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Fr. Jeffery A. Largent  

Fr. Jeffery A. Largent June 23, 1957 - September 8, 2016

Fr. Jeffery A. Largent, 59, longtime pastor of St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church in Culver, passed into the arms of a loving Savior on Thursday evening at his Culver home. He died peacefully surrounded by his close friends.

Priests are called to the religious life and are dedicated to the propagation of the Catholic Faith by making the Sacraments available to their congregations. Fr. Jeff never lost sight of that promise and performed the Sacrament of Baptism from his own hospital bed just last Sunday. His memory will live on in the many lives he has touched over his 32 years in the priesthood. He was born Jeffery Alan Largent on June 23, 1957 in South Bend, Indiana the first of four children of Arthur A. and Florence J. (McGreevey) Largent.

Jeff had a childhood like many others and attended primary school at St. Anthony and graduated from John Adams High School in 1975 where he was involved in theater and drama and become the only seminarian in the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese at that time to graduate from a public School. He said he knew from around the time he was in the third grade that he wanted to be a priest and showed his interest by responding to the Augustinian Priests, based in Holland, Michigan and sharing his desire with them.

He then completed college course studies at IUSB and then entered the St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also studied at the North American College in Rome, Italy and was privileged to be an altar server for St. John Paul II. He later returned to Rome in 2014 for a sabbatical and enjoyed his time there reconnecting with the locals that remembered him still after so many years.

He was ordained to the Priesthood on August 4, 1984 in St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, Indiana by then Bishop William McManus, Ft. Wayne/South Bend Diocese. He was employed as a Principal, Teacher of Theology and Parish Priest. Through the years he has been assigned and served the following parishes: St. John the Baptist – Ft. Wayne, St. Mary – Decatur, St. Andrew/St. Hyacinth – Ft. Wayne, St. Patrick – Ft. Wayne, St. Rose – Monroeville, St. Thomas the Apostle – Elkhart, St. Monica – Mishawaka, Little Flower – South Bend, and a rare re-appointment to St. Mary of the Lake – Culver. It was there he considered home due to the many wonderful friendships he was able to make and retain over the years.

Fr. Largent also served as Chaplain of the Indiana State Police for many years fostering many long lasting friendships as well.

He enjoyed spending time with his many friends, boating, horseback riding and cooking. As an avid dog lover, he was part of the Airedale Rescue and enjoyed the three Airedale he adopted: Luke, Jake and Rockne, who are now deceased and had just recently, added a Welsh Terrier Lydi.

Father is survived by his mother, Florence J. Largent of South Bend, brother Steve Largent of South Bend, sister Nancy (Chuck) Largent-Campbell of Powell, Ohio, and David (Carol) Largent of Kennesaw, Georgia. Seven nieces and nephews also survive. He was preceded in death by his father Arthur.

Visitation will begin on Sunday, September 11th at 2 p.m. in the St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church, 124 College Ave., Culver, Indiana and will conclude with a Prayer Service at 6 p.m. Visitation will continue on Monday, September 12th from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in the church. The Rosary will be prayed at 4:30 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at 11 a.m. Tuesday, September 13th in the Culver Military Academy Chapel 1300 Academy Road in Culver.

Burial will follow in the Culver Washington Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to St. Mary of the Lake Church, 605 N. Plymouth St., Culver, IN 46511. - johnson-danielson .com

Father Jeffrey Largent, a priest of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and pastor of St. Mary of the Lake Church, Culver, died on the afternoon of September 8, 2016. Father Largent had been ill for some time with cancer. Father Largent, during his priesthood, served at St. John the Baptist Parish, Fort Wayne, St. Mary Parish, Decatur, St. Andrew and St. Hyacinth, Parishes, Fort Wayne, St. Patrick Parish, Fort Wayne, St. Rose Parish, Monroeville, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Elkhart, St. Monica Parish, Mishawaka, St. Therese, Little Flower Parish, South Bend, as well as 12 years at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Culver, Indiana. Father Largent was also a chaplain for the Indiana State Police and served as the priest at the Culver Military Academy. The funeral arrangements for Father Largent are as follows:

Sunday, September 11, 2016
St. Mary of the Lake Church, Culver, IN
Visitation: 2-6 p.m.
Evening Prayer of the Dead: 6 p.m.

