Tag Archives: chaplain

Houma-Thibodaux chaplain heads bishops’ committee against racism


Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana grew up as the fifth of six children. When he and his siblings had disagreements, his parents had a simple rule.

“My mother would say, ‘Unless there’s blood or the police involved, figure it out yourselves,’” Bishop Fabre said with a laugh while recalling his childhood in New Roads, Louisiana.

Now 57, Bishop Fabre recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He has been the bishop of Houma-Thibodaux since October 2013, and is the chaplain of Legatus’ Houma-Thibodaux Chapter.

More recently, in his position as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Fabre has overseen the implementation of “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved at their November 2018 general meeting in Baltimore.

When did you first believe you were called to be a priest?

My call came from a priest. I was an altar server, around six or seven years, when the priest said, “You know, you should be a priest.” He said that to all the altar servers. But with me, it kind of stuck and it stayed with me from that point forward.

When did you enter seminary?

That is quite a story. I actually went to a high school seminary. I stayed three days, absolutely hated it and left. I said, “Okay Lord, I gave you a shot. I’m done.” I then went to a local Catholic high school. In my senior year, one of my brothers died of leukemia. That kind of event will have even a young person reflecting on life and suffering. So, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a priest after all. I went back to the seminary in college, and here I am today.

What was it about the high school seminary that you found off-putting?

I think I was just too young to leave my family. It was mostly homesickness. I just wanted to go home.

What was it like growing up as the fifth of six children?

There was always great activity in the house. Being one of six children, I think you learn to share everything you have, including a bedroom. The only person in our house who had her own room was my sister because she was the only girl. All the boys were shoved into one bedroom. You had your side of the bed and your area, but we learned to share what we had.

What lessons did your parents teach you?

My father was often asked which child he loved the most. My father had a response that always stuck with me. He always said, “The one who needed it most at the time.” I think that’s a great insight into both love and being loved.

What have been your impressions of Legatus since becoming a chapter chaplain?

I find that the people in Legatus are very faith-filled people who want to do the right thing. They are people who want to learn more, all that they can, about their faith. They are people who really do want to bring to their businesses, the Catholic faith. They are trying to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and bring that relationship to every aspect of their lives.

As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism, what makes this the right time for the Church to address racism?

I think that racism is an evil and a sin that we need to constantly be on guard against, rooting out of our lives and rooting out of society. I think this is another time when the bishops, and we all, need to be on-guard with regard to respecting the human dignity of each and every person. And that is what is at the very heart of “Open Wide Our Hearts.” The bishops make it very clear that racism is a life issue.

Meet the Chaplain: Concurrent pastor of two parishes also shepherds Detroit Chapter

Monsignor Charles Kosanke, the chaplain of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, is the pastor of the Motor City’s two oldest operating parishes.

Monsignor Kosanke, 59, who was ordained a priest in December 1985, is also the chairman of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Detroit and a member of the Catholic Biblical Association. He has been a Legatus chaplain for 14 years, and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How would you describe your experience as a Legatus chaplain?

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful, dedicated and generous Catholics who support the Church and many other worthy charities. Our monthly program and speakers not only inspire and inform the members of the chapter, but I experience that same inspiration and knowledge as well.

How did you discern your vocation?

The birth of my vocation was really in my home parish, where my family was very involved, as well as my siblings and me. I was an altar server for many years, which gave me a close-up view of a parish priest. I looked into religious orders like the Capuchins, but I really felt called to be a parish priest in a diocese. So after high school, I entered the seminary. But though I never became a Franciscan, many of my parish assignments have brought me into contact with the poor and suffering.

What is your current assignment?

I’m the pastor of two parishes in Detroit: St. Anne Church, which was founded in 1701 and is the second-oldest operating parish in the United States, and the oldest church in Detroit. I’m also the pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit, which is our second oldest parish founded in 1834.

In what ways is it unique for you being pastor of two historical parishes?

