By Jay Nies
Father Richard Frank has some advice for fellow priests who have recently become pastors or who will in the near future.
“Stay faithful to your prayers and trust in God …”
“Try to get parishioners involved on a volunteer basis in some of the nitty-gritty administrative stuff …”
“And get a good cook or learn how to cook,” he said.
Fr. Frank, 70, retired from parish administration on July 1, following through on a decision he made about four years ago.
“I will be offering Holy Mass, hearing confessions, and anointing the sick,” he noted.
He recently purchased a home — he calls it a domicile — in Jefferson City and adorned it with an impressive collection of mementos and artifacts of the U.S. Civil War.
In it, he built a chapel, naming it in honor of St. Richard, to whose saintly intercession his parents entrusted him at baptism.
He plans to continue offering Mass every day and faithfully celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours “for the Church and for the whole world.”
That’s something he’s been doing since he was ordained a transitional deacon in 1971, a year before he became a priest.
“The Office of Readings and Morning Prayer — I refer to it as ‘Coffice,’ because I’m usually drinking coffee while I’m praying it!” he said.
“Wealth of experiences”
Fr. Frank has served in 18 parishes over the past 45 years.
He has been associate pastor of what is now known as Holy Family parish in Hannibal; and of Cathedral of St. Joseph and St. Peter parishes in Jefferson City.
He has served as pastor of St. Bonaventure in Marceline and St. Joseph at Hurricane Branch; St. Joseph in Pilot Grove and St. John the Baptist in Clear Creek; St. Martin in St. Martins; Holy Family in Freeburg; St. Clement in St. Clement; St. Joseph in Canton, Queen of Peace in Ewing and Notre Dame in LaGrange; St. Mary in Glasgow and St. Joseph in Slater; and most recently St. Boniface in Brunswick, St. Raphael in Indian Grove and St. Joseph at Hurricane Branch.
Although he won’t miss the grind of parish administration, he said he will miss the people he’s gotten to work with and minister to through the years.
Mostly, it’s all been a gift, he said.
“A Catholic priest experiences great joy, satisfaction and fulfillment serving God and His people, in knowing he is doing God’s will, in living His vocation faithfully, and in helping people in their Catholic lives grow closer to God,” he said.
“I look back and see the wealth of experiences from priests that I’ve known, pastors I’ve worked with and parish situations I’ve had, and all of it has enriched my life,” he said.
He’s also been inspired by the daily witness of many of the laypeople in his parishes.
“They have been an example of faith and love of God and neighbor and have welcomed me and given me much support to be a faithful priest,” he said.
“The last full measure”
Fr. Frank is looking forward to more unstructured free time. In addition to catching up on such passions as reading, bike riding, traveling and historical research, he hopes to fill-in for fellow priests during vacations and times of illness.
He also anticipates doing some volunteer work, “of which I know there are more opportunities than I can imagine right now,” he said.
For years, he has been spending his vacation time visiting Civil War battle sites and attending conferences on the subject.
Some 620,000 Americans on both sides died in the bloodiest of all U.S. conflicts.
Fr. Frank noted that Missouri ranked third among states in terms of the number of Civil War battles and skirmishes fought on its soil.
He is a charter member of several organizations that study the Civil War and its history, and contributes to the Civil War Trust, a national organization that works to preserve Civil War battle sites.
He is proud that his great-grandfather (his mother’s grandfather) and that man’s brother — German-speaking immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine — fought for the Union in the Civil War.
Their earthly remains are at rest in Woodlawn Cemetery in Jefferson City.
“Sometimes I go and put a flag there for them,” he said.
He believes preserving the Union and ultimately ending slavery on this continent was a costly but just and noble endeavor.
“God would not want one man to claim ownership over another man in the name of state’s rights,” Fr. Frank asserted.
“God would also want us to learn that a tremendous amount of hatred and bloodshed is not a good idea,” he added.
Fr. Frank also enjoys bike riding, having logged over 58,000 miles since 1998 — including over 25,000 on the Katy Trail.
He plans on taking part in the Total Solar Eclipse Katy Trail Ride from Rocheport to North Jefferson City during the eclipse on Aug. 21.
“A mysterious thing”
Fr. Frank believes that God is still calling men to serve Him as priests.
He also believes that contemporary culture tends to undermine that calling by focusing on the secular joys of the world and downplaying long-term commitment.
“Another thing is that with the widespread contraceptive mentality, we’ve handcuffed God in that we no longer give Him a very large pool to choose from,” he said.
He relishes memories of taking part in prayers and devotions with his family while growing up, serving at the altar of Immaculate Conception Church in Jefferson City and zeroing-in on his priestly vocation at the former St. Thomas Aquinas High School Seminary in Hannibal.
The young associate pastors at I.C. parish and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word at I.C. School helped him tune-in to his calling, as did the Christian Brothers at Helias Catholic High School during his freshman and sophomore years there, and his mentors and instructors at St. Thomas.
“A Church vocation is a mysterious thing because it is often hard to pinpoint exactly when and how and why God’s call first came in its small beginnings,” he said.
Through these past 45 years, including many good times and some challenging ones, “God’s grace has strengthened and sustained me and confirmed me in my vocation as a priest of God,” he said.
Fr. Frank emphasized that he will be a priest until the end of his days.
He asked for continued prayers for him and all priests — “that God will give me the grace and help I need, that I will have good health, that I will be a shepherd after the example of Christ the Good Shepherd, and that I will be a faithful servant of God and His people for as many more years as He gives me.”