May 15, 2015

‘A big heart for people’: Charity, love of faith leads Deacon Michael Keucher to the priesthood

Transitional Deacon Michael Keucher serves as a Communion minister during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2014, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. He will be ordained a priest on June 6 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis along with transitional deacons Adam Ahern and Andrew Syberg. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Transitional Deacon Michael Keucher serves as a Communion minister during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2014, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. He will be ordained a priest on June 6 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis along with transitional deacons Adam Ahern and Andrew Syberg. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

(Editor’s note: At 10 a.m. on June 6, three men are scheduled to be ordained priests at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis: transitional deacons Michael Keucher, Adam Ahern and Andrew Syberg. This week, The Criterion features a profile of Deacon Keucher. In the coming weeks, we will feature Deacons Ahern and Syberg.)

By Sean Gallagher

Janis Dopp has watched transitional Deacon Michael Keucher grow from a 4-year-old preschooler to a man on the verge of being ordained a priest.

Over the years, Dopp saw qualities grow in Deacon Keucher that she knew would lend themselves well to priestly ministry.

That impression increased when he became a student at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, and volunteered in catechetical and sacramental preparation programs at nearby St. Charles Borromeo Parish, where he grew up.

“He presents the faith well,” said Dopp, who has served for more than 20 years as St. Charles’ director of religious education. “You see a love of Catholicism in him and a level of charity in him that makes you want to be a better Catholic.”

She not only thought that Deacon Keucher might be called to the priesthood, but that he would excel at it.

“I always thought to myself, ‘If he ever became a priest, he’d be the best priest,’ said Dopp with a happy laugh.

She paused and then added, “I am so thrilled, really, to have known him and to have been a part of his formation.”

Deacon Keucher, 29, has received his priestly formation in a strict sense over the past six years at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, in parishes across the archdiocese, and in Guatemala, where he spent a summer in ministry and learning Spanish.

That formation will culminate at 10 a.m. on June 6 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis where Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin will ordain him and transitional deacons Adam Ahern and Andrew Syberg to the priesthood.

But the formation that has led Deacon Keucher to ordained ministry more broadly began at home in Bloomington, where his parents modeled for him and his older brother from an early age how to make the faith a natural part of their daily lives.

They saw this especially in their parents’ dedication to St. Charles. Steve Keucher, Deacon Keucher’s father, has played the organ at the parish’s 8 a.m. Sunday Mass for decades and has served on various parish committees and commissions. Diane Keucher, his mother, worked for a period at the parish school and served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

“They just had so many different roles at the parish,” Deacon Keucher said. “Growing up, it formed quite an impression on me that, yes, we have to give our lives away in whatever way. We are meant to serve.”

At the same time, Deacon Keucher recalls his parents speaking only once to him and his brother about considering the priesthood as they grew up.

Nonetheless, the way the faith was naturally woven into the life of their family led both Deacon Keucher and his brother, John, to actively discern a possible priestly call.

John ultimately concluded that God was calling him to married life.

Deacon Keucher began to feel drawn to the priesthood late in high school.

During his junior year, he was participating in St. Charles’ confirmation preparation program and began to take his faith more seriously.

In January 2004, Deacon Keucher went on a retreat at Saint Meinrad that was a part of the program and took a walk around the hill on which the seminary is located.

“I remember looking up and the snow was coming down,” he said. “At that moment, I had a strong feeling that I would be back here to become a priest one day.”

A year and a half later, however, Deacon Keucher enrolled as a student at IU and lived in a dorm on campus.

Looking back on that transition in his life, he recognizes that it could have easily led him away from his vocational discernment.

But when he moved onto the sixth floor of the east tower of Forest Residence Center at IU, he soon found a number of young men and woman living on the same floor who were serious about their faith. Some have discerned their own call to the priesthood or religious life.

“We had a ready-made community for discernment,” Deacon Keucher said. “It was unusual at IU.”

It was during his freshman year at IU that Deacon Keucher began speaking with then-archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Johnson about his discernment. He took Father Johnson’s advice to stay active in the Church while a student at IU.

He served as a catechist at St. Charles, and participated in Bible study programs at St. Paul Catholic Center and other events at St. John the Apostle Parish, both in Bloomington.

“My life was the Church,” Deacon Keucher said. “I came to realize that the more that I did, the more I wanted to do and the more I realized that my life would be completely and incredibly satisfied if I were to do that for my whole life.”

His parents were happy when he told them about his discernment.

“We were very pleased,” said Steve Keucher. “We were not expecting it. But we were not surprised.”

“We’re kind of in awe of his vocation, and always try to live up to it and be worthy of it,” said Diane Keucher. “It certainly has cemented our relationship with the Church.”

In addition to being influenced by his parents, Deacon Keucher sees seeds of his vocation planted by positive priestly examples given to him over the years by the later Father Charles Chesebrough, Precious Blood Father Donald Davison, Msgr. William Stumpf, Father Michael Fritsch and Father Thomas Kovatch.

Father Fritsch is looking forward to assisting Msgr. Stumpf in placing priestly vestments on Deacon Keucher during his ordination Mass.

Just hours after his ordination, Deacon Keucher will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Charles at 4 p.m. Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, Saint Meinrad’s president-rector, will be the homilist at the Mass.

Father Fritsch will be one of the concelebrants at the Mass.

“He is so excited to get out and be in a parish,” said Father Fritsch, pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville, of Deacon Keucher. “He’s going to be a great priest, a real asset to the presbyterate—very likable, very sociable.”

Deacon Keucher knows that through his ordination he will be a special sacramental sign for Christ for the people he will serve.

“I hope that people see Christ in me by the way that I love them,” he said. “I just have a big heart for people. I think back to Father Charlie and some of the other priests that I have known. I came to know God loves me because they loved me.”

At the same time, he knows those people will mirror Christ’s image back to him.

“I don’t tend to dwell on the negative,” Deacon Keucher said. “I always try to see the good in people. When I see the good in people, I’m seeing Christ in them.”
 

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, go to www.HearGodsCall.com.)


More about Deacon Michael Keucher

  • Age: 29
  • Parents: Steve and Diane Keucher
  • Home Parish: St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington
  • College: Indiana University in Bloomington
  • Seminary: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture verse: “From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16).
  • Favorite saint: St. Philip Neri
  • Favorite prayer: Rosary
  • Favorite movie: The Sandlot
  • Favorite book: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
  • Hobbies: Running, reading, riding roller coasters, writing, blogging, hanging out with friends, traveling

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