Father Keith Stripe
Meet Some Priests

Father Keith Stripe

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Date of Ordination:
June 8, 1996

Fathers Ray Fisher, John Blaser, and James Bacik, and the late Father Russell Gillig, all priests of the Toledo, O., Diocese, and the late Father Jerome “Jerry” Neufelder, his spiritual director during seminary,

Genealogy, tinkering with computers, reading, mostly in the suspense-mystery genre and authors like John Grisham and James Patterson.

Best thing about priesthood:
Celebrating a sacrament like baptism, explaining the signs and symbols, and seeing everyone’s faces light up as they get what it’s about.

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“I kind of kept waiting for the lightning bolt.”

Father Keith Stripe was a seventh-grader when he first thought about being a priest, but it wasn’t until he graduated from college and began a business career that he decided to go to seminary.

Growing up in Van Wert, O., across from St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Father Stripe says, “Priests were always part of our life.”

The priest who baptized him, the late Father Russell Gillig, for example, saw his parents, Dale and Marie Stripe, through the birth of their oldest son, Dennis, for whom a doctor had recommended a “therapeutic abortion.” The Stripes rejected that advice and Mrs. Stripe delivered a healthy son who went on to play college football. “I saw the good that [Father Gillig] had done for my family,” Father Stripe says. “That’s quite an attractive thing to see – that you can in fact really spiritually help people out during those kind of difficult times.”

Later, Father Stripe says Father Ray Fisher, who spent a year at St. Mary, showed him another side of priesthood. “He played tennis with my brother and just did the kind of normal human things . . . It kind of dawned on me that these guys are not like beamed down from another planet – they’re human people.”

Although as a seventh-grader he thought he might want to be a priest, Father Stripe knew that when he visited the Toledo Diocese’s high school seminary, he wasn’t ready. By the time adolescence set in, he says, “A lifelong commitment to celibacy was daunting. I just didn’t know if [priesthood] was really going to be possible in my life.”

He followed his older brother to Bowling Green State University, majored in business, and got involved in St. Thomas More University Parish. He dated and had a “serious girlfriend,” but continued to think about priesthood.

After graduation, he planned to work long enough to pay his college debt, got a job with NCR in Dayton, and within six months was transferred to Atlanta. Two years later, he was transferred to Cambridge, O.

All the time, he says, “I kind of kept waiting for the lightning bolt, and that didn’t happen.” But in both cities, he got involved in parishes and the more he did, the more clear it seemed that he was being called to priesthood.

Finally, after about a year of serious discussions with several priests, he entered St. Meinrad, Ind., Seminary in 1990.

Discernment continued, and everything seemed to point toward ordination. An internship in a parish, Father Stripe says, was “a great year of clarity, of really feeling that – you know what – I think this is right.”

After several assignments as an associate pastor, Father Stripe currently is serving as pastor of a large parish in a small town. His biggest challenge, he says, has been learning to give without getting burned out. “It’s that kind of balance of not being selfish . . . but . . . making sure I take care of myself physically and spiritually, making sure that I pray, [making] sure that I take care of my body.”

He remembers his spiritual director in seminary telling him: “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy” and “[Priesthood] is a ministry of interruptions.” Father Stripe likes praying at set times in the morning and evening, combining the Liturgy of the Hours with spontaneous prayer, but he recognizes, too, that people’s needs will sometimes interrupt his prayer schedule.

To maintain balance and avoid isolation, he keeps in contact with two other priests in the area and belongs to a priests’ support group. For relaxation, he dabbles in researching his family tree, tinkers with computers, and reads – mostly fiction in the suspense-mystery genre.

In more than a decade of priesthood, Father Stripe says there have been exhilarating moments, some of which occur as part of everyday life. On a recent Sunday, for instance, he baptized a baby while the infant’s little cousins looked on with great curiosity.

He began by giving them a simple explanation of baptism and its rich symbols. “The parents and the adults lit up because you could see, even though I was talking to [the children], I was really talking to the adults and they were . . . learning as well . . . That was a joyful day . . . When you can effectively communicate to some degree or another the message of Jesus Christ and people get it, that’s great.”


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