Vocation Office welcomes new leader

Father Anthony Chandler, left, laid hands on Father Kirby Rust at his ordination May 25 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Father Chandler became the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville Vocation Office in June. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

Father Anthony Chandler may be new to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office, but it’s a ministry is close to his heart.

Father Chandler, who has served as pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in La Grange, Ky., since 2011, recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his ordination.

He took the helm of the Vocation Office last month and said he aims to focus on creating a culture of vocations in parishes and homes.

“I want people to know that priests still come from families, therefore we have to have a supportive culture of vocations both within the diocese and in families,” he said during an interview in his office at the Maloney Center last month.

A “culture of vocations” begins with prayer, said Father Chandler.

“We have to pray for vocations. People have to be open to the concept that their children may be called to the priesthood and religious life and be in prayerful gratitude of that,” he said.

Lay ministers and members of the diaconate are all important to the church, but those roles are not the same as the priesthood, he noted.

Father Anthony Chandler

“The institution of the priesthood goes back to the Upper Room,” where Jesus broke bread with the disciples. “Priesthood is uniquely tied to the sacramental lifeblood of the church — communion, other sacraments and preaching the word,” he said.

Father Chandler also said he hopes to change the attitudes of those parents who don’t welcome their son’s calling to the priesthood.

A more intentional effort must be made, he said, in parishes, schools and homes to promote vocations and encourage young men and women who feel a call to serve people through the priesthood and religious life.

“We must reinvigorate the message,” he said.

He succeeds Father Michael Wimsatt who led the office from 2014 until recently and who continues to serve as the pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Father Chandler currently serves as president of the Priests’ Council. He is also on the policy board of the Catholic Schools Athletic Association, the editorial board of The Record and a member of the board of consultors. He previously served on the board of overseers at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology and as vice chancellor of Catholic chaplain education and formation at the Archdiocese of Military Services.

He attended St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology and the Catholic University of America. He was ordained a priest in 1989.

Over the course of the last year, Father Chandler has spent a good deal of time with the young men currently in formation to be priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

“The first thing I’ve learned about these guys in formation is that they really like each other. They are supportive of one another. Their grades are good; their evaluations are good; and they themselves are happy,” he said.

They project a joy, he said, that is contagious.

“I want these young men to know that I love them and I support them and I want to encourage them,” he said.

Father Chandler said he plans to devote two afternoons — Tuesdays and Fridays — in his office at Maloney. Assisting him are Father Peter Do, associate vocation director, Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth, associate director, and Kelly McLemore, office secretary.

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