What are your memories of childhood?
I was quite young when we moved to the town of Lake, a rural area where my folks had built their first home. It was an age of no TV, no such things as computers, so you made your entertainment and your fun times. There were a couple of kids in the neighborhood and we had some cousins nearby. We played in the open fields around us. Cats and dogs, and other critters, were always part of our household. Eventually, we had a horse and a Shetland pony named Daisy, and we had a wagon that we could hook her up to and travel on the gravel roads. It was just a wonderful time.
It sounds amazing.
Life, I thought, was simpler — but, of course, I was a kid then.
Were thoughts of the priesthood ever in your mind at that time?
That started to come in. I went to the public school down the road, and in seventh and eighth grade, Queen of Peace started a new school, and I went there. It was really the influence of the associate pastor there. His kindness, his outgoing personality and his gentleness really affected me, and I would say it was at that time I started leaning toward thinking about being a priest.
What are your favorite memories from the seminary?
I’ve always had this attraction to old buildings, what’s going on inside of them. I worked at the seminary as maintenance staff during a couple of summers before I was ordained, so the buildings and the ground became almost personal to me. I loved going up into the fifth floor of Henni Hall and walking around up there. I don’t know if it was permitted or not; I just did it. I looked at some of this old stuff that had accumulated over the years — paintings and stuff from the bishops, things from the seminary buildings themselves. I have no idea if that’s been all cleaned out now, but I know some of those items were cleaned and assigned to auxiliary bishops in recent years.
If you were not a priest, what career do you think you may have been drawn to?
I have always liked going out to eat, so the idea of owning a restaurant intrigues me. But, some major people in the industry were parishioners of mine, and knowing them and the kind of issues they dealt with, the amount of effort it takes and the personality it takes to succeed in that business — I’m more of an introvert, so I’m not so sure I would have been good at that. Maybe I would have made a maître d’ OK.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was in Sheboygan, at St. Dominic, and I was given a call to go somewhere else, my pastor said, “If you’re asked to go somewhere, go.” So I did. And that always worked out very well. The last couple of times there were moves in my ministry, sometimes I was resistant — in fact, one of the times I was asked to go somewhere, I said “Absolutely not, never in a million years” — and I ended up going, and it was a very wonderful place to be. If you’re asked to go somewhere, just believe God is working through this process.
If you could have dinner with any saint or Biblical figure, who would it be?
My patron, St. Peter. Not because I ever had ambitions of being a pope. But his ambition, his failures, and his denials, his humanness, were just so blatant, and I sure can identify with that. But his success, his need to forgive himself, and go one with life — I would love to get behind the real St. Peter the Apostle.
You weren’t supposed to be named after him, though, were you? Can you tell that story?
I was born at home, and my older siblings were getting ready to go to school. Our parents told them, “You have a baby brother, we’re going to name him Richard.” And my siblings said, “We don’t want Richard.” So, my siblings actually named me. Why they didn’t want Richard, I have no idea. I don’t know if I’d be as anxious to have dinner with St. Richard, so maybe that’s how that came about.