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‘In pursuit of evangelization’ – Mount, diocese hosting ‘unique’ concert honoring Fr. Paul Volk

Photograph of Fr. Paul Joseph Volk, Panama, circa 1902-1915. COURTESY OF ARCHIVES

BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC

The date March 19 holds a unique significance for the Diocese of Owensboro and the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, whose motherhouse is located within the diocese.

For starters, March 19 is the feast day of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary – one of the Ursuline Sisters’ patron saints. March 19 is also the date of the death of Bishop John J. McRaith, the third bishop of Owensboro, who died in 2017.

Additionally, March 19, 1865 was the ordination of a pioneer-missionary priest named Fr. Paul Joseph Volk, who founded Mount Saint Joseph and also played a significant role in the diocese’s early history.

On Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to a free concert honoring Fr. Volk, who died 100 years ago this November. The concert will be held at the Mount Saint Joseph Motherhouse Chapel in Maple Mount.

The concert is titled “In the Footsteps of Paul Volk: A Musical Travelogue on His Writings” and will use the unusual combination of music, performance and archival materials to tell the story of the missionary priest.  

An undated portrait of Fr. Paul Joseph Volk. COURTESY OF ARCHIVES

“Fr. Volk was an extraordinary person,” said Heidi Taylor-Caudill, archivist for the diocese and the Mount.

Taylor-Caudill said that as she has researched his life, “he almost seems to have been on an odyssey – a journey through trials and tests which he had to overcome through courage, endurance, and moral strength.”

Fr. Volk, who born in Germany and became a missionary in three continents, “always considered his home to be Mount Saint Joseph and his family the Ursuline Sisters,” said Taylor-Caudill.

She said that as the concert equips a selection of letters and other writings from Fr. Volk to illustrate his experiences and state of mind at a particular place and time, “we will follow his movement across three continents in pursuit of evangelization.”

Mike Bogdan, the diocese’s director of music, has been working with Taylor-Caudill and the Ursuline Sisters to plan the concert. Bogdan said the concert will be a nod to the diocese’s four-year Living as Missionary Disciples initiative, which is currently in Year Two: Accompaniment. 

“Certainly at a time when our diocese is concentrating on evangelization, Fr. Volk’s missionary spirit is a powerful witness and model for us,” said Bogdan. “Fr. Volk not only set out from his native Germany to share the lives and serve the people of Kentucky, but those of Ecuador and Panama as well.”

During the concert, the public will also hear the debut of a hymn written for the 100th anniversary of Fr. Volk’s death. Mount Saint Joseph had commissioned Fr. Harry Hagan, OSB, to write a hymn text, and the diocese held a composition competition for musicians in western Kentucky to compose a hymn-tune for the text.

“We hope that the blending of music, singing, and readings, performed in a beautiful space like the Ursuline Motherhouse Chapel on the anniversary of Fr. Volk’s ordination as a priest, creates a connection between past and present,” said Taylor-Caudill.

To learn more about the concert, visit owensborodiocese.org/event/footsteps-of-paul-volk.


Originally printed in the March 2019 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.


Copyright © 2019 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic 

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

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