November 1, 2019

2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

‘Get on the bus’: Father Michael Keucher gets behind the wheel on parishioners’ journey of faith

Father Michael Keucher, archdiocesan vocations director, says earning a license to drive a school bus has helped him lead the Catholics he serves as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and as sacramental minister of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County to grow closer to Christ by taking them on pilgrimages and service trips. “Maybe it’s just a matter of getting people on the bus,” says Father Keucher. “Get on the bus. And God has allowed me to be behind the wheel.” Read his story on page 2B. (Submitted photo)

Father Michael Keucher, archdiocesan vocations director, says earning a license to drive a school bus has helped him lead the Catholics he serves as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and as sacramental minister of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County to grow closer to Christ by taking them on pilgrimages and service trips. “Maybe it’s just a matter of getting people on the bus,” says Father Keucher. “Get on the bus. And God has allowed me to be behind the wheel.” Read his story on page 2B. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

SHELBYVILLE—Look at the curriculum of a seminary and you won’t find a course titled “School Bus Driving 101.”

But Father Michael Keucher says the training he undertook in his first year of priestly ministry for a bus driver’s license has been a key part of his priestly life and ministry.

With it, he’s taken parishioners of all ages on a wide range of journeys to build up and live out their faith. The bus has been an effective tool for Father Keucher to achieve his simple goal for his ministry: “to care about people and to care about their relationship with Jesus.”

“If my goal is to get people to Jesus Christ, to get them to experience the Lord and his grace, maybe it’s just a matter of getting people on the bus,” he says with a smile. “Get on the bus. And God has allowed me to be behind the wheel.”

A contagious enthusiasm

As pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and sacramental minister of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County for the past two years, Father Keucher has found great joy in accompanying the Catholics in those faith communities on their journey of faith.

“I have discovered a lot of joy in just being with people,” he said. “I’ve experienced a lot of joy in trying to be Christ to them and bring Christ to them. I feel more alive now than I’ve ever felt in my whole life because of what God has called me to do.”

As the new vocations director for the archdiocese, Father Keucher will accompany men in central and southern Indiana who are considering if God might be calling them to the priesthood.

“I’m looking forward to walking with young men as they’re thinking about the priesthood,” he said. “Jesus wants us to be happy, to have that joy that he alone can give. So, it’s exciting to help others come to the water, to come to Jesus. There’s so much joy in that.”

Unlike previous archdiocesan vocations directors who were assigned to that ministry on a full-time basis, Father Keucher will continue in his ministry to the Catholics in Shelby County.

He’ll also be assisted in promoting the priesthood and consecrated life by five priests in various parts of the archdiocese, most of whom are serving in parishes.

Father Keucher said having priests serving in parishes taking on the mission of promoting the priesthood will give a “fuller taste” of ordained ministry to the men who are considering God’s call in their lives.

Those who might observe Father Keucher’s ministry to the Catholics of Shelby County would experience a taste of the priesthood that has a bold flavor which is the result of the diverse ingredients he has put together to create a feast of faith.

Since arriving at the two parishes of Shelby County, Father Keucher has formed a popular youth group, established a perpetual adoration chapel, started an annual Octoberfest of “music, brats and brews,” and gotten behind members of both parishes’ efforts to start a local council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which has opened a thrift store in Shelbyville.

And in addition to bus driver, you can add “playwright” to Father Keucher’s job description. With the help of retired high school English teacher Carolyn Disser, now teaching music at St. Joseph School, Father Keucher has penned three plays for St. Joseph’s students.

“He’s always thinking of new projects,” said Disser. “Everybody loves to be around him. His enthusiasm is so contagious.”

One person who has caught Father Keucher’s enthusiasm is Austin Perry, a 17-year-old St. Vincent de Paul parishioner and member of St. Joseph and St. Vincent’s youth group.

“He has such a positive attitude and has so much energy,” Austin said. “He’ll give a homily at Mass and … he’ll start jumping up and down. He has so much energy. It’s awesome.”

At a time when she has several grandchildren enrolled at its school, longtime St. Joseph parishioner Susie Fischer is glad to see Father Keucher lead her faith community. She loves going to the twice weekly daily Masses that the students attend.

“They look up to him. They love being around him,” Fischer said. “He’s so excited on Tuesdays and Fridays with the kids. He makes you want to sit up and be excited with him.”

‘The measure with which you measure’

With an ever-burgeoning parish ministry and more set before him in promoting priestly and religious vocations, Father Keucher seems to have an endless supply of energy to get it all done. He points to Christ as the source of that energy.

“It’s like Jesus says, ‘The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you,’ ” said Father Keucher, quoting Matthew 7:2. “The more that I give of myself, the more I get in return.”

He and his parishioners encounter Christ, most especially in the sacraments.

“The sacraments bring joy, the sacraments which have been handed down for 2,000 years,” Father Keucher said. “And yet every single celebration of a sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus—and I get to be a part of that. It’s absolutely mind-blowing.”

Then he gets to see how the grace of those sacraments deepens the life of faith of his parishioners.

“The joy on a kid’s face after first Communion or a man, head in hands, crying in confession, having been set free from his personal demons,” he reflected. “Grace unfolds in very storied and personal ways—and the priest gets to be right there. He gets to be a small part of the great action of grace and mercy that’s going on in the world.”

(To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit HearGodsCall.com.)


About Father Michael Keucher

  • Age: 33
  • Parents: Stephen and Diane Keucher
  • College: Indiana University in Bloomington
  • Seminary: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture verse: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides” (Mt 6:33).
  • Favorite saint: St. Philip Neri: “My confirmation patron and the saint of joy.”
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: “Anything with Mary, especially the Memorare and the rosary. Our Lady has taken possession of my heart.”
  • Favorite movie: The Sandlot: “It reminds me of the beautiful childhood God gave me, which every child deserves.”
  • Favorite book: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson: “Never has a book struck so many chords in my soul.”
  • Hobbies: Jesus and prayer, work, simply being with family and friends, bus driving, writing plays, blogging, dogs, running, biking, poetry, and travelling—especially to Central America.

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