Solmnity of Pentecost
50th Anniversary of the Priestly Ordination of Fr. Henry Kunkel
St. Mary Parish, Pylesville
May 23, 2021
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
I am happy to return to St. Mary’s Parish, albeit belatedly, on this occasion to celebrate with all of you the Solemnity of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in this joyful setting, to celebrate with you the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of your good pastor, Father Henry Kunkel. As most of you know, this celebration was to take place last year but, as with so many things during the pandemic, it had to be delayed. How good it is to be together in person, with many fewer restrictions, to celebrate this wonderful feast of Pentecost and the life of this wonderful priest.
On the original Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to his disciples came upon them. They experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit as a strong, driving wind, and as tongues of fire that hovered above their heads. As the Spirit overshadowed the Apostles in the Upper Room, they understood with clarity and joy that Jesus is Lord! The Spirit enlightened them about all that Jesus had taught and done, especially his saving Death and Resurrection, and the Spirit empowered them to go forth from the Upper Room to preach the Gospel, fearlessly and convincingly, to all the nations. Filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles bore witness to Christ and in the process they produced the good and lasting fruit of the Gospel, just as Jesus had commanded them to do.
We celebrate this feast day, dear friends, not only to recapture the wondrous events that mark the beginnings of the Church’s mission. We also celebrate Pentecost so that the Spirit might stir into flame the gifts he imparted to us when we were baptized and confirmed, gifts that enable us to live as disciples of the Lord and members of the Church who also bear the good fruit of the Gospel, namely, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts, amazing things happen. We have newfound joy and zeal and we come to know Jesus more intimately; our love for the Church and our dedication to the Church’s mission is rekindled; we recover our unity as Catholics and find ourselves bearing witness to the Lord. The Spirit imparts an ever-deeper love for the poor and openness to the needs of others.
The Holy Spirit in the Life of Young Anthony Henry Kunkel III
Many years ago, the Holy Spirit stirred in the heart of a young man, Anthony Henry, born to Anthony Henry Kunkel Jr. and Catherine Albena Povéro in Lima, Peru. Baptized in the Church of Santa Beatriz in Lima, the Spirit first entered his heart and connected him firmly to Jesus in his death and resurrection and to his Church. The fullness of the Holy Spirit came upon this young man when, in 1957, he was confirmed at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Portchester, N.Y. The gifts the Holy Spirit imparted to Anthony Henry Kunkel III did not lie dormant. Rather, as his family moved to Maryland and thus to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, young Henry Kunkel continued to grow in his love for the Catholic faith. Even as he had begun to study aeronautical engineering at the University of Maryland, he felt the stirrings of the Holy Spirit calling him to the priesthood. With a generous and loving heart, this young man said “yes” to the Lord.
As he journeyed through the seminary, first at St. Charles and then at St. Mary’s, a picture emerges of a young man in whom the Holy Spirit of the Lord was at work. The seminary faculty saw him as a most promising candidate for the priesthood, possessing “a good character … quiet, solid, steady, careful about his duties, sincere, straightforward, in order, and pleasant” – and they were on the mark! Amid the steadiness of his good character, however, was an unmistakable zeal. As a seminarian at St. Mary’s Seminary, he spent his summers working in Peru. As a deacon, he visited the sick and the imprisoned, taught bible classes, worked with young people, comforted the bereaved, helped young married couples. This zealous young deacon hoped to spend at least a portion his priesthood in Peru. So, as he drew closer to priestly ordination, the seminary faculty gave this assessment: “Anthony Kunkel is a very open and friendly young man [with] a very sincere concern for people in his pastoral assignment this year . . . he is very much concerned about the Church and her mission.” “With enthusiasm” they recommended him to Card. Shehan for priestly ordination.
Providentially, the Spirit of the Lord kept Father Kunkel close to us in the Archdiocese. Across the span of a half a century, Father Kunkel has served admirably in various assignments across the Archdiocese of Baltimore: as Associate Pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Woodlawn; and as Chaplain at Franklin Square Hospital, where he showed a deep and abiding love for the sick and the dying. While serving as Chaplain, he was also a part-time Associate Pastor at Queen of Peace in Middle River; Fr. Kunkel served as Pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Elkridge, and since 1993, around the time of his silver jubilee of priesthood, he has been your very good pastor here at St. Mary’s, Pylesville. In all these priestly assignments, Fr. Kunkel opened his heart to the Holy Spirit who guided and sustained him, who kept him steadfast in his ministry, joyful, steady, and faithful in the fulfillment of his responsibilities, and dedicated to the Church and her mission. You have benefited from these qualities here at St. Mary Parish, where, with Fr. Kunkel, you have built up and sustained this parish community – including a host of parish ministries to people of all ages, as well as significant building projects, such as the restoration of the historical bell tower, the church pew restoration, the addition of a commercial kitchen to the hall, the addition to the Parish Center, and so much more. Under the leadership of Fr. Kunkel and in the power of the Spirit, St. Mary’s Parish, “outside the outermost fringes of urban and suburban bustle, and …nestled among cultivated fields, meadows and wooded hills,” continues to thrive.
Hindsight: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit in Fr. Kunkel’s Life and Ministry
Looking back over fifty-one years of priestly ministry, we see in Fr. Kunkel the fruits of the Holy Spirit of which Paul speaks in Galatians. “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.” This is the good fruit of the Gospel, the fruit of a lifetime of openness to the Spirit, qualities of mind and heart that have shone through your ministry, Fr. Henry – through the countless homilies you have preached, the instructions you have offered, the innumerable Masses you have offered, the baptisms you have performed, the penitents you have absolved, the marriages you have witnessed, your ministrations to the sick and the dying, and your knowledge and loving care for this people of this parish and the parishes and ministries where you previously served. In the power of the Holy Spirit, your life and ministry has indeed been fruitful; you have borne the good and lasting fruit of the Gospel.
I pray also that the Spirit of God will stir the hearts of young people to answer, as you did Fr. Henry, a call to priesthood or to religious life, so that they may experience, as you have, the joy of serving the Lord and his people. And in this month of May, I entrust you and your priestly ministry to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Church, for she was in the Upper Room when the Spirit descended upon the Church and she loves you and your people, Fr. Henry, with a deep, maternal love.
With your devoted parishioners and as your Archbishop, I sincerely thank you and pray that the Lord will continue to sustain you in health and joy, ad multos annos!