Homily excerpts from the funeral Mass in Bloomington for Msgr. Gregory Ketcham
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following are excerpts from the homily at the funeral Mass at St. Patrick Church of Merna on Feb. 12 for Msgr. Gregory Ketcham. (See his obituary here.) The homilist was Father James J. Seitz, a priest of the Diocese of Winona and longtime friend.
I have a new family. You have adopted me. All because of Msgr. Ketcham. Grace has flowed through him.
I met some of my “family” this summer in the midst of Father Greg’s cancer battle. If there was one word or one feeling when people would meet him, it would be: Grace flowed through him.
Last night, waiting for the recitation of the rosary, Father Dustin Schultz and I were in the back talking and he told me something Father Greg had said that was kind of profound. Father Greg told him, in prior months, “I wish you had known me before I got my cancer.”
I want to make known to you some things about my good friend. First, Greg loved his family.
Maybe two weeks after he learned he had cancer, I came to see him and he already had many of his affairs in order. He asked me to preach his homily as his best friend. So I’ve had 20 months. I want to share some personal things he and I shared.
CARRIED CROSS WITH DIGNITY, HONOR
Once overjoyed at the Lord’s goodness, St. Teresa of Avila asked the Lord “How can I thank you for this joy in my heart?” She heard the Lord’s voice respond: “Attend one Mass.” In a sense we’re attending “one Mass” for Gregory Ketcham. The “Ketch-Man,” as I called him. The joy, the gladness that is in our hearts from knowing this guy, how do I thank you Lord for this person, this priest, this man of God? How do I thank you, Lord? “Attend one Mass.”
In the second reading St. Paul says “I have run the race. I have fought the good fight.” That happened in a sense on June 12, 2016, in this very church when something happened to Father Greg. Shortly thereafter he learned “You must pick up your cross, Gregory Keith, and follow after me.”
For those who were privileged and honored and blessed to be a part of all of that you know how he carried his cross with dignity and honor.
Did he go through the stages of grief? He certainly did. But what a witness from someone who was willing to run the race. “Jesus, you reign.” That was his mantra. What I saw day in and day out upon my visits was a man who was willing to run the race, fight the battle.
How appropriate that the Olympic Games are going on. Ketch has won the race and now wears the crown that is imperishable in heaven.
“I’M GOING TO HEAVEN”
Ketch would always say in the past 20 months, when I’d visit, ‘What are you going to say about the Ketch-Man?” Sometimes I would say, “You know what, I’m going to tell them how great a sinner you are!” His response would be “Atta boy!” Then he would say, “Don’t forget to tell them I love the (St. Louis Cardinals).” Then I’d say, “I’m going to lift you up so high you’re going to have to look down to see heaven.” And he’d say “Atta boy,” and again, “Tell them I love the Cards.”
He would tell me “I’m going to heaven.” At the end, when speech became more difficult, he talked about how he was going to first get down on his knees and kiss and adore the feet of Jesus, then he was going to hug Mary, then he was going to hug Jeannie, his mother, and then his father.
We are all so grateful to Father Schultz and Father Pica. They were the greatest shepherds to him in the dying process.
Take comfort and solace in this. About a week before he was going to die, Father Dustin took the Blessed Sacrament and put it in Father Greg’s room. Father Greg was lucid enough to understand: “There’s Jesus. Jesus reigns.” He got to die, I like to think, in the loving arms of Jesus, in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which he put on the altar and raised up for so many of you and laid Jesus in your own hands in Holy Communion.
When the family called and said Greg has passed, they told me that after he died he got this profound look of peace. “It was just what we needed to see.”
The grace that has flowed from the dying process of Father Gregory — and is still operative right now — has welded this family together. And what a grace it was.
Why are you here? Because somehow, someway, grace — that favor of God — flowed through Monsignor to you. Even in the dying process. Somehow we’ve been touched by those beautiful priestly hands. And that grace that came down upon his ordination, and his baptism, and his first confession, and holy Communion, it flowed through him. And what a blessing and what an honor to join with you in saying, “You know what, I, too, have been touched by the grace of this man. Praise God for his mercy in giving us Msgr. Gregory Keith Ketcham.