National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Plains Great

BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN

August 27-September 2, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/28/06 at 10:00 AM

 

It’s only been four years since he was ordained, but already Father Brian Klingele, pastor of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., has developed a knack for driving people — particularly young ones — deeper into the arms of Christ.

That’s the only conclusion one could draw after speaking with some people who’ve come to know and love the man.

“He would drive almost an hour and a half a dozen times in the summer to hear confessions at Prairie Star summer camp, and kids would be thrilled when they walked away,” says Dana Nearmyer, consultant for youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Kansas City. “They’re looking for the whatever-it-takes answer, and he gives it to them. We’ve seen a big surge in attendance at diocesan youth gatherings since he’s been involved with them.”

Says Msgr. Gary Applegate, former rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral when Father Klingele (Kling-lee) was there: “He worked with a lot of young single adults as spiritual director, and they were greatly impressed with his insights and the encouragement he gave them to live the Catholic faith in a world that is otherwise hostile to anything religious. He was very aware of using Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and issues of practicing the faith in the public sphere.”

“His sermons are direct and clear,” says parishioner Ron Sobba, who also likes the fact that the church is now open 24 hours a day for prayer.

Nearmyer seconds Father Klingele’s dynamic homilies — for the children and at the same time for an 80-year-old who told him the young priest’s Christmas homily was the best he’d heard in his life.

To bring the love of Christ to hearts hungry for it, Father Klingele begins at the source and the summit. “Nothing beats the Eucharist,” he says.

Upon becoming the shepherd of 340 families at Holy Angels Church in rural Garnett, Kan., and 150 families at St. John the Baptist in Greeley, he proclaimed a year of the Eucharist for his parishes. It began last Corpus Christi Sunday. He precedes weekday Masses with a public holy hour that includes silent prayer and the Rosary  — “Where Jesus is, there is his Mother, and vice versa, he says” — and confession.

With the church always open, Father Klingele is also trying to teach adults and children to make a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament a lifelong habit.

“Hopefully,” he says, “we’ll finish with a large Eucharistic procession and witness of our faith.” 

At each consecration, when Father Klingele raises his chalice, not everyone realizes a pope and future pope first used the vessel to celebrate Mass. Shortly before his 2002 ordination, he asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to consecrate his chalice, anticipating that John Paul II would fulfill his humble request and use the chalice at one of his Masses like he did many times for future priests.

But right after consecrating the chalice, the cardinal told him, “It’s a very worthy chalice. Do you mind if I use it for the Holy Mass?”

Not only did the future Pope Benedict XVI become the first to use it, but the very next day the second priest to use the chalice was John Paul II — on, as Father Klingele had humbly requested, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart has a special place in this young priest’s heart. “I always talk about the First Friday devotions,” he says. He teaches and encourages such devotions, beginning with the children.

Then there are his three Masses on All Souls Day, one at each local cemetery. He gets to make the connections between the Mass, the saints and purgatory for the school children that come. “It’s a way to teach people about these things,” he says.

With kids, “I usually emphasize going regularly to confession, Mass every Sunday — every day, if you can,” he says. “Pray to God every day, pray about what your vocation is, read the Bible every day.” 

At Holy Angels, Jodi Steele and her husband, Robert, already see a change in their daughters, who are fourth- and sixth-grade students at the parish school.  “Father has taught them a lot just in everyday conversation,” Jodi says. “And he teaches religion in the school. He’s really helped the school kids be more excited about it.”

“The Christmas present my youngest one wanted this year was a Bible, a regular version,” she adds. “She also wanted a crucifix.”

Man of the People

When someone asked Father Klingele to teach Latin, he responded to that, too. Several children and adults were interested. He taught basics and what the words meant: the Our Father, Hail Mary, the Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Adeste Fideles.

“The popes have always been saying we should know those basic parts in Latin,” he explains. “It’s part of our history and tradition, a way we can all be united in prayer.”

Terry Solander appreciates all this. “It’s sort of a return-to-basics approach to things,” says the longtime Holy Angels parishioner. “It gets people back on track with what the Church is really about.”

All these little things bring great joy to Father Klingele. With obvious delight in his voice, he describes one time when a mother told him how her young daughter reads her Bible every night after hearing him talk in the classroom about Scripture.

The priest displays the same joy when talking about the beauty of the innocence and reverence of first Communicants who he asks to receive their first Communion on the tongue — “the universal way of receiving,” he explains.

So it is that Father Klingele is bringing Christ to the people in myriad ways, whether administering the sacraments to two parishes, playing games with the kids at school, cheering sports with the high-schoolers or hobnobbing with folks at a local eatery.

As Sobba sees it, “He’s good for the whole community.” You might say that his ministry is not just in northeast Kansas any more.

Joseph Pronechen writes from

Trumbull, Connecticut.