By MARNIE McALLISTER, Record Assistant Editor
Deacon Christopher Bradley Lubecke, 47, will be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville on Saturday, May 25, at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will conduct the ordination which will begin at 11 a.m. All are welcome to attend.
Deacon Lubecke, who retired from a career in the United States Army in 2005, has a message for the priests of the archdiocese: “Help is on the way!”
“I see an aging clergy,” he said during a recent interview. “The numbers (of priests) are down. I’m a replacement.”
He noted specifically a study conducted by The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University. It estimated in 2009 that half of all active priests in the United States expect to retire within 10 years — by 2019.
Deacon Lubecke saw firsthand the need for more priests. When he was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., beginning in 2001, Masses often were celebrated by retired clergy. The priests were an inspiration to him, and they were among those who encouraged him to discern his own vocation, he said.
Among those who inspired and encouraged him at Fort Knox were Fathers Leo Craycroft, Ivo Cecil and Roy Dentinger. Lori Lott, a ministry coordinator at Fort Knox also influenced him, he said.
Deacon Lubecke’s path to the priesthood, like that of so many priests, did not form a straight line. He grew up in a small town, the village of Grafton, Wisc. He was a cradle Catholic, but his family fell away from religious practice when he was young.
He entered the Army in 1984, soon after graduating from high school, and planned to stay just long enough to pay for college. Instead, he found he liked the military — he had a sense of purpose, formed a strong bond with his fellow soldiers and was on call at all times. These are all elements that would later attract him to the priesthood.
The death of his father in 2000 brought him back to church. He was confirmed in 2001. At Fort Knox, he was active in ministry with others who were discovering the Catholic faith through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. And he regularly helped the clergy, he said.
Each time a priest encouraged him to consider a religious vocation, Deacon Lubecke said, “I thought I was too old.” Eventually he did take their advice. He entered seminary six years ago, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology and a baccalaureate in Sacred Theology at St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore.
He said he’s looking forward to being a pastor. His first assignment is St. Albert the Great Church where he’ll serve as associate pastor.
“People don’t care how much you know, rather, people care that you love them,” he said. “With the reduction in clergy, there’s a lot of concern, ‘Is Father going to be there for me when I need him?’ People say, ‘I’m afraid to call Father because he’s so busy.’ ”
Deacon Lubecke hopes people don’t feel that way about him. In fact, he intends to visit every parishioner in their home.
“It’s going to take time to visit all the people one by one. But that’s what people need — to have a pastor visit with them,” he said, noting that he plans to begin with the sick and homebound.
While that seems like a tough job to tackle, Deacon Lubecke said he’s accustomed to living his vocation. In the Army, “You don’t punch a clock. It’s basically 24/7, 365,”
The example of a number of priests helped model this dedication to the priesthood. In addition to those he encountered at Fort Knox, Deacon Lubecke said he was inspired by Fathers Terry Bradshaw, Joseph Rankin and Wayne Jenkins. Two other lay people also have aided him: Glory Kramer and Pat Williams.
Deacon Lubecke’s mom, Barbara, who lives in Mellen, Wisc., plans to attend Saturday’s ordination. He also has a sister, five stepbrothers and three step-sisters.
He will celebrate two Masses of Thanksgiving after ordination. The first will be at St. Rita Church, his home parish, on May 25 at 5 p.m. The second will be at St. Athanasius Church, where he served as a seminarian, on May 26 at 11:30 a.m.