August 19, 2011

Friends, family, parishioners praise new monsignors

Processing out of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the conclusion of an Aug. 14 Evening Prayer liturgy are, from left, Msgr. Paul Richart, Msgr. William Stumpf, Msgr. Anthony Volz and Msgr. Joseph Riedman. Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI gave these priests and the late Msgr. Joseph Kern the title of monsignor. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Processing out of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the conclusion of an Aug. 14 Evening Prayer liturgy are, from left, Msgr. Paul Richart, Msgr. William Stumpf, Msgr. Anthony Volz and Msgr. Joseph Riedman. Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI gave these priests and the late Msgr. Joseph Kern the title of monsignor. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When Pope Benedict XVI gave the title of monsignor earlier this year to the late Msgr. Joseph Kern, Msgr. Paul Richart, Msgr. Joseph Riedman, Msgr. William Stumpf and Msgr. Anthony Volz, he singled out five priests who, combined, had ministered for 211 years in the Church in central and southern Indiana and in places around the world.

Over the course of that time, the priests led in faith countless parishioners, friends and family.

More than 500 people gathered from all corners of the archdiocese on Aug. 14 to pay tribute to the monsignors as their ecclesiastical honors were ritually conferred in an Evening Prayer liturgy. (Click here to view photos from the event and purchase reprints)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, presided at the liturgy for Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, who continues to recover from a stroke that he suffered earlier this year.

“He is, unfortunately, not able to be here,” Bishop Coyne said in his homily. “That’s a shame because he was the one who actually got these honors moving. He knows and loves these men whom we will acknowledge as having received these great honors from the pope.”

Bishop Coyne praised the new monsignors for their decades of dedicated priestly ministry.

“It used to be that when you were made a monsignor, you could kind of perhaps settle back in the dignity of your honor and let others do a little bit more work,” Bishop Coyne said. “But all of these men, save for our dear priest, Father Kern, who passed before this honor could be bestowed, are men who work very hard in the archdiocese and have done so for many years.”

Msgr. Kern died on April 16, just days after Pope Benedict named him a monsignor.

“I think it is absolutely wonderful,” said Good Shepherd Sister Rose Kern, Msgr. Kern’s sister. “But I’m happy he’s already in heaven because he would never want the honor. He was happy to be just a simple parish priest.”

Robert Kern, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, received the framed letter from the pope that named his brother a monsignor.

The other new monsignors also received their own framed letters. As a sign of the conferral of their ecclesiastical honor, surplices were placed over the special cassocks that designate their title of monsignor.

Msgr. Richart has ministered at St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg in the New Albany Deanery for the past 15 years. Prior to that, he served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 30 years in such faraway locales as Hawaii and Greenland. He retired with the rank of colonel.

Larry Richart, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, was pleased to see his brother being honored in the past by the Air Force and now by the Church.

“It gives you a lot of pride,” Larry Richart said. “You [already] knew how high quality of a person he was. That everybody else thought he was deserving of that office also only verified it.”

Joyce Gambrall, a member of St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg, made the trip to the cathedral with a friend to see her pastor honored.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for anything. It was wonderful,” Gambrall said. “He’s a very special man. He is very Christ-like, but yet he’s very down-to-earth and just a real person.”

Msgr. Richart said being named a monsignor in the same year in which he is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest was “the top of the heap.”

“I was impressed with the ceremony,” Msgr. Richart said. “And I was glad to be a part of this group [of new monsignors]. They’re very worthy priests to be honored this way.”

In his 55 years as a priest, Msgr. Riedman has ministered in many large parishes in the archdiocese. Many former parishioners and family and friends gave him sustained applause when he received his ecclesiastical honor.

“It was very exciting for me,” he said. “I know that they wished me well. And I thought it was great that we had the other priests [honored] also.”

Jim Riedman was born two years after his brother. They grew up together in the 1930s as members of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville, where Jim is still a parishioner.

“When we were kids, they thought we were twins,” Jim Riedman said. “Our mother dressed us alike for a while. Then we served together at Mass.”

Of his brother being named a monsignor, Jim said, “It was wonderful. It was the most wonderful thing that could happen. It was very touching. I’m proud of his achievements.”

Quenia Rodriguez got a sense of how dedicated Msgr. Riedman was in his ministry as the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis when, as a newcomer to Indianapolis, he took her phone call about 12 years ago when she inquired about enrolling her daughter, Mercedes, in kindergarten at the parish’s school.

“He said he was going to have someone call me back, but he called me back with all of the information about the school,” said Quenia, who is now Holy Spirit’s parish secretary.

She and her husband, Isidoro, were impressed by how much Msgr. Riedman worked to get Holy Spirit’s now burgeoning Hispanic ministry off the ground.

“That’s one of the reasons that I’m here, to let him know that we’re very grateful that he gave a chance to our Hispanic community,” Isidoro said.

Larry Stumpf said with a laugh that his younger brother, Msgr. William Stumpf, keeps him “on the straight and narrow.”

He was glad to be at the cathedral to see his brother, who serves as the archdiocese’s moderator of the curia, honored as a monsignor.

“It was very nice. It was nice for him to achieve that honor,” Larry Stumpf said. “To know that he had that many friends and family show up to honor him [was wonderful].”

One of those friends was seminarian Michael Keucher, who assisted in the liturgy as an altar server.

Keucher, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, said his former pastor “opened a lot of doors” for him as he discerned a possible priestly vocation.

“He invited me to take a larger part in the [life] of the parish,” Keucher said. “He’s a model of the humility and the faith that I hope to one day exude myself as a priest.”

“It was so touching to know that people would actually take time to come and celebrate with you,” said Msgr. Stumpf of the liturgy. “I was just amazed that folks came from different times in my life to come and celebrate. I was very, very touched by their presence.”

Unlike the other priests honored along with him, Msgr. Anthony Volz, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, has a small extended family who live out of state and weren’t able to present for the liturgy.

But many former parishioners were on hand to show him their love and support.

Helen Kurker, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, considers herself a sort of mother of her former pastor.

That close bond is rooted in the time that he spent by her side and in ministering to her family when she suffered a stroke shortly after he began his assignment at Christ the King.

“He’s very humble, very obedient,” Kurker said, “and he’s just a wonderful friend.”

If Msgr. Volz is like a son to Kurker, then he is like a father to Father Sean Danda, associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish.

They met years ago when Father Danda was a high school student at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, and Msgr. Volz was pastor of the adjacent St. Michael the Archangel Parish.

Later, Father Danda had a summer assignment as a seminarian at Christ the King when Msgr. Volz was pastor there.

Now they are ministering together at St. Barnabas.

“It has been a wonderful experience,” Father Danda said. “It’s almost like having a parent honored in a lot of ways, having known him so long and having had so much respect for him. It’s been a wonderful thrill to see him raised to this great honor.”

Msgr. Volz has a special appreciation for his honor because, over the past year, he has struggled with his own health challenges.

“Since I’ve recovered from my heart issues, it’s become an even more humbling experience,” Msgr. Volz said. “You have different life perspectives. I’m just grateful for all the people that I’ve been able to serve and will serve. And I thank God for this honor and thank the archbishop.” †

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