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Lector marks 50th anniversary in ministry

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

ALTON – It was in the mid-1960s when lay readers were reintroduced in the Catholic Church as a result of the Second Vatican Council.

One parishioner of St. Mary Church, Joe Kellen, was involved in the ministry from the start. He recently celebrated his 50th year serving in the ministry. In fact, he served as lector during the first English Mass celebrated at the parish on March 29, 1964. Prior to that time, Mass was celebrated in Latin.

“This was following Vatican II. Changes were being made and there was no reason for me to resist it,” said Kellen, who noted that while he can’t specifically remember how it felt during the Mass, he assumed he felt honored.

He pointed out that he had agreed to serve as a lector because the parish pastor, Msgr. Zeno Reising asked him. Aside from being his pastor, the priest had been Kellen’s religion teacher in high school at St. Mary’s High School in Alton.

“I had a little experience in school talking to people and didn’t have any difficulty with it,” noted Kellen, who was 26 at the time. “Fifty years ago, when a priest asked you to do something you didn’t say no. That’s how I got started.”

He was one of four lectors to serve in the Ministry of Lector at his parish early on.

“We had four Masses on the weekend and so there were four of us. So for a while, I read every Sunday,” said Kellen, a lifelong member of the Alton parish. The other three original lectors at St. Mary’s are now deceased.

He noted he mainly read at the 10 a.m. Mass in order to feed the livestock and do other chores on the farm prior to church.

“Through the years we have acquired a lot more lectors, so now it’s about once a month that I lector,” Kellen said. He plans to keep volunteering in the ministry “because there’s no reason to quit.”

Serving as a lector is not Kellen’s only church involvement. Over the years, he has served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, is a member of the Knights of Columbus and has served on the various Spalding Catholic school system boards. Joe and his wife, Liz, served as the chairs of the Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools and continue to serve on the dinner committee.

The couple has been married for 52 years. All nine of their children attended Spalding Catholic School. They have 30 grandchildren.

Kellen is involved because the Catholic Church means a great deal to him.

“I recognize it is the institution that will tell us the truth and I don’t want to see it slip away,” he said.

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