give me 5 is a series in our Vincentian Voices newsletter that asks five random questions to an Eastern Province Priest or Brother.

Meet Fr. John Kettelberger, CM, in this edition.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM, has served as a Vincentian priest for more than 45 years. In 2023, he became the spiritual director for the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM), a ministry of the Vincentians of the Eastern Province of the US. In this role, Fr. Kettelberger helps guide CAMM staff in their work to bring the power of Our Blessed Mother and her Miraculous Medal to the world and to support the Vincentians mission-driven work.

Let’s learn a little about his experiences with these five questions:

Fr. Joseph Ita-Sam, CM

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

You were originally introduced to the Vincentians through a family friend. How did that transpire?

I had a paper route and this neighbor, Mrs. Hunter, was on the route. Her son, Ed Hunter, was a Vincentian. At the time he was stationed at Niagara University, so when vacations would come like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, he would be around.

He talked about the Vincentians a lot, what they did. Then when I was getting ready to go to college – because in our family, not a lot of people were going to college, and so it was like, “Well, where do you go?” And, we thought about Father Hunter.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

What were you going to study?

My father had auto parts stores, so the idea was to go into business and be prepared coming back to work in the stores with my father and eventually take them over, which didn’t quite work out.

It’s funny because going into the seminary, my father’s practical German mind, he would say, “You go. If you like it, then you’re going to stay. If you don’t like it or they don’t like you, they’ll send you home, and you come back and you work in the store.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

What did you appreciate about the Vincentians?

I guess the things that struck me while being close to the Vincentians was they were very human.

I liked the way they joked with each other and kidded each other. I liked the ease in which they mixed with us as college students. I liked the fact that they didn’t mind getting their hands dirty – that they got involved with whatever was going on. It wasn’t just like them telling you what to do.

Little by little too, I began to realize there was a spirituality about them. I found that they were not really showy religious.

Growing up, our parish priests were always distant. They were always very dressed. They always had a black cassock or a black suit. In college, the Vincentians were wearing sport shirts. They went to movies with us. They went to different activities with us. I was seeing a priest dance. Like, I’m going to a dance and there would be a priest dancing with the girls and enjoying themselves. So, they were just normal.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

How did you end up at the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM)?

At CAMM, our fundraising is helping support the Vincentian mission. Mission in the larger sense of all the works the Vincentians do for the poor. We’re helping the formation of our younger guys. CAMM also supports our older confreres in the infirmary when they retire or get sick and really need that that care.

Traditionally, the priest was always the director of CAMM. Then they realized with the complexity of the job, our guys are not trained business-wise for a lot of that. So, now there’s the liturgical part of it for me and there’s the business part for our CEO Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag.

I relate with the employees and members of CAMM to help them realize what the Vincentian mission is, why we are doing this, what is devotion to Mary, what it means to be a Vincentian, what’s our Vincentian spirit, what’s our Vincentian tradition.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

Is there anything you would like to add about being a Vincentian here in the Eastern Province?

Hearing Confessions and spending time at the Basilica Shrine, people approach me. There are a lot of hurting people in our world. People are coming through who just want you to pray with them, or pray for them, or just to kind of assure them that it’s going to be okay. People are hurting in a lot of ways, financially and family. There’s just a whole lack of peace with things.

One of the great reasons why we have the Shrine and one of the great things we can do: Even if we have nothing that solves their problem, there’s at least somebody there to listen to them and pray with them and to help them.

Fr. John Kettelberger, CM

Thank you for reading!


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