Newly incardinated priest likes formation role at seminary

| October 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

Father Allen Kuss serves at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity as director of pastoral formation and the teaching parish program. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Allen Kuss was planning the next phase of his priestly ministry in 2011. A priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, at the time, he was just finishing 20 years on assignment as a military chaplain.

He knew he wanted a change of scenery, but coming to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was not something he was contemplating.

“It was not my plan to come here to the [St. Paul] Seminary or to the archdiocese,” said Father Kuss, 60. “My original plan was to take a year sabbatical, and I was going to do some traveling in various parts of the world.”

A conversation with Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the seminary, in August 2011 changed all that. Father Kuss visited the seminary to ask a question about a different topic, and in the course of the conversation, Msgr. Callaghan asked if he would like to serve at the seminary.

Liking the idea of being in an urban area after growing up on a farm in North Dakota and serving in a rural diocese, Father Kuss quickly said yes.

That eventially led to the process of incardination, or an official transferral into the jurisdiction of a bishop and his diocese. For a priest already serving in a diocese, it requires excardination, or release from the jurisdiction in which he is serving.

Both incardination and excardination require a letter from the bishop granting excardination, and a letter granting incardination from the bishop where the priest hopes to go.

Father Kuss began his work at the seminary within a month of that conversation with Msgr. Callaghan in 2011. He began the incardination process in 2016. He was officially incardinated into the archdiocese in April.

One of the first things he noticed — and liked — after arriving in the archdiocese were the people, both priests and lay members of parishes where he has helped out with Masses and confession.

“The presbyterate was very welcoming and supportive,” he said. “I simply enjoy the fraternity; I just enjoy them.”

Same goes for the people in the pews. “By helping out on weekends and even during the week for Mass, confessions and various other things, I’ve come to know the people, and the people are wonderful,” he said.

He finds it valuable to have contact with people in parishes, as it translates into his role as director of pastoral formation and the teaching parish program, a position he has held since coming to the seminary.

“It’s my responsibility, with Dr. Charlotte Berres, to make sure that when a man is ordained a deacon and then a priest, that he is as ready as possible to perform the duties and tasks of a Catholic priest,” Father Kuss said.

“I enjoy it a great deal. I liken it to preparing Marines to be warriors. … It’s a challenge, but it’s also very rewarding to see how a man comes in, and four years later, is ready … for ministry for the next 40 to 60 years.”

He doesn’t have to go far to see good examples of priests who have served for that length of time. The Leo C. Byrne Residence for retired priests is next door to the seminary, and Father Kuss has taken notice of the retired priests who stay active in ministry.

“There are priests in the archdiocese who are well into their 80s and are generous with their time and their wisdom and the charisms that they have been given, and they just keep plugging away,” he said.

With that in mind, Father Kuss plans to do likewise. He was ordained a priest in Bismarck in 1984, so he isn’t far away from the 40-year mark. Though close to retirement age, he is not thinking about it or planning for it. Rather, he wants to continue in his current ministry, which included celebrating Masses and hearing confessions at 32 parishes between July 2016 and July 2017. He thinks he has visited 40 or 50 since 2011.

“I go by first come, first served,” he said, noting that he tries to say yes to every parish that asks him to serve. “I have been as far south as Faribault, Kilkenny, Shieldsville, Le Sueur. I’ve been as far north as Rogers, St. Michael. And, I’ve helped out in Wisconsin.”

In working with the seminarians in formation, one important quality he tries to develop in the men is “a shepherd’s heart.” He believes that is valuable and adds to the theological background seminarians receive in their formation.

He tries to encourage future priests “to accept people for who they are and love them with the same compassion as Jesus Christ.”

Father Kuss also tries to practice what he preaches both in the seminary and at parishes, while tapping into 30-plus years of priestly ministry.

“In my life, I have dealt with so many different groups, types of people in so many different situations,” he said. “I don’t have a particular congregation that I attend to [now], so I am much freer and I think I have a wider breadth of experience. I just see where people are at, and I can see … the needs.”

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