Tag Archives: Meet the Chaplain

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: Father Stanley Galvon – 2018 Chaplain Of The Year (West Region)

Former engineer, church volunteer had game-changing chat with his archbishop

Father Stanley Galvon, the Rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, is a self-described “business junkie.” He is an avid reader of business authors Peter Drucker, whose writings have helped form the modern foundations of business corporations, and Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Noting that Covey, a Mormon, introduced his coreligionists’ support for one another in business to a wider audience, Father Galvon wondered a year ago why Catholics had not done the same. When the Legatus chapter in Vancouver began, he jumped at the opportunity to serve as the chaplain.

 Father Galvon, 67, who has been ordained for 33 years, has been a vocations director and a parish priest. He was named the 2018 Legatus Chaplain of the Year for the West Region and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

 When did you discern your priestly vocation? 

I was 29. I was volunteering at the cathedral as a young adult. Sometimes I drove the archbishop around to confirmations. One day, he looked at my hand, didn’t see a wedding ring, and asked if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. When I said no, he said, “Why not?” I said, “Well, I’m an engineer.” He said, “So what?” I told him that priests were skilled with psychology and sociology, and I was just an engineer. He said, “No. All priests have to do is pray and love God’s people.” So he told me to go see the vocations director.

And being a dutiful Catholic, I obeyed the archbishop. The vocations director suggested the seminary would be a good place to discern one’s vocation, and if I was happy there, that would be a good sign. Well, I was happy in the seminary, and I was ordained.

What did you do before entering the seminary?

I trained as an electrical engineer. I was an officer in the Canadian navy as a combat systems engineer on destroyers. I worked another three years with commercial petroleum companies. 

How did you become acquainted with Legatus? 

I was reading Stephen Covey’s book, and noticed how he was very eager to bring the ways of the Mormons in how they network with each other and support each other in business to a larger audience through his books. I thought to myself, “Why can’t Catholics do that kind of thing also, and network with each other and support each other, because we’ve been around a long time.”

So when Legatus surfaced in Vancouver, I was very pleased. The archbishop said he would need some help with the chaplaincy, and I was eager to say that I would love to assist with that.

Does your background in business help you as a Legatus chaplain?

Well, it certainly is a lived experience. I’ve seen there is a need to have clarity, a need to have vision and humility to work with each other. It’s good to talk about things such as best practices and to pray together about such things. Legatus is a wonderful vehicle for that.

Does your business background help you as a cathedral rector?

That’s where stewardship certainly is important, to know that it’s public money I’m responsible for. It’s not my money; it belongs to widows and orphans. So we have to be very prudent and effective in using it, saving it, and communicating about it.

Who are your spiritual heroes?

St. Catherine of Siena. She’s wonderful. There was a controversy of who was the legitimate pope, but she managed to sort things out with truth and kindness. That is a wonderful set of characteristics to have in facing difficulties. Also, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, with his ways of persevering in his transition from Anglicanism to Catholicism, his being misunderstood but also being very prayerful and following his vision. 

What are your hobbies and interests? 

I like bicycling and cross-country skiing. My interests are more in serving the Lord with a business background rather than being a high-profile presenter in Church circles.

Meet the Chaplain: Monsignor Jim Vlaun – 2018 National Chaplain Of The Year

Like many legates, Monsignor James C. Vlaun, 57, is himself the president and CEO of a company.

Monsignor Vlaun heads the Catholic Faith Network, a television and media company owned and operated by the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, New York. He hosts several shows on the network, including “Religion and Rock,” a nationally syndicated radio show.

A Long Island native who has been ordained for 30 years, Monsignor Vlaun has also been the chaplain of Legatus’ Long Island Chapter for nearly 13 years and was recently named the 2018 Legatus Chaplain of the Year. He graciously spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you get started at the Catholic Faith Network?

When I was newly-ordained, I was asked by my predecessor to take over a radio show that he was doing, called “Religion and Rock.” It was a show on a local rock and roll station that played rock and roll music around a particular theme, such as forgiveness. I would do the speaking in between the songs played during the hour-long show. And I’m still doing that radio show to this very day. It’s on the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM, so everybody can hear it.

 What do you find rewarding about Catholic media?

Media is constantly changing, so you have to continually adapt and renew yourself in this ministry, which is something I find very exciting, particularly in television, because how people view television has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. Now, it’s about on-demand, it’s about online presence, which is so important. Thanks be to God we have that and we’re able to be present and broadcast on other services such as Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

What was the most difficult thing about discerning your vocation?

One of the things I considered was that as I was getting older and maturing ever so slightly, I would probably have to give up all the things I like to become a priest. I love all kinds of music. I love media. I love television. I thought I would have to give all that up, but I felt a strong urge to say ‘yes’ to this call. The Lord must have been laughing in Heaven and saying, “No, you don’t have to give up any of this up. As a matter of fact, I’m going to use every single thing you have to build the kingdom of God.”

Does your background in running a Catholic media network help you relate to the Legates?

The unique thing about this is that I’m a CEO among CEOs, which is very interesting. I remember when I was first named the CEO of this place. I was reading the book Jesus the CEO. It was inspiring and interesting. But it wasn’t until I began to meet all these people who are leading business people in New York and how they live the Gospel that I learned myself a lot more of what it is to be a Catholic CEO and a priest-CEO.

How did it feel to be named the 2018 Legatus Chaplain of the Year?

I almost feel embarrassed by it because I don’t consider any of it ‘work.’ I consider it inspiring. Legatus has been a great experience for me. I’ve met so many couples who are living the example of what it is to be an ambassador for Christ.

Are there any hobbies you enjoy in your spare time?

Everything I do is integrated — my love of music, I like to go to the opera, and to concerts. I also love to cook, and I do a very popular cooking show on the network. It links the table and family together with the altar and the gathered community in Church. It links together with what I do in my work here too.

Who are your spiritual role models?

Among them would be Thomas Merton. When I have time to really read, I love to read Merton’s spirituality. St. Ignatius is one of my favorite saints. Dorothy Day, I find very inspirational as well.

Meet the Chaplain: Father Jonathan Duncan – Greenville Chapter

Father Jonathan Duncan is not an ordinary Catholic priest. His conversion from Anglicanism brought him into the Catholic Church on All Saints Day 2013 with his wife and their then-three young children.

Now a married father of four, Father Duncan, 36, is a former Episcopal priest who was permitted priestly ordination in the Catholic Church. As a priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Father Duncan brings a unique perspective to his role as an assistant priest at St. Mary Church in Greenville, South Carolina and as the fulltime chaplain for St. Joseph’s Catholic School there.

Father Duncan is also the new chaplain of Legatus’ newly chartered Greenville Chapter. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

What made you “cross the Tiber” into the Catholic Church?

I ultimately came to believe what the Church said about Herself. Ministering as an Episcopal priest, I became acquainted firsthand with what it’s like to try to minister to people while not being under the authority of the magisterium, and not serving people with a consistent, solid deposit of faith. I began to see how without that, it was moral and theological chaos. 

How do people respond when they discover that you are a married Catholic priest with children?

With the people I’ve encountered, they’re happy to have one more priest. There are a lot of areas where priests are in short supply, so at the end of the day, I think they’re just happy to have another priest who’s available for the sacraments and for ministry.

Also, my wife and I make it very clear that we are not advocating or pushing for the Church to change its discipline on priestly celibacy. I’m thankful that the Church made an allowance, which is all it is, a provision, to allow me to be ordained. I would hold nothing against the Church if it didn’t have that allowance. I’m in no way saying that every Catholic priest should be married. In fact, the wives of other Catholic priests whom I know, my own included, will be first ones to tell you that on a wide scale this should probably not be the norm for Catholic priests, It’s because wives are the ones who endure when you have to be gone so many nights a week.

Does being married give you any special insights into the problems your flock faces?

In a way, yes, but I think there is also a value to objectivity. I can speak to someone who’s married from a certain bit of familiarity and experience, but at times you honestly need someone who’s outside of it, a celibate who can speak with a level of objectivity

 Who are your spiritual role models?

As an Anglican convert, it’s sort of cliche to say St. John Henry Newman, but I think Newman for sure in terms of that path of reflection and conscience. For me personally, there is also Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I was reading stuff about him even prior to coming in to the Church. And then there is Thomas Aquinas. In him, I think you see a real on-fire devotion to the Eucharist, to the Scriptures, to the faith. You have that ardent devotion coupled with ironclad reasoning, logic, and clarity of thought without any fuzziness. I appreciate that.

What have been your early impressions of Legatus?

 It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get to know a lot of Catholic leaders in business. In the community, and at the end of the day, I think you have to recognize that these are folks who through the businesses they’re creating, through the work they’re doing, these are people who are going to help shape the culture in our area and in our community. If that’s the case, we want to make sure those culture-shapers are being formed and shaped themselves in their Catholic faith.

Meet the Chaplain: Father Scott Adams – Jupiter-Palm Beach Chapter

As a young man, Father Scott Adams was close to being engaged to marry a couple of times, but those relationships never panned out.

“I had always wondered why those relationships weren’t working out. It was one of those things you don’t find out until later and you realize, ‘Oh, that’s why. The Lord had a different plan for me all along.”

After a business career in accounting and as a hotel general manager, Father Adams, 51, heeded the advice of friends to discern a calling to the priesthood. After a seven year process of discernment and seminary formation, Father Adams was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida in May 2016.

Father Adams is currently assigned to the Cathedral Parish of St. Ignatius Loyola. He is also the chaplain of Legatus’ Jupiter/Palm Beach Chapter, which chartered on Dec. 11, 2018. Father Adams, a convert to the Catholic faith, recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

When did you first enter the Catholic Church?

I was around 25 years old. I was raised Baptist and later went to a Presbyterian church for a while. It was when I went out on my own and started looking for a church, that one day I went to a Catholic Church, and realized that it was what I had been seeking.

What was it about the Catholic faith that you found convincing?

One of biggest things for me were the sacraments, the supernatural breaking into the natural. The Eucharist, in particular, that it’s no longer bread and wine but the body of Christ. We can clearly see how Jesus instituted that sacrament. It’s really hard to get around John Chapter 6.

When did you first begin to think about the priesthood?

After I went through the RCIA program and became Catholic, I was involved in various parish ministries. Along the way, people, priests included, would ask me, “Have you ever thought of becoming a priest?” I never paid it much attention until I pretty much had to. When you hear it over and over again, you need to take it to prayer and take it seriously.

What was your discernment like?

I always thought I would be left off the hook. I thought, “Oh, I’m too old, they won’t take me.” But they accepted my application and I entered seminary. You do a lot of your discernment in seminary, but think I knew pretty early on in the seminary that this is what the Lord wanted me to do.

What have been some of your initial impressions of Legatus?

I think it holds an important place, particularly for the folks who are involved in it. Important is that notion of not only growing in your faith personally, but being able to share that and live it and spread it in all that you do. So many times in business, the deck is stacked against you. If you’re trying to lead a good Christian, Catholic, moral life, you’re often feeling compromised, and asking yourself, “In order to get ahead, what do I need to do?”

I think it’s also important for the Legatus members to recognize, which is so important in all aspects of our faith, that we are not alone. They can get together, support one another and recognize that there are other people who are struggling with the same things as they are.

Do you feel your business background helps you relate to Legatus members?

I think so. I’ve been in the same positions, where you have to sometimes make hard decisions, whether it’s employer-employee relations and you have to let someone go, or whether it’s in sales and you’re tempted to push the envelope when it comes to the truth. I think I can relate to them on certain levels, in a real way, where they can say, “Oh yeah, you know what I’m talking about.”

Meet the Chaplain: Father Andrew Spyrow San Francisco Chapter


At an age when many adults begin to see retirement on the horizon, Father Andrew Spyrow began a new life as a Catholic priest.

Father Spyrow, 58, was ordained in 2014 after a long career as a funeral director. He is the new pastor of St. Raphael Church, a mission church founded in December 1817 — the 20th mission in the 21-mission chain in Alta, California.

Father Spyrow is chaplain to Legatus’ new chapter in San Francisco, as well as the San Rafael Police Department. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

When did you know you wanted to become a priest?

It was actually something I had wanted to do since I was a little boy. My parents sent me to Catholic school from first grade all the way through college. I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and also the De La Salle Christian Brothers. I can recall when I was in the first grade one of the priests from the parish who came over to the school to visit the kids, and I was so impressed that I knew then that’s what I wanted to be.

Why was your calling a “late vocation?”

This is a late vocation for me because I was a funeral director for over 25 years, but I always knew I had a vocation. And I give my parents, who recently passed and were married for 72 ½ years, a lot of credit with my vocation.

What made you decide to “take the leap” and enter the seminary?

A lot of my friends were De La Salle Christian Brothers and priests. As a funeral director, I worked a lot with parishes, so I got to know a lot of the Catholic priests in the archdiocese. There just came a point in my life where I had mastered my craft as a funeral director and I thought I could use my God-given talents for the Church. So I went in to see if I really had a vocation, and after seven years in the seminary, voilà.

Was there a spiritual dimension to being a funeral director?

Definitely. I graduated from college with a degree in business administration and religious studies. Going into the funeral business, I realized that it was really being on the cusp of this world joined to the next world. Death is such a mystery and it calls for a compassionate person to be with those families that may not know what next steps to take.

How did you come to be acquainted with Legatus?

With my background in business, the archbishop called me into his office and asked me if I would be the chaplain of Legatus. I didn’t know too much about Legatus at the time, but after talking to him and reading about it, I told him I’d be very happy to be involved in such a great organization.

What have been some of your early impressions of Legatus?

They have excellent speakers, who talk about what’s going on in the world today, and which allow Legatus members who are very influential in the community to be able to get a good Catholic insight into the human condition, and also as their roles as ambassadors in the marketplace.

Does your business background help you in your role as a Legatus chaplain?

That, plus my late vocation, has really helped me because I can help families where they’re at, as opposed to someone in their 20s who hasn’t lived in the world yet as a grown adult. I’m able to relate and able to listen, to be a ministry of presence to those around in every circumstance.

What is it like being the pastor of a California mission?

I meet people from all over the world, and it’s great to explain the purpose of this mission here, which was a hospital originally and built because the mission in San Francisco was in a cold environment. And I enjoy talking to student groups that come here for reports because I can tell them things that they may not come across in their research.

Meet the Chaplain: Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith – Portland Chapter

Smith has been the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Portland since his episcopal ordination in 2014.

In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, Bishop Smith, 60, a native of South Africa who emigrated to the United States and was ordained a priest in June 2001, said he was “gobsmacked” when the papal nuncio called to inform he was being ordained a bishop.

As a naturalized citizen and member of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise, a small community of men committed to celibate life whose priest- members are incardinated in the Portland Archdiocese, Bishop Smith brings a unique perspective to his roles as an auxiliary bishop and as chaplain of Legatus’ Portland Chapter.

When did you discern the priesthood was your vocation?

I had joined this lay movement and then this group of brothers within it. I had been living as a brother for a number of years when the possibility of being ordained but continuing to live the life of the community became real. We were given permission to start a new association, and when that happened, I remember my discernment was, “Lord if you make this happen, I’ll go ahead.” So the door opened.

How did you come to join the Brotherhood of the People of Praise?

I met two of the leaders of the larger lay movement at a conference in South Africa. I was finishing business school at the time, and then I went on to law school. When I finished law school, I decided to come visit them before I moved on with my career. I was planning to join my father’s law firm back as a corporate lawyer, but the Lord had other ideas.

How would you describe the spirituality of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise?

It’s one of the lay movements that emerged after Vatican II. We emerged out of that as essentially lay people trying to live holy lives in the world, in community, and continuing with whatever mission of the Church comes their way.

Do you often visit South Africa?

I try to go back once a year. My mother is still alive and lives there. I have five siblings, two of whom live in South Africa. It’s a long trip. The travel is anywhere between 22 to 23 hours on planes, in a 36-hour period, and that’s not cheap.

As a naturalized citizen of the U.S., does it give you a distinct viewpoint of the Church in America?

I see things from a somewhat different perspective and have different sensitivities than perhaps people here would have. You’re a product of your culture, and when you move to another culture you have to learn to adapt. Being an immigrant is very helpful in being able to speak to that issue, being able to tell people, “Hey, I understand. I went through the legal immigration process. It was pretty arduous and there were moments there when I didn’t know what was going to happen, but the good Lord sorted it all out.” So I have sympathy for people who have to navigate the system.

Who are your spiritual role models?

A lot of the saints and a lot of the holy men and women. Somebody I read anytime he puts something out in English is Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household, who’s written a lot of books on renewal movements in the Church and ecumenism. His book, Life in Christ, about personal friendship with Christ, is probably one of the best spiritual books I’ve read.

How would you describe your personal spirituality?

Friendship with the indwelling Christ and Trinity. It’s been a long journey to get to this point over the years, but I’ve had a wonderful spiritual director for 30 years, and he’s been just wonderful, helping me to navigate through my journey in life.

Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Bob Stagg – Newark Chapter

As pastor of the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, NJ, Father Stagg, 69, runs a lively parish community of more than 4,000 families, a couple of dozen staff members, and 100 ministries.

Father Stagg, who has been ordained for 43 years and given retreats for priests around the country, has taken on a new role as the chaplain of Legatus’ Newark Chapter, which just chartered on October 24. Father Stagg recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you become the first chaplain of the Newark Legatus Chapter?

We’re about one year into the chapter at this point. In the past year, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, asked me if I would get involved with it, so I did.

What have been some of your initial impressions of Legatus?

The people I’m meeting with monthly are delightful. They’re good folks, good Catholics, good family people, good parishioners. They’re interesting, well-read and well-traveled. It’s a good group.

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

It was when I was at a boys’ Catholic prep school. I had terrific priests in my parish when I was a kid, I had been active in a couple of youth groups, and I came from a strong-faith-filled family. When I started to look at the big picture, what I wanted to do with my life, the priesthood was a strong contender.

Did you ever doubt your vocation?

It was an easy call. I have to admit, though, that I thought about if it was right for me forever. I think I had a headache from six years of the seminary. But I was ordained and I’ve been fine ever since. It’s been a good fit for me. I’ve enjoyed my years of ministry enormously.

What is your current assignment?

I’m in my 12th year as pastor of Presentation, one of New Jersey’s largest parishes, near the New York State border. We have about 4,700 families, and I’ve got a magnificent staff of about 26.

How active is the parish?

We probably have about 100 ministries, as well as a large parish garden and three soup kitchens we assist weekly. We do composting, even have beekeeping on the property with many beehives. So we’re a very green parish. The parish also runs a Haiti clinic, which operates five days weekly, with a staff of 15 including physicians, nurses, lab tech people, maintenance people. That’s a big ministry for our parish, and a big responsibility to keep it going.

In what other kinds of ministries have you been involved?

I was a college campus minister for 13 years. Nationally, I was part of the Center for Human Development, which was very involved for years in giving priest retreats around the country. I was very active in that and would often do six to seven retreats a year.

I sit on a bunch of boards, and one of them is Covenant House, which takes care of the homeless population ages 17 to 22.

What do you for fun in your down time?

I like to cook. I love to ski, golf, and hit the beach. It keeps me moving.

Do you have spiritual role models?

Certainly, John Vianney. I love being a parish priest and he was a great one. I was a huge fan
of John XXIII, who inspired me when he became pope in the 1960s.