Monday, September 12, 2016
St. Mary of the Lake Church, Culver, IN
Visitation: 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Rosary: 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Culver Military Chapel, Culver, IN
Mass of Christian Burial 11 a.m.
The Burial will be in Culver Washington Cemetery todayscatholicnews . org

St. Mary’s Largent recalls papal role ahead of sabbatical next month

When Fr. Jeffrey Largent, pastor at St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church, contacted Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to inquire about concelebrating Mass with him in Rome this fall, the retired pontiff was adamant: the two must have dinner.

Unusual as such an incident is, it's just the latest for Largent, a familiar face in Culver for some years who was the subject of the highly unusual move on the part of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne - South Bend of returning him here last year as pastor after he'd served 12 years during the 1990s (ending in 2001). He's had something of the Catholic version of a "Forrest Gump"-like experience through the years: he's been declared dead four times, has acted as what he jokingly refers to as "the holy microphone holder" for three popes (besides serving with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI), has beaten cancer several times, is a Colonel in the US Air Force, Indiana State Police chaplain, holds a Master's degree in Education, and will be heading to Rome in September for six weeks for his first-ever sabbatical in 30 years as a priest.

And there's that, too: earlier this month Largent officially celebrated his 30th anniversary in the priesthood.


Things have changed quite a bit in the ordination process since Largent first decided, in the third grade, to become a priest while attending school at St. Anthony's parish in South Bend.

Back then, seminary students were "on the path" officially in the 7th grade, and Largent -- as was common then -- was taking seminary classes in high school.

He attended two other private schools (both of which closed during his tenure there as a student) before Bishop Crowley demanded he have " a real experience" and sent him for a year and a half to John Adams, a public school in South Bend.

"This was in the 1970s," he says. "That was an eye opener, when you interracial school during the 1970s, with the riots and all that stuff."

He actually attended half-days at Adams, but was also taking college credits across the street at Indiana University South Bend.

The bishop also insisted Largent attend Purdue to study pre-veterinary medicine after asking him what he would do if he weren't a priest. He later went to Notre Dame, and from there was directed to earn his Master's degree in education (concentrated in Administration), as the next bishop in the diocese felt was necessary for seminarians.

By contrast, Largent says seminary training starts after high school graduation today, and many earn college degrees in other areas before becoming priests.

"The guy who replaced me had been a dentist (prior to the priesthood)," he says.

Largent had joked with his vocational director, he says, about going to Rome, so he was surprised to learn he was among a handful of area seminarians actually appointed to go there (that's another practice which had fallen by the wayside in more recent decades; the first two Fort Wayne-South Bend seminarians since his class are in Rome now).

He spent the next five years studying in Rome studying at Gregorian University, where he was the first seminarian from this diocese since World War II.

Assigned to the papal "master of ceremonies" department, he stood by holding the microphone ("Good servers are like good waiters," he says.

"They need to do a good job, but they don't stand out") for three popes and countless dignitaries, heads of state, and the like.

First was Pope Paul VI, who died the day Largent arrived; he and other seminarians served at his funeral, as well as at the installation Mass for Pope John Paul I, whose death 30 days later shocked many. Largent also served at his funeral, and the installation of Pope John Paul II.

"I wasn't going out and having coffee with him," Largent clarifies of his service to the Pope. "It was very military; you did your job and moved away, and that was it. My mom...was having visions of me having coffee and donuts with him!" Instead, the longest conversation the ten-seminarian had with the pontiff -- now beatified as Saint John Paul the Great -- was on Largent’s very last day of service.

"The longest conversation I had with him, he said, 'Thank you very much.' He knew I was leaving."

"I had a sense then that he was a standout pope," recalls Largent, though he remembers vividly the Wednesday the pope was shot, in 1981.

It happened he and his fellow seminary students were off duty on Wednesdays, which as fate would have it, was the day of the assassination attempt.

"We all went running down (to St. Peter's) as soon as the bells went off. He was never really the same after he was shot; the energy was dwindled, the spark was diminished. He was more removed from people because security got tight. Before that, the Swiss guards were ceremonial; after it, the umbrella stands had guns in them!"

While in Rome, Largent also inadvertently went to Confession with John Paul II.

