Father Paul Prabell was about 60 years old when he prepared for a six-month sabbatical by asking himself, “Who is a good model to be aging and on fire?” His answer was Father Paul Joseph Volk.
Father Prabell, pastor of Jesus Our Savior Church in Morehead, Ky., since 2008, is the author of the 2009 book “Soul Seeking with Paul Volk,” his study of the priest who brought the Ursuline Sisters to what is now Maple Mount in 1874. On Oct. 11, Father Prabell came to the Mount to talk to the sisters and other guests about the life of Father Volk and how he can continue to be a model for us today.
“One of the keys to my research was being here, walking the grounds and picking up your spirit,” he told the sisters who gathered in the St. Ursula community room. Father Prabell worked with the late community archivist Sister Vicki Cravens and Sister Emma Cecilia Busam, who was archivist for the Diocese of Owensboro at the time.
Among the visitors to listen to his talk on Oct. 11 was Joseph Arnold Lush, the brother of the late Ursuline Sister Walter Louise Lush. Father Volk baptized Lush in 1919 while he was serving in Peonia, Ky., the same year he died.
While on his sabbatical, Father Prabell visited the more than 20 churches Father Volk built, even those in Ecuador and Panama, where Father Volk was a missionary for more than 20 years.
After returning from Panama in 1915, Father Volk served in Louisville a short while, then Peonia, before retiring to Maple Mount, where he died on All Souls Day, Nov. 2, 1919.
Father Prabell became interested in Father Volk when he served as pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Danville, Ky., one of the churches Father Volk built. “He left in 1895 and I came in 1995,” Father Prabell said. A parishioner gave him a copy of the biography of Father Volk written by Father Norbert Russwurm, a Benedictine monk.
Father Prabell was also friends with Father Paul Volk Wethington, whose family was friends with Father Volk and named him in honor of the priest. Father Wethington died in 1998.
Father Volk is still a model for us today in many ways, Father Prabell said. His sense of the presence of Jesus, his dedication to the poor and dying, his respect for women that was ahead of his time and his example of racial justice are all lessons he can continue to teach us, Father Prabell said.
“What is home?” Father Volk asked, and Father Prabell said his answer that still speaks to us today is, “To be with the Lord and to be with the poor, just as the Lord is.”
Father Prabell’s book is available for sale on Amazon.com. To read more about Father Volk, visit the History page on the website at ursulinesmsj.org/about-us/history/father-paul-volk.
Here are some pictures from his talk: