Thursday, October 31, 2013

Going Back to the Roots: Fr. Richard Keolker

by Jose Morales

Having been at Mount Angel Seminary for 22 years, Fr. Richard Keolker is full of stories.  One of his favorites is how he ended up teaching at this seminary.  "I love teaching these fine young men because I find that this is a way for me to multiply my priesthood and to share my gifts and talents to the whole world," said Fr. Keolker.

Fr. Keolker is from the Diocese of Yakima and arrived at Mount Angel Seminary in 1991.  He was asked to work at the seminary after submitting a seminarian's evaluation during the seminarian's pastoral year.  When Fr. Keolker was first at the seminary, he primarily taught the fourth year of theology.

Father Richard Keolker on a recent beautiful fall day
at Mount Angel Seminary

He taught Pastoral Care of the Sick and Reconciliation; these two were the principal courses.  Then he went though a period of time that he called "utility in the field" where he just taught about everything in the college and theology, and now he just teaches Vatican II Documents and serves as a spiritual director.

Fr. Keolker is able to find his priesthood being multiplied because he says that "what I teach to the student they will later pass on to the people of God."  So far, this has turned out to be true because the people he has taught have now multiplied their ministry as well.

Some of the seminary students that have multiplied his priesthood and have multiplied the talent of other professors as well are Fr. Theodore Lange, Fr. Jacob Stronach, O.S.B., Fr. Ralph Recker, O.S.B., Fr. Pius X Harding, O.S.B., Fr. Liem Nguyen, O.S.B., and many other monks.

The current president-rector Msgr. Joseph Betschart, Sr. Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B., and Sister Gertrude Feick, O.S.B., also went through school here in Mount Angel Seminary from the time he was teaching here.  He clarified that not all were his students, but that they were all students while he was teaching.

After 22 years, Fr. Keolker said he has seen many changes, but the most important one he recalls is the "growing diversity of the student body, as far as origin, age and all kinds of cultural backgrounds."

Fr. Keolker commented, "When the formation team started, it was only based on rules and regulations; there was really no structure to it."

According to Fr. Keolker, the formation team today has brought change to the seminarians, one that goes with a new era.  Now it is not about rules and regulations; rather, it is about working with the seminarian on a personal level of maturity, making sure that this seminarian is ready and capable of embracing the world.

The formation team brings seminarians to know the four pillars of formation, and to not only know them by name but also to put them into practice.  This way the formation team can see the maturity of the seminarian.

The formation team has brought hope to the forefront of the seminarians and has taught them how to be men of hope.

The formation teach was able to achieve its goal by developing a structure over the years.  Father Keolker explained, "This was not an easy task for the formation team, but it was not impossible, and they managed to achieve it."  In order to have gotten to where the team is now, the formation development went through many different president-rectors over the years; they all planted their seed of wisdom and understanding of what formation should be like.

Fr. Keolker concluded by saying, "The results of the formation team were all thanks to one person, Blessed John Paul II, when he wrote his document Pastores Dabo Vobis.  The rectors studied them and interpreted the document in the best way possible and simply put it into practice."

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