These two particular parishes are very special to the city of Detroit, not only for their history, but also for their legacy of service. Most Holy Trinity has one of the few Catholic schools left in the city of Detroit. It also has the longest operating free medical clinic in the country. In fact, Most Holy Trinity Church was the first hospital in Detroit because it was the place where they brought people suffering from the cholera epidemic in 1834. With St. Anne Church, the vision of Archbishop [Allen Henry] Vigneron is for St. Anne’s to become an apostolic center for the diocese, especially in the area of evangelization, with programs and services that would benefit all of the Catholics in Detroit.

How do you balance everything?

Two things are very important to me. One, is to get eight hours of sleep a night. Second, a daily holy hour in the morning. Those two things really keep me physically and spiritually strong, and keep me able to balance my various responsibilities. Plus, the parishes and Catholic Charities have very good staff, so it certainly makes it easier when you’re working with competent and dedicated people.

What do you do in your free time?

In my downtime, there are three things I like to do. I like to read, especially history. I also like to golf and swim.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading two books. One is called 1861, which is about the start of the Civil War after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The other is more Detroit-based, called The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Streets. These two books dovetail with one another about that time in history. Also, St. Anne’s was the only place of worship in the city of Detroit for 110 years, so anything that happened in the first 100 years of the city certainly has to do with my parish.

How would you describe your day-today life?

 When it comes down to it, my life is really the Church. It’s not like I’m a priest 40 hours a week and the other time is my own. I’m basically immersed in the Life of the Church, which gives me great joy.

Meet the Chaplain: Kansas City Chapter chaplain sensed priestly calling in 4th grade


Father Kenneth A. Riley, 53, is the new co-chaplain of Legatus’ Kansas City Chapter, which is set to charter in August 2019. The Chapter encompasses members from both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas.

Father Riley, who has been a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri for 27 years, is also the diocesan vicar general for administration, the moderator of the curia, chancellor, and the judicial vicar. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

Some days, I juggle it better than others. It’s really about what is the next deadline? What is needed most at the time? I try to give each of them a little bit of time every day but I also have great people I work with who really keep things moving too.

Did you always want to be a priest?

I thought about it in the fourth grade. I was an altar server. I loved it and thought, “Well, this would be kind of cool.” But that quickly went away and I then wanted to be a photojournalist and travel the world. I wanted to find local people, local stories, and just kind of walk with people and hear their stories, their lives, and see how God acts in the world.

How did you then discern the priesthood?

In junior high and high school, the idea of the priesthood kept coming back. I talked to my folks about it. I woke them up one night and told them I couldn’t get rid of this idea, that maybe God was calling me to be a priest. We had to shake my father awake. He said, “Okay, we’ll talk about this later,” and went back to bed. My mom and I stayed up for the night and talked it through.

Was there a moment when God confirmed for you your vocation?

In my junior year of Conception Seminary College, I had an experience coming back from the Rec Center. I went to the student chapel outside of a required prayer time and sat there. I had an experience of God laughing at me, but it was like one of those times where someone tells you a joke and you’re not getting it in the moment, but then it kind of clicks. I was very much at peace then that this is where God was calling me to be.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Several years ago, when they were starting the group, they would meet at the cathedral, which is where I’m in residence, so I kind of knew them and would help out with confessions and Mass. They had a different priest chaplain for a number of years, and when he was reassigned, the bishop invited me to pick up the mantle and try to help the Legates as they move forward as a fledgling new chapter.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I love that there is such a prayerful spirituality and tone. I love the fact that they’re professional networkers who live their faith. I appreciate their faithfulness to the Church’s teachings, beliefs, and practices. I think lifelong learning is very important for all categories, and if you can do it with like-minded individuals of faith, that’s just a tremendous blessing for people.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to go to the movies. I used to run a group for Catholics in the social media profession locally. I enjoy working and making faith connections with movies and television. Also, I like going out with friends for food and drink. I like to try different foods and converse over dinner. For me, that is very Eucharistic.

What is the value of media to evangelization?

We cannot not engage social communications and the media. This is the digital world we’re in. But we need to do it with charity and love, not hate and name-calling. At the same time, we have to call out people who do not speak the good, the true, or the beautiful, and continue to have the Gospel and the Good News presented there.

Meet the Chaplain: Lincoln chaplain first pondered priesthood in youth, when dad was ill


As a young man, Father James Meysenburg entered the seminary with the idea that he would attend for one year and then quit to prove to himself and others that he was not supposed to be a priest.

Today, Father Meysenburg, 55, is about to celebrate his 30th anniversary of his ordination.

“It didn’t work out the way I thought it would,” Father Meysenburg said with a laugh during a recent interview with Legatus magazine.

Father Meysenburg, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, became the chaplain of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter a year ago. He is also the chief administrative officer of Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

I lived with the previous chaplain in residence at St. Joseph’s parish where he was pastor. If he was gone for some reason and couldn’t do the Legatus Masses, I would cover for him, so I got introduced to it that way. And because of my position here at Pius X, I knew probably half or a third of the people that were in the Legatus Chapter anyway

How would you describe your time as a Legatus chaplain so far?

It’s an impressive group of people to be around. I’m edified by their faith. I’m edified by how they try to bring their faith into their businesses and into their homes, especially in their families. I always appreciate the quality of speakers they have brought in over the years. That combination of being surrounded by real quality, faith-filled people, and having people who come in and give inspiring talks has been really wonderful. It’s been a real blessing for me.

When did you first suspect you were called to the priesthood?

Probably like most young boys, as an altar boy, you think about it. I quit thinking about it until my seventh-grade year, when my father got sick with colon cancer. That was when I started thinking about things to do with eternal life and what this world is all about. After my father died when I was in eighth grade, I kind of forgot about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then in my senior year of high school, I had a couple of people say, “Hey, have you ever thought about the priesthood?” I wanted to tell them to get lost.

Did you feel more comfortable about it when you entered the seminary?

No. I battled, wrestled, and tried to come up with every excuse I could as to why I should leave. It really wasn’t until I was two months away from my diaconate ordination that I had a sense that, “Okay, this is really an invitation. I can say ‘no’ and God will still love me, yet all the signs are saying that is what the Lord really wants me to do.”

What kind of assignments have you had as a priest?

I’ve been involved in education my whole priesthood. When I was newly ordained, the bishop at the time had two big priorities; one was vocations, the other was Catholic schools. All the priests were assigned to teach in Catholic schools because he wanted a priest’s presence to help with vocations. So I started teaching. After a year or so, I found that I really loved teaching. The bishop later told everyone to get an administration degree, so I went to the University of Nebraska and got my educational administration degree. 

Do you have any hobbies?

I like golfing. I wish I could say I was good at it, but I’m not. I am also a motorcycle enthusiast. I’ve enjoyed taking some great trips on a motorcycle. It’s been a few years now since I’ve been able to take a long trip, but I really enjoy it. Going up into the mountains with the bike, it’s really mind-clearing.

Meet the Chaplain: New Lake Charles chaplain a marriage tribunal judge


In Humble fashion, Father Ruben Villareal told Legatus magazine that he is “not very interesting.”

But the 31-year-old priest, who was ordained in 2015, is already a canon lawyer who, since July 2017, has served as a judge for the diocesan tribunal in the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana.

Father Villareal, who thought about becoming a lawyer when he was younger, also teaches high school and college-level philosophy classes. Last summer, he was appointed to become the new chaplain of Legatus’ Lake Charles Chapter. 

When did you discern your vocation?

I first began discerning during my junior year in high school. I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after high school, so I began to pray about it. Immediately this idea came up, which was not a very attractive idea because I was thinking about having a career as a lawyer. I tried to make it go away, but it wouldn’t. So eventually, I looked into it. My pastor said, “Why don’t you give it one year? And after that, see what you think.” So I did that, and it became 11 years of studies. It turned out to be a good fit.

