October 16, 2020

Father Joseph Villa led parishes in western and southern Indiana

By Sean Gallagher

Father Joseph VillaFather Joseph Villa, pastor of American Martyrs Parish in Scottsburg and St. Patrick Parish in Salem, died on Oct. 7 in Scottsburg. He was 61.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Oct. 13 at St. Benedict Church in Terre Haute. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant. Benedictine Father Julian Peters was the homilist.

Burial followed at Roselawn Memorial Park in Terre Haute.

Shortly before he was ordained a priest in 1997, Father Villa told The Criterion that those who helped form him for ordained ministry at the former Saint Meinrad College taught him to “believe and know your faith, but that the priesthood is more.

“The priest of today,” he said, “needs to know the people and should be able to share their pain and joy.”

Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan vicar general, recalled how Father Villa embodied this vision of priestly life and ministry shortly after his ordination when he was asked to help for a brief time in a parish that was awaiting the appointment of a new pastor.

“While serving at the parish, he quickly became aware that this was a very difficult time not only for the parish but especially for the parish staff,” said Msgr. Stumpf. “He organized and cooked a special luncheon for all the staff, which greatly helped lift their spirits in a painful time of transition.”

Father Julian, who came to know Father Villa at Saint Meinrad College, noted that Father Villa’s “sincerity, dedication, and devotion” touched the people to whom he ministered over the years.

“He didn’t just say Mass,” Father Julian said, “he prayed Mass.”

Joseph L. Villa was born on July 28, 1959, in Clinton to the late James and Helen Villa. He was a 1977 graduate of the former Archbishop Paul C. Schulte High School in Terre Haute.

After attending Indiana State University in Terre Haute for a year, Father Villa worked as a hair stylist for many years before becoming an archdiocesan seminarian and receiving priestly formation at the former Saint Meinrad College in St. Meinrad. He graduated from the college in 1993, earning a bachelor’s degree in English.

Father Villa continued his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College and earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, both in Rome.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein ordained Father Villa to the priesthood on June 7, 1997, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving the following day at St. Patrick Church in Terre Haute.

His first pastoral assignment was as temporary associate pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus in 1997. That fall, he returned to Rome for post-graduate studies. Father Villa earned a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum di’Sant Anselmo.

He then served from 1998-2000 as associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

In 2000, Father Villa began service as a pastor in parishes in the Terre Haute, New Albany and Seymour deaneries.

From 2000-13, Father Villa ministered in the Terre Haute Deanery as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Clinton and the former St. Joseph Parish in Universal. He also became pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Rockville in 2002, serving there until 2013.

In 2013, Father Villa became pastor in the New Albany Deanery of St. Michael Parish in Bradford, St. Bernard Parish in Frenchtown and administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Crawford County.

In 2016, Father Villa began his last pastoral appointment as pastor of American Martyrs Parish in Scottsburg and St. Patrick Parish in Salem, both in the Seymour Deanery.

Surviving are his sister, Nancy Adams of Indianapolis, and his brother, John Villa of Terre Haute.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, 200 Hill Drive, St. Meinrad, IN 47577, or to local chapters of the Humane Society. †

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