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Pope Benedict XVI has honored four priests and one recently deceased priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis by naming them monsignors.
Father Paul Richart, administrator of St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg; retired Father Joseph Riedman; Father William Stumpf, moderator of the curia; Father Anthony Volz, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis; and Father Joseph Kern, who died on April 16, received the honor.
Pope Benedict named Father Kern a monsignor just five days before the late dean of the Terre Haute Deanery died.
All of the priests still living who were named monsignors said they were surprised when they learned of the honor, none perhaps more so than Msgr. Riedman.
“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I thought my next stop was going to be the grave. … They must have run out of priests to make monsignors.”
Father Volz also reacted with a dose of humility when Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, called to tell him the news.
“I remember saying to Bishop Coyne that I don’t work harder than anyone else, but I won’t turn it down, that’s for sure,” Msgr. Volz said. “I was very surprised and humbled by it.”
Part of the humility, which the other new monsignors also experienced when they were told about the pope honoring them, came about in part because they know so well how much other people in their lives made them into the priests that they are today.
Some of those people are their brother priests. Of the various priests who influenced Msgr. Stumpf, he cited Father Paul Shikany, pastor of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, in particular.
“[He] was a young priest when I was in seminary and really made a big impact on my life, and helped me to feel comfortable,” Msgr. Stumpf said.
One of the priests that Msgr. Richart looked up to when he was a seminarian was the late Msgr. Kern.
They both grew up in St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis, and knew each other while they were in formation for the priesthood at Saint Meinrad Seminary in the 1950s. Msgr. Kern was four years older than Msgr. Richart.
“He was one of the [young men] that I grew up knowing in the seminary,” Msgr. Richart said. “Joe was somebody that you kind of always looked up to.”
Msgr. Volz also knew him as a seminarian in the 1980s when Msgr. Kern was ministering at St. Michael Parish in Cannelton, St. Paul Parish in Tell City and St. Pius V Parish in Troy.
Later, he appreciated his help when Msgr. Volz served as a pastor for the first time when he was assigned to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute in 1990. Msgr. Kern had already ministered in that deanery for nearly a decade.
“Joe was one of those guys who would do anything it would take to help somebody,” Msgr. Volz said. “He was very saintly, always very friendly, always had a good word and a smile. I’m thrilled that he [received] the honor.”
Bishop Coyne echoed the comments of the monsignors about their brother priests.
“This is an honor not only for these men, but for the whole presbyterate of our archdiocese,” Bishop Coyne said. “It is a recognition of all of the good work and dedication of our priests. In honoring a few, the Holy Father honors us all.”
All the living priests named monsignors also said that their honor was due in part to the help given to them over the years by the lay Catholics they have ministered to and with.
“We are always being continually formed,” Msgr. Stumpf said. “And the way we are best formed is by the people in our lives. Other people help us to be our best selves. They really do time and time again, at least in my life.”
Msgr. Riedman said that he and the other priests being named monsignors is a gift to the entire Church in central and southern Indiana.
“St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians that there are many gifts that the Lord has given us, the gifts of the Spirit,” he said. “And this is one of those gifts. The gifts are given, not for the individual, but for the good of the community.”
Msgr. Riedman said he hoped that the many parishioners he has served over the years “would experience joy” because of his honor, and that it causes them to consider “their own vocation in life and how they should live it.”
The ecclesiastical title of monsignor is an honor given to priests by the pope. It does not give priests who receive it any additional authority or duty in the Church.
A liturgy in which the new monsignors are ritually installed in their new honorary title is expected to take place later this year, but a date has not yet been set. †