I was born on 3/12/42 in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in a German-Irish family with faith in the Roman Catholic Church. My childhood faith was influenced by the Servants of Mary sisters and Redemptorist priests in elementary school as well as the Jesuits of the Creighton Preparatory School (PREP). My service as Altar Server or Acolyte eventually included duties as Master of Ceremonies. I entertained some thoughts of a priestly vocation until I observed my older brother's experiences in a Redemptorist minor (high school) seminary. Growing-up in Cub and Boy Scouts, I qualified for all Roman Catholic awards then possible. I served as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster in our parish, with duties as Scoutmaster, at 15, when adults could not be found to volunteer for the job. I fell in love with my wife to be, Kathleen Winkelmann, in 1957, as a junior at Creighton Prep. I worked in all aspects of a wholesale food business, from its founding 1949, as SPUDIES, CO., through its change in name to WERNER FOODS, INC. in 1952 until my departure for the U. S. Naval Academy (USNA) in 1960. From 1960 until bankruptcy by the new owners in 1988, I served as an advisory Vice President and stockholder. From 1959 thru 1960, I attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) while working full time as a food salesman. I had faith that an appointment with ensuing admission to a military academy would come my way. It did, THANK GOD!
In July 1960, I entered the U. S. Naval Academy (USNA) and soon became active in the Catholic Choir. I was involved in both the inaugural and the funeral for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK). I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering with minors in History and Russian language and was commissioned as a U. S. Navy officer (Ensign) in June 1964. I married my wife, Kathleen, on 6/27/1964 in her old parish church, Our Lady of Lourdes, in Omaha, Nebraska. We went from there to my first duty station aboard the USS Spinax (SS-489) operating out of the Ballast Point in San Diego, California.
I served in submarines of all types, often as Catholic Lay Leader and finally as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, while qualifying in all officer positions including command.
Attendance at services of the Roman Catholic or "universal" church with allegiance on faith matters to the successor of Simon Bar Jonah, whom Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, renamed "The Rock" or "Cephas / Kephas" later translated to Petros or Peter, in Rome and the Magisterium of the successors of the apostles, was most fulfilling in all areas and vernacular languages to which I was exposed.
Duty stations were on both coasts of the U. S. with overseas deployments to or in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
I was often selected to prepare and lead Roman Catholic Lay Services on board ships and submarines to which I was assigned. I was formally trained first as a Roman Catholic Lay Leader and later as an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist by the Military Archdiocesan Training Programs. This latter training and the embracing of it by Commander William Pray, USN, Commanding Officer of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER SSBN-656 (BLUE), gave me over a year of the greatest experiences in my life up to that point.
As Engineer Officer, I had an office as well as my private desk space with a personal safe near my bunk. My training encouraged me to find a safe in a lockable place to store consecreated hosts for the duration of our deployments, usually 90 to 120 days. I needed to determine the number of Roman Catholics assigned and how many would receive the Holy Eucharist every Sunday of our deployments. For the first deployment the personnel records showed over 100 men with a faith preference indicating Roman Catholic. But only about 25 men indicated their initial desire to receive every Sunday. The base chaplain who was going to Consecrate the hosts for me told me I could have enough for every man with a faith preference of Roman Catholic for every Sunday deployed. He said we would deal with any excess upon return home. We had a pre-deployment Holy Mass for the Consecration and he explained my role and my limitations. I put the large ciborium in my personal safe which I completely emptied, cleaned, and lined with white cloth prior to the Holy Mass of Consecration.
I then proceeded to prepare services which I thought would evangelize to the crew every Sunday. I prepared notices for the daily bulletins explaining the changes in Roman Catholic lay services with the availability of receiving Holy Eucharist. The first Sunday about 25 got up for Holy Eucharist as I expected. Each Sunday a few more came, and, thank God, nearly all those who indicated their faith preference as Roman Catholics were attending services by the end of the deployment.
Some of them, particularly those who had not heard the Chaplain explain my role and my limitations as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, wanted me to hear their Confessions so they could receive Holy Eucharist. I told them I could listen and try to help them improve their lives but I could not give Absolution. They would have to see a priest upon return home and go through their entire Confession with him. I was advised in my training and by the Chaplain to tell those who felt they needed Confession to make a good Act of Contrition with a firm resolve to actually Confess to a priest, Do Penance, and Amend their Lives and then, in an act of humility, receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and ask him to help them improve their lives. Many did come and talk things over with me before they received Holy Eucharist. I had to advise those with grave or Mortal Sin to Confess that it would be best if they did not receive Holy Eucharist until they had made a good Confession to a priest and receive Absolution for their sins. It was truly a blessing for me and for all the men that we could now receive Sunday Holy Eucharist in addition to our daily and Sunday prayers.
During my years of service in the U. S. Navy, I completed three separate Master's degree level programs in the post-graduate fields of Nuclear Physics / Reactor Operations, Joint Intelligence and International Studies.
The last effort was on my own time and culminated in a Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.
From 1975 thru 1977, Kathleen and I took the whole family overseas while I was assigned to a submarine repair ship, USS HOLLAND (AS-32), totally waterborne in the Holy Loch of Scotland. Prior to going overseas, I had a very rewarding experience with access to the highest levels of government from duty just outside Washington, D.C.