How did you go on to study canon law?

After I did two years of philosophy studies at our minor seminary in Louisiana and three years of philosophy at Catholic University in Washington D.C., I went to Rome to do my theology studies at the North American College. The way it works there, the theology degree is three years, but the American bishops require four years of studies. You have to begin something in your fourth year. Well, before the third year, my bishop said he would like to me to register to study canon law in my fourth year. I then stayed on two additional years to finish that degree. 

What is most challenging about being a diocesan tribunal judge?

Receiving petitions for declarations of nullity, though not all of them can be granted if the evidence is not there. For example, a few months ago, I had a man who was a year older than me sitting in my office. Things went south in his marriage but there really was no evidence for the declaration of nullity. There was nothing we could do, so I had to give it a negative. At the time he was 31, he’s got his life ahead of him, and his marriage of seven years just went south, completely out of his control, and I’m saying that at least in my opinion, he had no reason to think that he should get married again. Things like that are very difficult. 

What is more rewarding, being a diocesan tribunal judge or a high school philosophy teacher?

Teaching high school is much more rewarding. Seeing the kids light up when they finally understand something, philosophically or theologically. Getting to know them and figuring out how they think, how they see the world, that’s a lot more gratifying. 

What have been your initial impressions of Legatus?

So far, I’ve really been impressed with the overall ethos of Legatus. I see how it encourages the members to be involved in their community as Catholics, either through their businesses directly or inspiration to support a ministry. It really fortifies them to do what they’ve already been doing in many cases. I’ve also been very impressed with the speakers that we’ve had. Plus, I like the fact that Legatus goes out of its way to provide its members with the opportunity for Confession and Mass. 

Who are your spiritual role models?

I would say Bishop Fulton Sheen, Pope Benedict XVI, certainly John Paul II. I have a devotion to Our Lady of Humility and a huge devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas. 

What are your hobbies?

Usually, I read. I’m not terribly interesting. I don’t hike, run, or swim. I just like run-of-the-mill stuff, having conversations with friends and family, things like that.

Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Anthony Giampietro – San Francisco Chapter

Father Anthony Giampietro, a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil, serves as development director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He has spoken and written on a broad range of issues, including Catholic bioethics, marriage and family life, and the Catholic intellectual tradition. Father Giampietro, 56, who was ordained in 1993, has spent half of his priestly life teaching in academia. He is the ninth of 11 children. His late father, Alexander Giampietro, was an internationally known artist and longtime professor at the Catholic University of America. Father Giampietro spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

What are your duties as development director for the archdiocese?

I help people to understand the good works of the archdiocese and to encourage their financial support. I oversee the archdiocesan annual appeal and the priests’ retirement luncheon. In the past year, I’ve been cultivating what’s called the archbishop’s circle of donors — donors who are particularly committed to the archdiocese, to their parishes, to their annual appeal amounts, and who are prepared to do something over and above that. These donors give particular help to the archbishop in whatever areas he feels are important that particular year, whether it’s vocations, education or Hispanic ministry.

When did you discern you were called to be a priest?

For me, it was after my freshman year of college that it first entered my mind. It was not something that I immediately pursued. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college, and then I was in banking for a couple of years. That’s when I decided to pursue it.

How important is education for the Church’s mission?

Catholic education in general is vital, not only to the Church but to our society. More and more, it’s clear that we must take faith seriously. There are too many discussions about the role of faith in politics, the role of faith in international questions, whether it’s immigration or health care. We must take faith seriously, and the Catholic intellectual tradition has such conviction that good reasoning does not contradict authentic faith. All traditions — including secular atheism — can benefit from an encounter with that tradition.

As the ninth of 11 children, what was it like growing up on the younger end of the spectrum?

I really looked up to my older brothers and sisters. We’d have big meals around the table. For my parents, they really counted on the older children to help raise the younger children. It was a wonderful community of family.

Every single one of the 11 children is a practicing Catholic. My father combined many qualities that were attractive to us and to his students. He would invite professors over from the university where he taught, and my mother would cook a delicious meal. My father invited them over because he wanted to learn from people who knew more about some subject than he did. It was a joyful environment in which we combined family life, healthy intellectual conversation and delicious food.

How long have you been affiliated with Legatus?

I came to know Legatus in Houston about 10 years ago. Archbishop Cordileone asked me to be the chaplain of the San Francisco group, which has been quite wonderful. I think Legatus represents a tremendous initiative. We need people, laity, living their faith quietly, sometimes vocally, in politics, in business, in so many ways.

What are your hobbies and interests?

The love of my life used to be basketball, and from time to time I still play. I also love good movies, but I do pay attention to sports because there’s something about sports where it’s all out there. There is no hiding. Either you make a play or you don’t.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Meet the Chaplain: Fr. James Misko – Austin Chapter

Father James Misko gained some valuable insights into how to be a good pastor from his seven years working as a manager in the restaurant industry. In both worlds, he says, the bottom line is serving people. That experience has been invaluable as Fr. Misko, 46, a priest of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, now pastors St. Louis King of France Church in Austin, a parish with more than 4,000 families and 80 staff members. Father Misko’s business background also serves him well in his role as chaplain of Legatus’ Austin Chapter. He spoke with staff writer Brian Fraga.

Fr. James Misko

How did you get into the restaurant business?

While I was going to college, I began working for a restaurant in Austin, the Macaroni Grill. I was just a waiter, and then they asked me if I wanted to become a manager. I was already thinking about becoming a priest at the time, but I said, “Well, this could be fun. I could work here for a couple of years, learn a little bit about business and then go to seminary.” I became an assistant manager. I went to San Antonio, Little Rock, Ark., and back to Austin where I became a general manager.

The whole time you were thinking of the priesthood?

I knew the whole time I wanted to be a priest. I had some success in the corporate world, and I enjoyed it. It was something that gave me life, but I knew it was something that wouldn’t give me as much life as being a priest. So when I was 30, I decided to go to seminary. I was ordained in 2007 as a priest for the Diocese of Austin.

When did you first realize that you may have had a priestly vocation?

Probably my sophomore year in high school. I got really involved in the youth ministry program in my parish. I was also fortunate enough to have some priests in my parish who were just regular guys. They enjoyed sports. They enjoyed cooking steaks on the grill. They enjoyed talking to parishioners. For me, it was a blessing to have those two guys because they made it seem like the priesthood would be a wonderful life.

How has your background in business helped you as a priest?

When you’re in the restaurant business, it’s really about hospitality and it’s about service. When I think about my own priesthood, what do I do here every day? It’s about hospitality and service. We are here to serve people, whether we’re teaching school or we’re getting people ready for Baptism or we’re going to the hospital to anoint people. We are here to serve them.

How did you get linked up with Legatus?

I’ve known a number of the members of the Austin Chapter. They had invited me to come to their events over the last three or four years. About six months ago, Bishop Joe Vazquez called me and asked if I would consider being the chaplain, and I accepted the call.

Legatus is a great organization. With God, all professions become vocations, and that gives meaning to the work that people do. If God is not present in work, then it ultimately will not feed their souls. But when God is involved, and they’re able to bring God to their daily lives as professionals, it will feed them for the rest of their lives, and their work will be joyful. They will be able to help others.

What do you enjoy doing in your down time?

I try to ride my bike three or four times a week. Austin is a great cycling town. I also enjoy playing golf. Since I worked in the restaurant business, I enjoy cooking. I also enjoy singing. Our parish has a really good music program. We actually sing Compline every Sunday evening. It’s all Gregorian chant, the beautiful music from the monastic tradition of our Church.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Christopher Liguori – Jacksonville Chapter

Father Christopher Liguori, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Jacksonville, Fla., is the co-chaplain of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter. He was ordained a priest in 2003 and has served in a variety of parish assignments, including parochial vicar at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. His interests include traditional liturgy and sacred music, classical architecture and religious art. He is also passionate about Catholic education. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff‚ writer Brian Fraga.

Fr. Christopher Liguori

Fr. Christopher Liguori

Was the Catholic faith a big part of your home growing up?

I am the fourth child of five boys. My grandparents were Italian immigrants who, of course, were Catholic. †They settled in a small town in upstate New York where there wasn’t a priest. My grandmother, who never learned English, used to go to the Protestant church and would bring my father, since he was the baby of four boys. For reasons I do not know, he ended up attending Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and was ordained an Episcopalian priest. I was raised Anglo-Catholic until my teens.

When did you first discern your call to the priesthood?

It was later in life, in my early 30s. It was very much a process of conversion. I was a political science major with plans to become an international corporate lawyer. But I ended up goofing o‚ff in college and knew law school wasn’t for me. After a few years of surfing during the day and waiting on tables at night, I went back to college and got a degree in design technology.

I was about to start my degree in architecture when the call became even stronger, the major influence being my home parish, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, as well as my volunteer work at Catholic Charities. While vacationing with my family in Italy, I took a train to Rome to meet up with my pastor, Fr. Robert Baker [now Bishop Baker of the Birmingham diocese], to attend a papal audience with him. Shaking the hand of Pope John Paul II had a profound effect on me.

What were your duties as parochial vicar at the Cathedral Basilica?

Cathedral Basilica was my home parish. During my six years at seminary, I had a room in the rectory and would spend breaks and summers there, living with the priests and bishop, so it was like coming home. Serving in the nation’s oldest parish carries with it a responsibility to preserve and participate in its historical role where the Catholic faith had its start in 1565.

My assignment also included being master of ceremonies for the bishop, so I was in charge of all the cathedral liturgies that the bishop presided at, as well as travelling to 20 to 25 parishes a year to assist with confirmations and other events. †This gave me a great perspective of the diocese.

How and when did you become acquainted with Legatus?

My first assignment was at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Ponte Vedra in 2003. Th†is was the year the Jacksonville Chapter chartered. Bowie Kuhn, who founded the chapter, was a member of this parish. Since we were both associated with Opus Dei, we had many long conversations. †The bishop was the chapter’s first chaplain, and he asked me to assist him.

What have your impressions of Legatus been?

Legatus is like family to me. I have been with them for 12 years. I so look forward to the monthly meetings. Legatus Jacksonville members are the most wonderful people, really striving to live holy lives. †They are also very supportive and appreciative of me. I recently built a church, school, parish hall and office. †They were with me the whole way, encouraging and supporting me.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Meet the Chaplain: Fr. John Silva – Madison Chapter

Father John Silva, 39, grew up in the small, rural village of Snake Run, Ind., where he attended Catholic schools and went to Mass with his two siblings and parents.

silvaAfter high school, he earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and attended major seminary at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Chicago, Ill. He was ordained a priest on June 5, 2004.

After serving in the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., for six years, Fr. Silva was granted permission to transfer to the Diocese of Madison, Wis. He has served as a police chaplain and a parochial vicar, administrator and pastor at several parishes. He is currently the pastor of two churches: St. John the Evangelist in Spring Green and St. Luke’s in Plain, Wis.

In June, Father Silva became chaplain of Legatus’ Madison Chapter, which chartered on Sept. 21. He concelebrated the chartering Mass with his boss, Bishop Robert Morlino. Father Silva spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

How did you discern your priestly vocation?

I went on a Teens Encounter Christ retreat in high school. I was 17 at the time. Around that time, a priest asked me to think about becoming a priest because he thought I had the qualities to be one. I was also invited to go to a priestly ordination, and it inspired me seeing a young man giving his life for Jesus Christ and his Church. It inspired me to go into seminary.

How did your experience as a police department chaplain affect you as a priest?

It really helped me to put things into perspective dealing with law enforcement issues.

How do you lead two parishes at one time?

