert with a laugh.

Rob Richardson, the president of SS. Francis and Clare School, which is growing as quickly as the parish that sponsors it, gives much of the credit to his pastor.

“It’s been because of his spirituality, because of his ability to relate [to people],” Richardson said.

Although Father Lampert wants to make a positive difference in the lives of all his parishioners, he pays special attention to youths.

“You look around and the teenage population, for the most part, is not here,” he said. “You wonder, if that generation is not here, are their children going to be here? So how do you reach out [to them]?”

To do that, he has served for the past eight years as the chaplain of the football team at nearby Center Grove High School.

In interacting with the players and other high school students, Father Lampert has seen some of them come to church that hadn’t been doing so in the past.

“It’s a way to go to where the young people are,” he said. “If they’re not coming here, how do you go to where they’re at?”

His interest in people has taken him far beyond a local public high school. One of Father Lampert’s favorite pastimes is traveling.

For a man who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in Holy Trinity Parish on the near west side of Indianapolis—arguably at the time the epitome of an ethnic neighborhood parish—Father Lampert has gone far in his travels, touring countries throughout Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa.

He has also crisscrossed the United States, visiting more than half of the approximately 400 parks and memorials operated by the National Park Service. His favorite is Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

“It’s about how we see the face of God around us—whether it’s in other people or in the beauty of God’s creation,” said Father Lampert. “That’s kind of what I strive to do [in my travels].”

In turn, Father Lampert seeks to bring the face of God to those to whom he ministers, especially those who face trials in life.

“As a priest, you encounter people who are struggling,” he said. “How do you take the face of Christ to them to give them a sense of hope in the midst of whatever they’re going through?”

Father Lampert does this by reaching out to youths, who often face many challenges in making the transition to adulthood, as well as to Catholics who seek a declaration of nullity on a previous marriage, and even—in his ministry as the archdiocese’s exorcist—to those who believe that their lives may be especially burdened by the influence of the devil.

Earlier in his life, however, it was a pastoral approach taken to him by a teacher and how he faced his own challenges that led him to the priesthood.

When Father Lampert was in the fifth grade at the former Holy Trinity School, he got high marks one day on a religion test. That caught the eye of his teacher, Franciscan Sister Ramona Lunsford, who died in 2007.

“She said, ‘You’d make a good priest one day,’ ” Father Lampert said. “That comment has always stuck with me. I can still hear that echoing.”

It echoed in a special way in his heart when he was a freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington in the early 1980s. At the time, his roommate was a friend that he had known since his childhood. Then his friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died soon thereafter.

“It was my first dose of mortality,” Father Lampert said. “So then you ask the question at 19, ‘What is my life about? What is God asking me to do?’ That’s when I went back and heard the words of Sister Ramona Lunsford echoing again, ‘You would make a good priest.’ ”

Father Lampert soon became a college seminarian at the former Saint Meinrad College. He finished his priestly formation at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.

Although he is steeped in the Church’s spiritual patrimony through his seminary training and his constant reading of the ancient Church fathers and the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, Father Lampert also has a firm understanding of how to keep the parish and school on a firm financial footing.

“I’ve often said to him on more than one occasion that he would have made a great businessman as well,” Richardson said. “He doesn’t just get the spiritual side, but he [also] gets the other side of it.”

And although Father Lampert deals with many serious problems in the lives of his parishioners and other people beyond SS. Francis and Clare, he is a fun person to be around, says his friend, Father Kevin Morris.

“He’s a joy to be … with,” said Father Morris. “He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s just absolutely hilarious.”

At the same time, the pastor of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield said that Father Lampert is a good model for priestly life and ministry.

“I think he’s a wonderful example of the kind of priest that you’d like to be like,” Father Morris said. “He’s fairly even-keeled. He knows what he’s talking about. He has a good perception of people and situations.”

With the many demands on his time and the difficult situations that he is confronted with on a regular basis, being that kind of priest is challenging. But Father Lampert is convinced that it is very possible to achieve—with God’s help.

“[If] God calls you to do something, God’s going to give you the wherewithal to do it.”

(To learn about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

Father Vincent Lampert

  • Age: 47
  • Parents: Joseph and Sharol Lampert
  • Home Parish: Holy Trinity Parish in Indianapolis.
  • Favorite Scripture verse: “He must increase. I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). “What I do is not about me,” Father Lampert said.
  • Favorite spiritual author: Hans Urs von Balthasar
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” also known as the “Jesus prayer.” “I probably say that thousands of times a day. It’s always on the tip of my tongue.”

Local site Links: