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‘Making the mercy of God visible in the world’

Three priests to speak at fifth annual Vocare
(Left to right) Fr. Richard Powers, Fr. John M. Thomas and Fr. Basilio Az Cuc will speak at Vocare on Sept. 14, 2018. FILE PHOTO.

BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC 

Fr. Richard Powers, 85, remembers when his father was near the end of his life, homebound and could not get to Mass.

Bishop-at-the-time, Henry J. Soenneker, told Fr. Powers that he needed to celebrate weekly Mass at his parents’ house so Fr. Powers’ dad could fulfill his Sunday obligation.  

Bishop Soenneker’s reasoning was that the Powers family had given three sons to the priesthood – Aloysius and Bernard, in addition to Richard – and their father could at least have Mass celebrated in his home.

So Fr. Powers did.

Then one day, Fr. Power’s father asked him to hear his confession. Fr. Powers was surprised that his own father would ask this of him, and said so.

“Well, you’re a priest, aren’t you?” his father had said, which settled the question.

Shortly after that, Fr. Powers’ mother started going to him for confession, too.

Fr. Powers spoke highly of “the faith of my mom and dad,” who were farmers and raised their 12 children in the Catholic faith.

Whenever one of the Powers children grew up and moved out, the family would get on their knees before their image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and they would pray together.

“My dad was a saint,” Fr. Powers reflected in his Aug. 13 interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Today Fr. Powers is a retired diocesan priest and lives in Owensboro where he frequently assists at local parishes. He, along with Fr. Basilio Az Cuc and Fr. John Thomas, will speak at the fifth annual Vocare gala on Sept. 14 at the Owensboro Convention Center in downtown Owensboro.

Vocare, which is Latin for “to call” is both a fundraiser and a celebration of vocations in the Diocese of Owensboro.

The annual event began in 2014 and helps raise funds for diocesan seminarian education, which the diocese covers to assist young men discerning the priesthood. Additionally, when a Diocese of Owensboro parishioner joins a religious community, a portion of the funds raised at Vocare is gifted to that community.

Vocare also serves as an opportunity for laypeople, clergy and religious alike to gather from all over western Kentucky in appreciation of the crucial role vocations play in the life of the Catholic Church.

“I’ve been a priest now for two years, and a lot of people say my ministry makes a difference in their lives, with God working through me,” said Fr. Az Cuc, who at 37 is the youngest priest to speak at this year’s Vocare.

Fr. Az Cuc is the associate pastor of SS. Joseph and Paul Parish in Owensboro. He told the WKC in an Aug. 10 interview that the priesthood “makes the presence of God and the mercy of God visible in the world.”

Fr. Az Cuc said that when he began discerning the priesthood many years ago, “at first I thought it was my idea.”

“Then I realized it was God who put it in my heart, and it was not up to me to dismiss it,” he said.

Fr. John Thomas would agree.

“I believe this is what I was created to do,” said Fr. Thomas, 52, who is the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green. “I’ve said it many times, but, the proof of that is that I don’t think there’s anything else in my life that could draw upon the skills and talents that I possess.”

Fr. Thomas, who spoke with the WKC on Aug. 8, said he enjoys being a priest, “and I still get excited about it after 25 years.”

“The priesthood shows a person willing to sacrifice, a person willing to take a risk, and a person willing to love,” he said. “We need that in our world because things are so materialistic, so transitional.”

Fr. Thomas said that for every year he has been a priest, “I would absolutely do it all over again.”


Diocese of Owensboro 600 Locust Street Owensboro, KY 42301 270-683-1545

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