Though a devout "Sunday" Roman Catholic, I tended to pay more attention to the material needs of our family and myself than to our spiritual needs. We tried our best to educate the three children in matters of faith and saw to it that they all received the requisite "first" Sacraments when they were ready. Their experiences with the Sacrament of Confirmation may be detailed in another page for each one.
Upon return from overseas, we needed a renewal of our Roman Catholic faith and found that in the Adult Education programs of our parish, Ascension, in Virginia Beach, VA. We became Eucharistic Ministers. I became a Lector. We actively participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) as facilitators, trainers and sponsors. Then I was forced to retire in 1984 after 24 years of military life.
The Good Lord blessed me with rewarding work in the defense industry as a systems engineer working on the AEGIS Combat System and its many variants.
My new civilian career began as a consultant to Radio Corporation of America (RCA) Missile and Surface Radar Division (MSR), Moorestown, NJ. I became an RCA employee in 1985. Until 2003, I was doing systems engineering as a LOCKHEED MARTIN (LM), Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems (NE&SS), Surface Systems, employee, after some years under GENERAL ELECTRIC (GE) then MARTIN MARIETTA (MM) in the same location.
The family had a few pains with adjustment to new life in NJ but most found new friends.
We became involved with the faith community in Saint Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, NJ.
The Adult Education Program took us through RENEW in several stages in the late 1980's. We got to meet people who drew us into various faith and prayer movements.
We made Cursillo weekends in the Spring (Keith) and Fall (Kathleen) of 1988.
We became involved with the Charismatic Renewal as its prayer community for our area was located in our parish. We made a Life in the Spirit Seminar at Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton, NJ in the summer of 1988 and have supported several similar seminars since then. We knew that God was calling us to break down the barriers to ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH. This meant speaking out for UNITY in our Roman Catholic communities.
In retrospect, we always had a special place in our hearts for Mary. We grew up with May crownings and rosary before or after daily Mass. My parish from 1949 to 1959 was "Holy Name." The Redemptorists there had a great devotion to "Our Lady of Perpetual Help." Kathleen's parish until 1963 was "Our Lady of Lourdes." She had been active with the Sodality and taken many trips to Marian Shrines in the Midwest.
As a youth in a family where both parents worked, I was sent to summer camps with religious settings and great devotion to Jesus and Our Lady. One was at "Maur Hill" along the banks of the Missouri outside Kansas City/Atchison, Kansas, with Benedictine Monks and Sisters. We prayed the rosary every night around a statue of Our Lady where we also prayed the "Memorare." Another was on the shores of Lake Okoboji, in northern Iowa, with the LaSalette Fathers and Brothers. While there, many took a "pilgrimage" to the beautiful grotto hand-built, over many years, by a priest in West Bend, Iowa. I learned a great deal about Our Lady and her messages for the world. I also went to camp close to home, and eventually became a camp counselor, at the "Christ Child Camp" near Blair, NE.
During Lent of 1988, Kathleen and I, with our two natural children, Kent and Katherine, visited Mexico as part of a real estate marketing effort. We had a few days in Mexico City where we found our way to Tepeyac Hill and the "Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe." Being there on Palm Sunday was an awesome experience. We think we understood not only the Cardinal's reading of the Passion but also his sermon, both in Mexican, which we do not speak. Little did we know then that Our Lady was calling us to lead pilgrimages and that we would return to Mexico several times to visit shrines or holy places dedicated to her Son as well as those dedicated to her in response to strong local devotion to her visits over the centuries.
As co-director of the PFMC, publisher of "The PILGRIM," accountant and business advisor for both the PFMC and WERNER FAMILY, I do the tax reporting, personal computer setup, phone and FAX equipment setup, etc. Besides being father and husband, I had two full-time jobs with a 13 mile commute between them. My for pay job to support the family and our two homes was as a systems engineer in the Functional Analysis Skill Center (FASC) of LM NE&SS, Moorestown, NJ discussed in the section "Civilian Job" above.
The PFMC job, which had the longest hours, was just a few steps away from our bed from 1989 until late 1998. We purchased what was to be our retirement home at 61 Cooper Road, Voorhees, NJ, and started to live there while finalizing plans for putting the building planned for behind our Marlton home on this new Voorhees property. We commuted between properties during the building phase.
In early 2000, the new building addition behind the Epiphany House at 61 Cooper Road, Voorhees, NJ, was ready for the offices of the PFMC. We moved there via the 2000 RETREAT CONFERENCE and consecrated the building on 25 March 2000.
Kathleen suffered an injury to her sciatic nerve (piriformis syndrome) just before the 2000 RETREAT CONFERENCE and we had to alter our plans for living at 61 Cooper Road. We searched for and found a bungalow with all living accommodations on one floor. Kathleen would not have to negotiate stairs.
I was able to retire from LM in June 2003. Kathleen and I travelled about 6 miles to work at the PFMC in Voorhees via Holy Mass and Holy Eucharist every morning. This lasted until 2007 when we had to vacate the Voorhees property and move everything into storage or our current home. The Voorhees property was on the market from 2007 until late in 2009 when it sold for about half of what we were told to list it for in 2007. We expanded our current home to support Kathleen's needs as a handicapped person and made some additional space to set up what was stored for the PFMC.
We are always pleased when volunteers show up to assist with the work load.
If you would like to volunteer, even to just answer the phone and handle walk-in visitors, please call (856) 768-9228.