I take it one day at a time. I have a devotion to St. Catherine of Siena, who is one of my favorite saints. She said that if we are who God meant us to be, we will set the world on fire. I try my best to be who God made me to be.

How did your devotion to St. Catherine of Siena develop?

I’ve been to Siena and reading her writings, which have inspired me. She came from a large family; she was the 25th child in her family. She was also a twin, and I’m a twin.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

The bishop had asked me to become the chaplain because he thought I’d be a good fit. I don’t know the reason why he thought that. But I knew about Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria University, and I was fascinated with his vision and his goals for the Church. His vision is to form people and the whole community in Catholic life. He focused on discipleship, and that is very inspiring to me.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

It’s wonderful for me to see Catholic business men and women working in the world, who are serious about their faith, who come together once a month for fellowship and for the great speakers we have.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I just like to spend time with people on my time off, talk with them about the faith and also to spend time with my brother priests.

What is something that people are surprised to learn about you?

I grew up on a farm, and I play the piano and the violin. I play on my own time. No one ever hears me!

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Love of Church defines chaplain’s ministry

Father Dennis Cooney has earned a reputation as a gifted preacher-teacher . . .

Fr. Dennis Cooney
Naples Chapter

Father Dennis Cooney has earned a reputation as one of the most gifted preacher-teachers in the Legatus family. The former Oblate has served as the Naples Chapter’s chaplain for the past two years. He serves as pastor at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, Fla., and as the Respect Life department moderator for the Diocese of Venice. Ordained in 1974, Fr. Cooney is a noted speaker at gatherings across the state of Florida, plus a much-sought-after spiritual director for staff and students at Ave Maria University.

Tell me about your call to the priesthood.

My faith was given to me as a young child. I grew up in a Catholic family where the faith was loved, lived and practiced. I had wonderful grandparents and parents. I had a desire to respond to the priesthood even as a young child. If I could use a biblical analogy, it was like the still quiet voice that Elijah heard when he returned to Mount Horeb.

I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s. When you told people that you were thinking about the priesthood, they would say, “Oh that’s wonderful!” Unfortunately it’s a different story today. I was surrounded by people who reinforced my call to the priesthood.

How did you get involved with Legatus?

I became involved with Legatus through my involvement with Ave Maria University. It has been my delight to participate in whatever aspect of university life they need help with. I go there every other Friday to make myself available for confession or spiritual direction.

I am also the chaplain of the AMU Founders Club in Naples. A lot of the Founders are also in Legatus. The priest who directly preceded me as Legatus chaplain was Fr. Mike Beers, and when he stepped down my name was introduced. It’s been a joy for me ever since.

What do you try to bring to the members every month?

With the grace of the Holy Spirit, I try to open the scriptures in order to deepen people’s understanding and love of the faith. I absolutely love the Catholic faith. It is Jesus Christ; it is the fullness of truth. I remember an analogy that Walker Percy, a convert, said about the faith: It’s like this beautiful, huge mansion and there are all sorts of wonderful treasures in it; unfortunately a lot of the children who belong to the house have moved to the suburbs. [Laughs.]

How has Legatus affected you and your ministry?

It’s one of the things I look forward to every month because I’m around people who share my love of Christ and the faith. We live in difficult times in which the faith is challenged and even despised. The popular culture is certainly that way, so it’s a delight to be with people who truly love the Church — and are hungry to grow in their understanding of the faith and apply it to their lives. I’m edified by that.

Do you have any other hobbies or involvements?

I used to be an avid jogger during the ’70s and ’80s, but with the passage of time I’ve had to replace that with brisk walking. If I have a hobby or passion, it’s that I love to read. If you locked me up in a cell with plenty of books around me, I’d be a pretty happy individual. I love to read books about the faith, good solid theology, philosophy and also history. I occasionally read a novel — not one that just entertains, but one that that enlightens and educates. I used to love the novels of James Michener who is like a combination of a trip to Disney World and the Library of Congress!