Father Edward Harkrader heard God’s call in the silence after war injury
He has served in just four parishes over 50 years, but Father Harkrader stayed long enough in each place to make an impression, as the parishioners certainly did on him. That’s the reason he stayed in Princeton after being granted senior status in 2001, rather than returning to his hometown of Peoria.
“The people I know, I know here,” he told The Catholic Post during a visit to Greenfield Home, where has lived for five years. “I was at St. Louis quite awhile and got to know all those people. They were very nice to me and they still are. . . . I still feel part of the community.”
The Princeton parishioners showed their appreciation for his years of service by naming their parish center after him, although he doesn’t accept the honor for himself. He tells people Harkrader Hall was named for his parents, Alan and Barbara Ann Harkrader.
In addition to the Princeton faith community, which he served for 13 years, Father Harkrader was pastor at St. Anthony in Matherville from 1979 to 1988. In his time there he oversaw construction of a new church and was able to burn the mortgage before he left.
His first assignments were as parochial vicar to St. Paul in Macomb and Holy Family in Oglesby.
When it came to discerning his vocation, God didn’t tap him on the shoulder so much as knock him down, according to Father Harkrader.
Studying at Bradley University, he joined the Army Reserves when the Korean conflict started so he could complete his degree. His entire unit was called up, however, and he soon found himself on the front lines as a forward observer.
A gunshot wound to the jaw brought him a Purple Heart and something more.
While waiting to be transported to a mobile surgical hospital, he heard God calling him. Father Harkrader said he could finally hear it “because it was very silent. No people, no anything. It was just quiet.”
He wouldn’t enter Immaculate Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri, for another 10 years, though. He finished his bachelor’s degree at Bradley in 1954, earned a master’s degree in political science and international economics in 1956, and worked for a time before saying, “All right, I’ll go and show you I don’t have a vocation.”
“Never tell God that he’s wrong,” Father Harkrader said with a laugh. “Once I started, that was it.”
The Second Vatican Council, which made it possible to celebrate Mass in the language of the people, brought him joy because it meant that people could communicate with each other and God in a new way.
“No matter what language you used, God understood,” he said.
Father Harkrader added that the involvement of the laity is vital to the church.
“They’re part of it. It isn’t here’s the priesthood and here’s the laity,” he said. “Somehow or other the two come together and make the church. You can’t separate them. You separate them and you destroy the church.”
He advised those who are discerning a vocation to “go for it.”
“People say, ‘I’m not sure.’ Well, I wasn’t either,” Father Harkrader said. “Try it — you might like it.”
Father Harkrader has no plans for a celebration at this time. Mail may be sent to him at 508 Park Ave. East, Princeton, IL 61556.