Fr. Andrew Killeen, the new parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church, reads out of the Roman Missal while sitting in front of Sacred Heart on a rainy afternoon Wednesday. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Revelations at the genesis
Whenever a new chapter begins in a person’s life, there are always certain revelations which influence the path forward as a person discerns which vocation to follow. These revelations can lead to a way of serving God more fully in whichever vocation is chosen.
Take for example Fr. Andrew Killeen, the new parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church. He grew up in the faith at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Lafayette where his parents were very much involved. “My mom was in the Women’s Guild, which is like an Altar’s Society,” he said, “and my dad was a Knight of Columbus.”
He said he and his siblings would go “almost everywhere” their parents would go “to help set up and take everything down.”
Fr. Killeen’s parents were also active in the parish’s mission trips to Mexico. He described the trips as being “geared more to families because we had a lot of doctors.” He added, “It was like a medical mission, and the doctors would bring their families.”
As a whole, Fr. Killeen said growing up at St. Pius X was “a great blessing because my whole family was active in the parish, and there were also so many great parishioners who influenced me so much through their service and prayer.”
The call to the priesthood for Fr. Killeen came when he was growing up at St. Pius X. He said his mom tells people it was when he was in the second grade. “I believe her because I don’t remember much from the second grade,” he said.
For him though, revelations of answering the call to the priesthood began when he was in the sixth grade as he began alter serving.
“That’s when I fell in love with the Church, especially with the Mass and the Eucharist,” he said. “I remember watching my pastor, the late Monsignor Richard Mouton, celebrate Mass. At the consecration, I said to myself I wanted to do that. Now, I can.”
He continued, “At almost every Mass I celebrate, I think of that, and it hits me that it’s a great blessing to be given the opportunity to do that.”
Fr. Killeen went on and completed the seminary. Now that he has finished that chapter of his life, he said “it still doesn’t feel real.” He added, “To know that I can, through Holy Orders, feed God’s flock is a very beautiful and humbling thing.”
The day of his ordination, Saturday, June 6, also did not feel real until he said his first Mass on the following day.
He had about a month between the time he was ordained to the time he began his assignment here in Ville Platte. During that time, however, he had a revelation which through a monkey wrench into his plans. That revelation was finding out he had contracted the coronavirus.
“I got here on Friday, July 3,” he said. “I started feeling sick before, but I just assumed it was sinuses. I was putting up my books on that Friday and felt really tired. I got tested that day, and then got the results back on Sunday.”
Fr. Killeen described feeling miserable at the onset of the coronavirus while quarantining at a local camp. “I couldn’t do much of anything,” he said. I couldn’t say Mass because I was too tired. Mass is pretty exhausting as it is, even private Masses. Then, I just rested and took medication.”
He was under quarantine for about six days before he took a turn for the worst. On Thursday, July 9, he went into Mercy Regional Medical Center because his breathing had gotten worse. He stayed in the hospital for about a week.
“It was not a pleasant experience,” he said, “but the doctors and nurses did a very great job taking care of me. They did a fantastic job especially at the beginning when I was still feeling the symptoms. Towards the end, my fever had gone, which was great, and my breathing was normal. They were able to remove the oxygen, and I had my strength back somewhat. I was able to move around in the room, and I was actually able to eat, which was very nice.”
Upon being discharged from the hospital, Fr. Killeen returned to quarantine at the camp. “My energy was drained from staying in the hospital for that long,” he expressed. “I wasn’t able to say Mass because I was still so tired. My appetite had returned, thank God, so I was able to eat again.”
Quarantine came to an end, and Fr. Killeen was finally able to say his first Mass at Sacred Heart this past Monday on July 27. He called the experience amazing and beautiful “because I was with the people.” He added, “I got here on July 3 and was going to be saying Masses that weekend. I was going to meet the people, and then, all of a sudden, I tested positive.”
He continued, “the people were expecting me. Fr. Tom (Voorhies) and other priests had to mention I wasn’t going to be there. I think the people were upset about that. This past weekend, though, I was able to see people and thank them. It was great to finally celebrate Mass with all the people.”
Now that he is fully rested from quarantine, Fr. Killeen is ready to tackle the challenges that come from serving such a large area with two churches and a mission in Belaire Cove.
“It’s going to be interesting because there are two vigil Masses every Saturday,” he said. “That means Fr. Tom will be at one, and I will be at the other one. That’s always kind of tough because usually you have a wedding or a funeral on Saturday. And, also, we have Saturday morning Mass.”
Another challenge of being assigned here to Sacred Heart and St. Joseph is Fr. Killeen’s ability to speak French. As he said, “I took French in high school, but it kind of left. I can remember a couple words and phrases. I tried to pick it up again fairly recently, but it was still pretty poor.”
While here in Ville Platte, Fr. Killeen also looks to get involved at Sacred Heart School in some capacity. “I went to St. Pius X Elementary and St. Thomas More High School,” he said. “Catholic school had a great impact on my vocation and my faith. I’m very excited to give that back to Catholic education in whatever way, shape, or form.”
Undergoing a bout of the coronavirus, however, has led to revelations on how he could become a better Christian. “I remember the psalm where the psalmist is praying because he is very sick to the point of almost death,” Fr. Killeen expressed. “He prays to the Lord to take away his sickness. There were days where I felt like that and said ‘Lord, please make me feel better.’”
“Of course,” he continued, “there is always the aspect of offering one’s sufferings. I could hear neighbors in the hospital, and one of them sounded pretty bad. I was offering my suffering for them in whatever way, shape, or form the Lord would help them get better.”
Similarly, that idea of suffering for others has given Fr. Killeen revelations at the genesis of his time in the priesthood which will shape his time serving God’s flock.
“Just the fact of isolation,” he said, “I can relate more with people who suffered from COVID and those people who continue to suffer because of quarantine, isolation, age, or health issues. During my time of isolation, I longed to celebrate Mass and to receive the Eucharist. I know there are people out there who still hasn’t been to Mass yet. As a priest, that hurts. But, I can relate to them and suffer with them.”