By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Father Joseph H. Voor, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, has been selected to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
Father Voor is a member of the 1950 ordination class of St. Meinrad Seminary, and will be honored at the school’s annual reunion on July 30.
Though “retired,” Father Voor, 87, is still active in numerous ministries including Worldwide Marriage Encounter — a program very near and dear to his heart — and the archdiocese’s Why Catholic? program.
Father Voor, a deeply humble man, said that as a young child his father instilled in him the love of experiencing new people and places. That interest was further enriched at St. Meinrad, where, he said, he learned that the church was much larger than just the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“We had seminarians coming from many different dioceses,” he recalled. “Even though I never thought about it at the time it introduced me to a broader church. It (the seminary) led me to have an interest in the church at large.”
Father Voor said he felt priviledged to be one of three priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville to be given the alumnus award from St. Meinrad. Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, the first president of Bellarmine College, received the award in 1990, and Father J. Ronald Knott, was presented the award in 2010. Ursuline Sister Margaret Ann Hagan, also from the Archdiocese of Louisville, received the award in 2007.
“I feel very honored to be included in their company. I’m amazed to be remembered after all these years,” he said in an interview at the St. James rectory July 22.
Father Voor has been a senior associate priest at St. James and St. Brigid churches since 1995 and considers his ministry there an important part of his retirement.
“When people participate in Mass it’s a glorious experience,” he said. “The Eucharist is the heart of my priesthood and life, no question.”
He said that’s why he’s chosen to stay so active in his retirement and that God has blessed him with good health.
“There is no way to retire from the priesthood. To be a priest is to be a father and one cannot quit being a father,” he said.
And now in his retirement, he said, he can simply enjoy being a priest.
“The priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville are a real inspiration to me all the time. We have a wonderful priesthood,” he said.
His lists of accomplishments, ministries and activities are too lengthy to mention in total here. But Father Voor is quick to say that his work with Worldwide Marriage Encounter has been one of the greatest joys of his 63-year-priesthood.
He said that in marriage encounter weekends participants hear the message that, as couples continue to grow in love with their spouses, they also continue to find God in their love for each other.
“For me as a priest it’s the same thing. I find God in my people; I find love in them. Not by serving but by loving them,” he explained.
In his fleeting moments of spare time, Father Voor enjoys playing tennis and golf on a regular basis.
Father Donald Goetz, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, was one of the numerous people to nominate Father Voor for the alumnus award.
Father Goetz, who lived with Father Voor while he was pastor of St. James and St. Brigid churches, noted the influential work Father Voor did for the archdiocese following the Second Vatican Council.
“He was a great help in his work of trying to bring Vatican II alive in the archdiocese” and by implementing the parish council system, said Father Goetz, who will introduce Father Voor at the awards ceremony.
Father Voor considers that time in his ministry “a great honor.”
“There was mixed reaction. Some were excited, others dragged their feet,” he recalled. “The diocese as a whole was exceedingly open. I had the support of the bishop” in bringing about new programs and ideas, he added.
The St. Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award was first given in 1990 and honors a person who exemplifies “the Gospel values in his or her life and work.”
Tim Herrmann, director of alumni relations for St. Meinrad Archabbey, Seminary and School of Theology, said Father Voor’s “breadth of outreach” stood out to the committee.
“His example of a priest is definitely a model young men and women can look to. They can see what he has done for the church and the impact he has made in different ministries,” he said. “Some folks in ministry can get caught up in the hum-drum of everyday duties. He took his call as a minister, as a priest, much farther.”
* This story was updated on Aug. 8 to include Ursuline Sister Margaret Ann Hagan. Sister Hagan also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2007.