Jubilees of eight priests celebrated

Priests celebrating jubilee years of their ordinations concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption May 23. Among them are, from left, Fathers Robert B. Gray, Bernard L. Craycroft, G. Nicholas Rice, Joseph T. Merkt, Donald W. Springman and Saju Vadakumpadan. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Priests celebrating jubilee years of their ordinations concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption May 23. Among them are, from left, Fathers Robert B. Gray, Bernard L. Craycroft, G. Nicholas Rice, Joseph T. Merkt, Donald W. Springman and Saju Vadakumpadan. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville gathered May 23 at the Cathedral of the Assumption to honor eight fellow priests celebrating jubilees.

The annual liturgy celebrates priests marking 25th, 50th and 60th anniversaries of ordination.

Father Joseph T. Merkt, who celebrated his golden jubilee and delivered the homily, told his brother priests that chapters in the Gospel of St. John have helped him reflect and reach a deeper understanding of his 50 years in ministry.

In chapters 14 and 16, Jesus tells his disciples he must leave them, and tries to offer comfort by saying he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them.

Upon learning that Jesus would be leaving them, the disciples faced many uncertainties, said Father Merkt. In a similar way, he said, he and his seminary classmates in 1966 were ordained during a time of uncertainties in the church.

“These Scriptures spoke powerfully to me. They lead to an image that summarizes one of the basic underlying dynamics of our class’ 50 years of priestly ministry,” said Father Merkt.

Throughout his formation for the priesthood, he noted, Mass was in Latin with the celebrant’s back to the congregation. But shortly before his ordination, a new missal changed things.

“We were leaving a lifetime of Latin liturgy behind. Our first Mass would be with new rubrics, in English, facing our family and friends,” he said. “We could hide neither our self-doubts and embarrassments nor our excitement. We were called to be pioneers, midwives who would help birth a Vatican II Church.”

Looking back, Father Merkt said he now realizes Jesus was “sitting at the table with us.” He realizes Jesus was assuring them that he was speaking to them and the church through the Second Vatican Council and the “post conciliar documents.”

Father Charles Joseph Batcheldor, left, and Dominican Father Edward M. Gorman were among eight priests honored at a jubilee Mass for priests May 23. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Father Charles Joseph Batcheldor, left, and Dominican Father Edward M. Gorman were among eight priests honored at a jubilee Mass for priests May 23. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Father Merkt said Jesus felt the pain that lay ahead of him and other priests, because of the many unknowns they were facing. At the same time, he said, he felt certain Jesus would give him strength to bear witness to the value of the coming changes.

The world and the church today, said Father Merkt, are still filled with “conflicting values” that can sometimes leave priests feeling “torn apart.”

But he finds comfort in the belief that “Jesus is reassuring us through this Gospel that we can do our little part and bear witness in our lives to his divine truth and leave the big picture to him and the Spirit to take care of,” said Father Merkt. “This belief has been a comfort to our class over the past 50 years and it speaks just as powerfully to the next 50 years as well.”

In addition to Father Merkt, the following priests were recognized for jubilee years:

60 years

Father Robert B. Gray was ordained May 25, 1957. In his 60 years of ministry, Father Gray served as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church and St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky. He served as associate pastor of St. Martha, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Therese churches and the old St. Vincent de Paul Church.
He also served as a teacher at St. Thomas Seminary. He retired in 1997.

Father Bernard L. Craycroft was ordained May 25, 1957. In his 60 years he served as pastor of Christ the King Church and St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky. Father Craycroft served as associate pastor of the old St. Matthias Church and St. Athanasius Church. He was chaplain at the Ormsby Village Treatment Center, a children’s home in Anchorage, Ky. He retired in 1998.

Father Charles Joseph Batcheldor was ordained May 25, 1957. During his 60 years of ministry, he has served at various parishes. Father Batcheldor served as pastor of St. Therese Church, St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., and St. Francis of Assisi Church. He was pastor and administrator of Annunciation Church in Shelbyville, Ky., and of St. John Chrysostom in Eminence, Ky.
Father Batcheldor served as administrator of St. Rita Church; St. Ambrose Church in Cecilia, Ky.; St. Ig
natius Church in White Mills, Ky.; St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky.; All Saints Church in Taylorsville, Ky., and St. Michael Church in Fairfield, Ky.
Father Batcheldor was associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., St. Rita Church, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church and St. Edward Church.
He also served as associate director of the permanent diaconate in 1978. Father Batcheldor retired in 2000.

50 years

Father Joseph T. Merkt was ordained Dec. 17, 1966. In his 50 years of ministry he served in various roles.
Father Merkt was a teacher at Trinity High School from 1967-1971. He served as director of Spalding University’s Russell Institute for Religion and Ministry and as director of Brescia University’s Lay Institute.
Father Merkt served as associate pastor of St. Martin of Tours Church, St. Helen Church in Louisville and St. Bernard Church.
He also served as a chaplain at Spalding University and as a chaplain and director of pastoral care at the old Marian Home and as a sacramental minister at Jewish Hospital. Father Merkt retired in 2011. He serves as a part-time chaplain at Nazareth Home-Clifton.

Father Donald W. Springman was ordained May 20, 1967. In his years of ministry, Father Springman served as pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Church and St. Martha Church. He served as associate pastor of the Church of the Ascension, the old Mother of Good Counsel Church and St. Barnabas Church.
Father Springman also taught at Trinity High School from 1967 to 1994. In 1995 he served as a co-chaplain of Holy Cross High School. He retired in 2011.

Father George Nicholas Rice was ordained May 20, 1967. Father Rice served as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
He served as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Church, Epiphany Church, St. Patrick Church and St. Frances of Rome Church.
Father Rice was the founding director of Mass of the Air, a ministry he started in 1982. He retired from that ministry in 2016.
He also served the archdiocese as director of the Vocation Office from 1972 to 1976, director of the Diaconate Office from 1974 to 1980 and director of the communications office from 1982 to 1989. Father Rice retired in 2011.

25 years

Dominican Father Edward M. Gorman was ordained May 22, 1992. In his 25 years of ministry Father Gorman has served in several countries, including as a chaplain with the U.S. Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was pastor of St. Catharine of Siena Church in New York City. Father Gorman is pastor and prior of St. Louis Bertrand Church.

Carmelite Father Saju M. Vadakumpadan, a native of Kerala, India, was ordained on Dec. 29, 1992.
In June, he will become pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Campbellsville, Ky.; Our Lady of the Hills Church in Finley, Ky.; and Our Lady of Fatima Church in Phillipsburg, Ky. He currently serves as administrator of these three churches. He was previously assigned to St. Gabriel Church.

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