"I didn't know it was him. I came out of the confessional at St. Peter's and I thought, 'That was kind of a weird, different, nice experience.' But I wondered why security was all around. I waited until he came was the pope!"

During his tenure across the Tiber, Largent wasn't paid for those hours of holding the mic, and in search of spending money landed on the notion of joining the Air Force, whose base in Rome was seeking chaplains. Since Largent already had his Master's degree, he entered automatically as a lieutenant. He's still an Air Force chaplain, in fact, though today he's a Colonel.

It was also during this period that he had his first bout with cancer. At just 22 years old, Largent was serving in the Air Force in Spain and eating plenty of sea bass marinated in sangria, raw ("We call it sushi now"), and assuming he was losing weight due to exercising with others in the Air Force.

"But I couldn't stop losing weight," he says, "and they finally sent me home."

He'd contracted a parasite from the sea bass, but during treatment it was also discovered he had intestinal cancer, and likely would have died if not for the parasite.

"In those days," he explains, "they just cut (cancer) out and zapped you with radiation. It (cancer) came back once after I was ordained."


In 1984, back home from Rome, newly-ordained Largent was assigned to Bishop Leurs High School in Fort Wayne, where he taught history and theology (he was chair of the Theology department and Dean of Discipline) and after his first year became vice-principal in addition to assignments at parishes.

In 1989, Largent says the Air Force wanted him to go full-time for five years, something the late Bishop John D'Arcy didn't want to happen. Instead, Largent asked if he could respond in the affirmative to a request from the Indiana State Police to be a chaplain with them.

During his tenure with them, Largent served the State Police in Fort Wayne, the Toll Road, and -- once moved to Culver -- the Bremen Post, where he's still chaplain today.

"When I was younger I rode a lot with them -- you get to know them," he says. "I'm available for the troopers, some of it for death notification, but also crisis intervention and stress management. I'm trained do anything for all the departments if there’s a death, or shooting, or accident."

Otherwise, Largent assumed he'd be teaching high school for much of his career, but it was not to be.

In 1990, the bishop called and said, "Culver Academies wants a priest who can teach and be involved in military services. I said at the time, 'Where's Culver?' It's the furthest point in the diocese. One mile west is the Gary diocese (of which Starke County is a part), and one mile south is the Lafayette Diocese (of which Monterey's St. Anne's parish is a part)."

"It was supposed to be two years, but I was here 12."

He notes there were more Protestants at his going-away party in 2001 than Catholics.

"I love it because in most parishes, you only get to know the Catholics in your parish. But (in Culver), if you're involved in town and do things, then people know you. It is different than other parishes, because you have to deal with factions that don't always get along but have their own agenda. You have farmers, the long-time town people, the Chicago people in town, the lake crowd, the Academy folks, and the homeschoolers."


On Sept. 8, Fr. Jeffrey Largent will depart for his first sabbatical in 30 years (priests theoretically have them every seven). Between then and his return during Thanksgiving week, he'll spend a few hours a day in Rome attending lectures, seminars, and liturgical updates, and will also have three papal audiences.

One of his jobs during his seminary experience in Rome had been under-secretary of Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). "My job was to write letters," Largent recalls, adding that when he wrote to ask the pope emeritus to concelebrate Mass with him, Benedict replied, "Unacceptable! You'll have dinner with me."

Largent is also looking forward to encountering current Pope Francis, who has captured the imagination of many outside of the Catholic Church.

"He's the future of the Church," Largent remarks, concerning Francis.

"He's very personable, but reverent and with solid faith. He's more concerned about pastoral issues than doctrinal issues."

Largent says he chose to wait a year after his return to Culver, to depart on his sabbatical, rather than leave the parish here with an interim priest as soon as the regular one had arrived.

But in many ways Largent says he never left Culver, even when he was assigned to St. Patrick's in Fort Wayne and other parishes in the years before his return to St. Mary's last year.

"I kept the same bank (in Culver), Scot McKinnis (or Norcen in Culver) has always been my insurance agent; I came back every Sunday and stayed with the Deerys or the Brantinghams. It's like I never left! Even now if I go someplace with (St Mary's administrative assistant Jannie Zehner) and she says, 'How do you know all these people?' I say, 'I've been here 25 years!'" Pilot News

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