Fr. Ken Riley
When did you first feel called to the priesthood?
I first thought about priesthood in fourth grade when I was among of the first public school students invited to be an altar server at the Co-Cathedral in St. Joseph. I thought it would be "cool" to assist the priests at Mass and be up front. But that desire went away pretty quickly to other careers. It was not until my junior year of high school that the idea returned. And then I thought it just might be a passing fad. When it would not go away in my senior year, I spoke to Fr. Mike Roach who introduced me to Bishop Sullivan and to Msgr. (now Msgr.) Bob Murphy who was the vocation director at the time.
What is the defining issue of our time and what does the priesthood have to say about it?
I'm not certain there is one "defining issue of our time." Still I feel that Pope John Paul II clearly felt the pulse of the world when he spoke about the need for a 'new evangelization.' Priesthood in the Catholic Church is all about Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the gift of the Church here on Earth. These important considerations are all part of the 'new evangelization' that our time apparently needs.
What do you love about the priesthood?
Two aspects of the priesthood that I especially love are celebrating the Sacraments and being privileged to walk with God's people at important moments of their lives (baptisms and funerals, weddings and graduations, tragedies and anniversaries, joys and sorrows). People trust you and want you to help them see God's presence in these moments of their lives.
What are the challenges you face as a priest?
Challenges I face as a priest include: finding time to balance the requirements of being a pastor and not having enough time in any given day to finish all the activities that entails; balancing making decisions that will benefit all the people in the parish with what is sometimes perceived as a decision that some people may not "like"; making time for people who just "walk in" and want to "see a priest" when something else may have been scheduled and having to adjust to this as best I can; being overwhelmed sometimes with the amount of "paper work" that I have to fill out as a pastor; being conscious of my own limitations and knowing when I may really need to think before I "put on another hat."
What advice would you give to someone who approaches you about the priesthood?
My advice to someone approaching me about the priesthood is first: pray, pray, and pray some more for God's guidance and aid in discernment. And then second — but assuredly with prayer throughout — speak to several priests you admire so that these priests can share insights about the life they live. Next, speak to lay leaders you believe have a good vision of the wide umbrella of the Catholic Church and not just those who agree with you. Being a priest is challenging, but I absolutely love my priesthood.
What was your biggest obstacle in discerning God's call?
My biggest obstacle in discerning God's call was the noise of society. It is difficult to 'hear' the voice of God in a world of noise: the secular world keeps throwing up at you that it's "get ahead" or "get left behind"; this material possession will make you happy; you really aren't "complete" without a wife and family. We all have to strive to do our best, to make use of the good things in God's creation, and certainly to support the married life. Time away from all of the bombardment is what the seminary provides: a time to reflect, to get to know yourself and what it is you really want, and most importantly, time for developing a routine of daily prayer, most especially, daily Eucharist. The great St. Irenaeus put it this way: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
Who was the most influential person in your life?
Several persons are and were influential in my life. In quickly responding to this question, immediately coming to my mind are my loving parents and my grandmother. They spent a great deal of time with me over the years teaching me and my siblings about our Catholic faith. I also thought of the witness and grandfatherly tenderness of Msgr. Leo Ruggle. I enjoyed going to confession to him as he always challenged me to holiness but let me know I was a dearly beloved son of God. Other teachers, friends, and priests also come to mind. May God bless them one and all!
What is your family background?
I am the oldest of four siblings, two sons/two daughters, born to two "cradle Catholic" parents. Both sides of the extended family are also Catholic and they live(d) near the good Benedictines of Conception Abbey and Clyde Convent. I never imagined as a child that I would be attending college near them at Conception, MO.
What books/authors, films, music, etc., do you like?
I'm someone who likes to use movies and TV in homilies and other teaching moments. As a part of Generation X, we grew up with MTV and the explosion of cable television so I'm pretty much a visual learner. Films I like are comedies and animations, dramas and thrillers, predominately. Unfortunately I read very little fiction, but I do a great deal of reading to remain current in canon law, liturgy, and theology.