Four friends were ordained to the priesthood together on May 29, 1971, at the Cathedral of the Assumption — Father Joseph Graffis and the late Fathers William Martin, James Pottinger and David Stoltz. As Father Graffis remembers it, it was a happy day.
He is the only priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville celebrating his golden jubilee this year.
Marking 60 years of priesthood this spring are Fathers Joseph M. Fowler and John G. Eifler. And three priests are celebrating 25 years — Father Frederick W. Klotter, Father Terry L. Langford and Dominican Father Kevin A. McGrath.
As he celebrates his golden jubilee, Father Graffis is remembering his classmates and wants to be sure others do, too.
“They’re laughing at me, I have no doubt about that,” he joked as he recalled the men. “I miss them and I want to make sure I honor them. Good guys. We were a close class. We agreed we were going to try to be together once a month or every six weeks. We did that probably for 10 years — up until Jim’s death. That’s how we got through those difficult years” of early priesthood.
Father James Pottinger died relatively young. He was just 37 when he died in 1983.
“He was a fun-loving guy. He had lots of talent. He died way too young,” Father Graffis said.
Father David Stoltz, the uncle of Father John Stoltz (pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky.), died in 1993 at age 49.
“There’s a picture of Father Dave Stoltz and I together at St. Thomas (Seminary) and I’m holding baby John,” said Father Graffis, noting that he and Father David Stoltz owned a lake house together. “He was a very creative guy.”
Father Martin, who died in 2017 at age 72, “never got in trouble with anything,” said Father Graffis.
“He was mild-mannered and people loved him and he loved his people. Walking with him those last years was tough. He had Parkinson’s for 20 years almost.”
Father Graffis noted that he and his classmates keenly experienced the changes brought by the Second Vatican Council, having been steeped in pre-Vatican II Masses growing up and for half of their seminary formation.
“I see myself very much as a Vatican II priest. I was blessed by my formation at St. Thomas Seminary (in Louisville) and St. Mary in Baltimore,” he said. “One was very strict in the old style — but you learn a lot of discipline in that. And in Baltimore you got exposed. I was blessed to have teachers who were internationally known scholars in Scripture and social justice. I was extremely blessed by my education.
“We had to know those four documents of Vatican II,” he added. “One of my concerns is that many of our younger generation don’t know those documents and don’t know our history. As Pope Francis says, Vatican II is part of our magisterium.”
Father Graffis has served as pastor of Epiphany, St. Augustine and St. Edward churches and as associate pastor of St. Rita Church.
He has also been on WHAS Moral Side of the News for 35 years and the WHAS Crusade for Children ministry advisory committee since the late 1990s and served on the board off and on for the last 20 or so years.
Though he retired in 2015, he has come out of retirement to serve as administrator pro-tempore at St. Gregory in Samuels, Ky., St. Raphael and St. Francis of Assisi.
He served in Bellarmine University’s campus ministry early on and currently serves as chaplain for Presentation Academy.
He will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 4 p.m. on May 29 at St. Edward Church, 9608 Sue Helen Drive.
This year’s other jubilarians are:
Rev. John G. Eifler was ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 1961, and retired in 2006. He served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church and St. Frances of Rome Church and co-pastor of St. Therese Church. He served as associate pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows, Ascension and St. Therese churches. He also served as director of development for Bellarmine University.
He currently celebrates Mass regularly for St. Frances of Rome Church.
Rev. Joseph M. Fowler was ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 1961, and retired in 2004. He served as a teacher at Trinity High School before serving in parish ministry. He served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, St. Bernard Church and Holy Trinity Church. He served as associate pastor of St. Columba, St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, Ky., Our Lady, Sts. Simon and Jude and St. Rita churches. He served as administrator of St. Cecilia and Our Lady churches.
He was the associate director of the vocation office, assistant chaplain at St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home and co-chaplain at Mercy Academy.
With his late brother Wayne Fowler, Father Fowler co-founded Hand in Hand Ministries.
Rev. Frederick W. Klotter, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, was ordained on May 25, 1996. He served as assessor in the Metropolitan Tribunal while continuing his studies after ordination at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore. He also studied at North American College in Rome.
He has previously served as pastor of St. Martin of Tours Church and as associate pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky., and St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky. He was assigned as sacramental moderator of St. Francis Xavier church in Raywick, Ky., Holy Cross Church in Holy Cross, Ky., and St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis, Ky.
Rev. Terry L. Langford was ordained on May 25, 1996. He currently serves as pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Shepherdsville, Ky., and St. Benedict Church in Lebanon Junction, Ky. He previously served as pastor of St. Lawrence and Our Mother of Sorrows churches. He also served as associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., St. Raphael Church and St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky.
He served from 2006 to 2010 with the Military Archdiocese as a chaplain in Danville, Ill., and from 2012 to 2019 as a chaplain with the Veterans Administration in VA medical centers.
Rev. Kevin A. McGrath, O.P., was ordained on May 24, 1996. He is a Dominican of the St. Joseph Province. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, he has been assigned to St. Rose Priory in Springfield, Ky. He serves as pastor of St. Rose Church and Holy Rosary Church, both in Springfield.