Fr. Laible gets major ‘administry’ post with Archdiocese for Military Services, USA
LINCOLN — It would be an understatement to say that Father Jeffrey C. Laible was taken aback when he was asked to serve as the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
“I think I would have had a better chance of being the next person on the Space Shuttle going to the International Space Station than I would of being asked to be a vicar general for the Military Archdiocese,” said Father Laible, a longtime Illinois Air National Guard chaplain who has been pastor of Holy Family in Lincoln, St. Mary in Atlanta, St. Patrick in Elkhart and St. Thomas Aquinas in Mount Pulaski, for 14 years.
What he told Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, however, was “I’m overwhelmed and I’m humbled by your confidence.”
Archbishop Broglio asked him to serve for five years — a request that was granted by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. The appointment, which becomes effective in July, will take him to Washington, D.C.
“Military chaplains are called to be visible reminders of the holy and so I think the first thing a priest has to do when takes on a new assignment, in my humble opinion, is to be that visible reminder of God’s presence.” — Father Laible
Father Laible succeeds Msgr. John J.M. Foster, who is returning to the Diocese of Stockton, California, after eight years.
As the vicar general, Father Laible will report directly to Archbishop Broglio. He will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the archdiocese, which serves 1.8 million Catholics worldwide.
“Military chaplains are called to be visible reminders of the holy and so I think the first thing a priest has to do when takes on a new assignment, in my humble opinion, is to be that visible reminder of God’s presence,” Father Laible told The Catholic Post. “That’s first and foremost. If I miss that, I might as well pack up my bags and leave.”
He knows there will be a lot of administrative duties, just like any vicar general would have. But he prefers to think of it as “administry.”
“Even as a pastor there’s a lot of administry — there’s administration, but it’s all part of ministry,” he said.
“I envision it as if I can somehow help with that administration of the archdiocese and do it in the most effective and positive and holy way I possibly can, it allows the archbishop and his four auxiliary bishops to go out and be shepherds to our service members and to their families.”
33 YEARS A PRIEST
Born in Peoria on Jan. 30, 1961, Father Laible is the son of the late Elwood “Bud” Laible and Virginia Marie (Tiezzi) Laible. While at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and human services.
He would complete his studies for the priesthood at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis and be ordained on May 28, 1988, by Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
His first assignments after ordination were as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart in Moline and St. Columba in Ottawa. Father Laible has served as pastor at St. Joseph in Colfax and St. Rose in Strawn (1990-92); and St. Malachy in Rantoul (1997-2007) and St. Elizabeth in Thomasboro (2001-07).
He was appointed pastor at Holy Family in Lincoln and St. Mary in Atlanta in 2007, and added St. Patrick in Elkhart and St. Thomas Aquinas in Mount Pulaski to form the Logan County Catholic Community in 2011. This assignment also includes chaplaincy at the Logan Correctional Center and Lincoln Correctional Center, both in Lincoln.
Father Laible was chaplain at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington from 1993 to 1997.
HEART WAS BURNING
It was at Kenrick Seminary that he became interested in the chaplain candidate program. He petitioned Bishop O’Rourke for permission to participate for two summers and entered the Air Forces Reserves after ordination with permission from Bishop John J. Myers.
“The longer I was in, the more it seemed to be a fit for me,” Father Laible said. “I remember there was a burning in my heart that I could not extinguish. The more I served and the longer I was in, the stronger my heart burned.”
That same burning led him to the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, which is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Father Laible has been involved since 2015, and has served as spiritual director since 2017.
In addition to Warriors to Lourdes, his experience includes five tours to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany between 2005 and 2011. He said ministering to the wounded warriors there changed him profoundly — so much so that his parishioners at St. Malachy in Rantoul said there was a marked difference in him when he returned.
He has spent most of his military service with the Illinois Air National Guard, 183rd Wing, in Springfield. At one point he was wing chaplain and also was part of the Illinois National Guard Joint Task Force.
On Sept. 1, 2018, Father Laible was selected as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Chaplain, NORAD, and U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. He now holds the rank of colonel.
“In regards to combat experience, while I have never been shot at physically, I have seen, tasted and touched the results of combat,” Father Laible said.
With so much to do, Father Laible said “spiritual triage” is the key.
“There might be 10 things on my desk that I need to get done, but I can only do three of them,” he said. “So I’ll do the three most important and the other seven will get done. I just have to give those to God because I can’t do everything. What’s the most important thing that I have to do today?”
Father Laible said he has been blessed over the years to have the assistance of retired priests and the monks at St. Bede to cover his parishes when he is gone. He also cited “great staffs and great assistants” for making these different ministries possible.
His gratitude extends to Bishop Jenky, Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka and Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, for their support.
Father Laible is counting on the same spiritual discipline he has used in the past to carry him through this new assignment: “Pray, pray, pray — then pray more.” That includes at least one rosary each day and lately he has prayed two and three.
In the end, he said there is just one thing he needs to take with him.
“I have to bring a heart that is shaped and formed by the Gospel and all of these experiences with me,” Father Laible said. “I’ve been very blessed, very blessed. More than I could have ever imagined.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Father Laible will be moving to his new assignment on June 16. His mailing address will be Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, P.O. Box 4469, Washington, D.C. 20017-0469.