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Father John Buckel, a diocesan priest who formerly taught Scripture classes at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, died on May 20 at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. He was 59, and had been in poor health for several years.
The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on May 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
Msgr. William F. Stumpf, moderator of the curia, was the principal celebrant. He represented Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, at the funeral liturgy.
Father James Farrell, pastor of St. Pius X Parish and director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, both in Indianapolis, was the homilist.
Burial followed at the Priests’ Circle at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis.
Benedictine Archabbot Justin DuVall of Saint Meinrad Archabbey was vice rector of the School of Theology during part of the time that Father Buckel taught there.
“Father Buckel was a popular professor at Saint Meinrad School of Theology, both for the seminarians and for the lay degree students,” Archabbot Justin said in an e-mail statement. “He was able to combine tough requirements in his Scripture courses with an obvious dedication to and affection for his students, and the result instilled in them a love for the word of God.
“Father Buckel made the Scriptures come alive for them,” the archabbot said. “Given his own struggles with Parkinson’s [disease], I know he was also an inspiration to so many, and a strong witness to the power of the love of God that he taught. His life and his teaching had this single source of unity.”
Msgr. Stumpf said Father Buckel’s priestly ministry made a great contribution to the archdiocese and to the Church.
“He was a great teacher,” Msgr. Stumpf said. “He helped form a number of our priests and priests for other dioceses” during their seminary years at Saint Meinrad.
“He was a wonderful man—very pastoral, very kind, very humble, very faith-filled—who endured a lot of suffering with a great deal of patience and humor and faith,” Msgr. Stumpf recalled. “In addition to struggling with Parkinson’s [disease], Father Buckel also suffered from a serious hearing loss that happened to him after he started teaching at Saint Meinrad, but he was not a complainer.”
Father Patrick Beidelman, vice rector of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis and director of liturgy for the archdiocesan Office of Worship, remembered Father Buckel’s Scripture classes from his years as a seminarian at Saint Meinrad from 1994 to 1998.
Father Buckel was “a very gifted scholar and teacher,” Father Beidelman said. “He was an excellent professor. … It was so obvious as he was teaching that his relationship with sacred Scripture ran very deep. He would speak to us in a scholarly way about subject matter that was rooted very deeply in his faith, his love for God and his love for the priesthood.”
His class lectures were “powerful and compelling and substantive,” Father Beidelman said. “The way that he conveyed his love for Scripture and drew us into the study of it was more about conversion.”
John Joseph Buckel was born on Sept. 18, 1951, in Indianapolis and grew up in the former St. Catherine of Siena Parish on the near-south side.
He completed his secondary education at the former Sacred Heart High School in Indianapolis then earned an associate degree in electronics engineering at the ITT Technical Institute in Indianapolis.
He served as an electronics technician for two years at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
After discerning a call to the priesthood in 1973, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology at the former Saint Meinrad College in St. Meinrad.
He earned a master’s degree in theology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.
In 1979, he taught courses on Old Testament theology at the Opus Spiritu Sancti Graduate Theology Seminary in Tanzania, Africa.
He also served in pastoral ministry in Belgium, Germany, Holland, England and France.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 1980, by the late Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
His first holy Mass was celebrated on May 18, 1980, at the former St. James Church in Indianapolis.
Father Buckel’s first assignment on July 18, 1980, was as associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.
On July 10, 1985, he began graduate studies at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, where he earned a doctorate in religious studies and graduated magna cum laude.
On Jan. 9, 1989, Father Buckel was granted permission to serve as an assistant professor at Saint Meinrad School of Theology, where he taught Scripture classes.
He was an active member of the Catholic Biblical Association, the Society of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Theological Society of America.
At Saint Meinrad, Father Buckel taught a variety of Scripture courses, including “An Introduction to the New Testament,” “The Gospel of John,” “Paul and His Theology,” “The Book of Revelation,” “Preaching, Teaching and Praying the Lectionary,” “New Testament Greek,” “The Infancy Narratives” and “The Passion Narratives.”
He also presented numerous lectures on New Testament topics throughout the U.S. and in Canada, and offered Scripture reflections for radio and television programs as well as religious publications.
For a brief time, Father Buckel wrote a regular column for The Criterion.
His article about “Paul’s Defense of Christian Liberty in Galatians” appeared in the Spring 1992 issue of Louvain Studies.
Father Buckel’s book, Free to Love: Paul’s Defense of Christian Liberty in Galatians, was published by Eerdmans in 1993.
Because of his ill health, Father Buckel had resided at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove in recent years.
Surviving are three brothers, James, Larry and Robert Buckel; nine sisters, Kathleen Beeson, Marjorie Bostick, Mary Hinderliter, Patricia Lamperski, Joan Lutgring, Judith Parrett, Anne Schoettle, Jean Schoettle and Teresa Smith; 87 nieces and nephews; and 89 great-nieces and great-nephews.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, 100 Hill Drive, St. Meinrad IN 47577 or St. Paul Hermitage, 501 N. 17th Ave., Beech Grove IN 46107. †