Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Funeral of Msgr. Joseph Luca

Funeral of Msgr. Joseph Luca
St. Louis Parish, Clarksville
October 5, 2022

The Feast of St. Joseph

Among Msgr. Luca’s favorite days every year was March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, his patron saint. Every year, Msgr. Luca would host a dinner for brother priests to celebrate his great patron saint, a wonderful tradition that his successor, Fr. DeAscanis continues. The evening always began with Vespers, followed by drinks and dinner. It was a time to tell stories, to laugh, to enjoy one another’s company. Monsignor was the perfect host who made us feel at home and helped us enjoy an evening of priestly fraternity.

At the celebration there was always a St. Joseph’s table, with the figure of St. Joseph in the center surrounded by Italian foods. Since learning of his passing, I’ve been thinking about the figure of St. Joseph and the likeness of Msgr. Luca to his holy patron. With your kind permission, I would like to reflect on that likeness as we commend this good and wonderful priest to God the Father of life and love.

Worker and Provider

Like St. Joseph, Joe Luca was a hard worker and a good provider. St. Joseph was skilled at his craft as a carpenter and used this skill to provide a secure home for the Holy Family. No doubt St. Joseph had to work hard at his trade and we can imagine that, as a carpenter, he upgraded his home from time to time. St. Joseph did this not to create a comfortable home for himself, but rather to carry out the mission entrusted to him by God, the mission of creating a home for the Holy Family and loving Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, like a father.

If there is anything we all know, it’s that Joe Luca was a hard worker. All we have to do is look around to see the fruits of his labors – not just this beautiful church but entire campus that surrounds it. And not only was he a hard worker, he was truly skilled at his craft. Everything here reflects Msgr. Luca’s sense of order and his good taste. But his purpose in building all of this was not to create a monument of some sort. As the parish families served by Msgr. Luca know so well, Msgr. Luca labored long and hard, together with them, to build a home for his parish family, a truly beautiful home in which they would listen to the Word of God, celebrate the mysteries of redemption, and find the strength needed to live their vocations.


Like St. Joseph, Msgr. Joe Luca was a teacher – a teacher of the faith and a teacher of practical human skills. Thus it was that St. Joseph, together with Mary, were given the mission to form the humanity of the Word of made flesh, Jesus Christ. This they did by creating a prayerful home, by handing on to Jesus what they had first received, and by helping him to grow in age and wisdom. Tradition also has it that St. Joseph taught Jesus how to be a skilled carpenter, how to create tables, chairs, and other furnishings with the plane and the lathe.

Msgr. Luca, similarly, was a wonderful teacher. Those of you who listened to his well-prepared eight-minute homilies know this. Those of you who were instructed in the faith by this pastor of souls know this. Here’s another instance of his skill as a teacher. When preparing children to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time, Msgr. Luca gave all the children a small rock. Standing in the front of the church, as they were preparing for their first confession, he held up a large paper cut-out of a bright red heart, explaining that if we do not seek God’s mercy, our sins would shrink our hearts as gradually he revealed to the children smaller and smaller paper hearts. In the end, he held up a little rock, like the one the children had, explaining that when we go to confession, the Lord takes away our stony hearts and gives us a great big loving heart. In this simple way, Msgr. taught a profound truth at the heart of our faith and at the heart of his priesthood.

And just as St. Joseph prepared Jesus for his ministry, so too Msgr. Joe Luca helped prepare many young priests for their ministry. He helped them to develop the practical skills they would need as parish priests. To be sure, his efforts were not always immediately appreciated but in hindsight many a priest realized that he had taught them well and wisely. When, back in the 70’s, I was a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, my Rector, Father Flynn held up the recently ordained Father Luca as a model priest. Over the years, I came to know just how true that was.

Like a Father

Just as St. Joseph was like a father to Jesus, so too Msgr. Joe Luca was our spiritual father. Like every good father, he had some rules! Ask any of his associate pastors! More importantly, much more importantly, he took care of his parish family like a father and a shepherd, never taking his eye off the goal of forming Christ in you. For that reason, he knew you, he loved you, he was deeply interested in each of you. While we called him Monsignor, his most fitting title was father.

The Silence of Joseph

One last point. The Gospels report no words spoken by St. Joseph. St. Joseph was a man who silently carried out the will of God. On the other hand, Msgr. Luca had a great command of language. Articulate, he knew what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. With the advance of his illness, with which he so bravely struggled in silence, Msgr. Luca began to lose his ability to express himself at will. A few weeks ago, I visited with Msgr. Luca at St. Stephen’s Green. In some ways, he was the same Joe Luca I had come to know, love, and respect. His room was in order. He was as ever mannerly and hospitable. But as we began our conversation, he couldn’t find the right words. You knew they were in his heart and mind, but he couldn’t say them with his lips.

In the end, the silence of St. Joseph descended upon him. When he could no longer speak, he still taught us. When he no longer had his former energy, he still provided for our needs by his prayer and by offering his sufferings for us. When he could no longer sustain his service as pastor, he remained our spiritual father. His life spoke more eloquently than his words. Who he was, was more enduring than what he did. Our Joseph – Joseph Luca – was a true son of St. Joseph, a follower of Christ and priest and pastor after the heart of the Good Shepherd. May his great priestly soul rest in peace!

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.