July 7, 2013
For Father Buckles, ‘it’s been a great 25 years ...’
By Caroline B. Mooney
WEST LAFAYETTE — Unbeknownst to him, Father David Buckles’ parents spent years praying for a vocation to the religious life for one of their children. The same week that they stopped, David told them he felt called to the priesthood. It happened on Good Friday.
“It was only after I was ordained that one of my siblings told me of my parents’ prayers,” he said.
A graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, with a bachelor’s degree in biology, he was studying dentistry at Indiana University when he decided to enter the seminary.
He will celebrate 25 years of priesthood on July 16.
David Buckles was born on June 13, 1960, to the late William and Virginia Buckles of Crawfordsville. One of 11 children (oldest sister Margaret died at six months) David is the eighth child in the family. He grew up attending St. Bernard Parish and credits then-pastor Msgr. Henry Ward as being a role model because he always seemed very happy, devout and helpful.
The Buckles family recited the rosary together every morning. “We didn’t like it as kids, but we did it. One morning, we all slowed down and thought we could skip it if we took long enough,” Father Buckles said.
When the school bus honked, the children were told to wave it on and they finished the rosary. Their mother wrote excuses to each of their teachers saying, “I am sorry that (fill in the blank) is late. We were praying the rosary and missed the bus.”
“We all begged her to write a different excuse, but she refused,” Father Buckles said. “We never did that again.”
He attended Coal Creek Central grade school and junior high, then North Montgomery High School. After leaving Indiana University, he studied pre-theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He then went on to study in Rome at the Pontifical North American College; received a baccalaureate degree in sacred theology from Gregorian University, Rome; and a canon law degree from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
As a member of the Sistine Chapel Choir, the seminarian and two friends wandered through the Vatican before they were to sing on the day of a papal audience.
“As long as we looked like we knew what we were doing, no one questioned us,” Father Buckles recalled. “We reached a doorway that led to the papal balcony, and one of the pope’s masters of ceremony smiled and shook his finger at us, saying in Italian, ‘Only the pope.’”
He was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Bishop Emeritus William L. Higi ordained him a priest on July 16, 1988, at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Lafayette.
During his ordination, Father Buckles used a manutergium, a cloth that is wrapped around the newly ordained priest’s hands after the bishop anoints them with the sacred chrism oil. That cloth was then wrapped around his mother’s hands at her burial. Church tradition says that it is a mother’s “passport to heaven” because she raised a priest.
Father Buckles’ parents gave him their wedding rings, which were fastened to his chalice. While he was still in Rome, Pope John Paul II was the first priest to use it.
Msgr. Robert L. Sell was a fellow student in Rome.
“We went through the initial trauma of living in Italy and learning Italian together, and we spent a summer working at a parish in England,” he said. “It was interesting to watch David grow in understanding of his ministry, service and commitment to the Church. Coming back to America, I continued to watch him grow and his years of ministry in the diocese have been a gift ...”
In 1989, Father Buckles was assigned as associate pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Carmel; in 1990, associate pastor, St. Ambrose, Anderson; and in 1991 he was named to the diocesan tribunal. In 1993, he continued at the tribunal with residence at St. Thomas Aquinas, West Lafayette; in 1996, he was named weekend assistant at Blessed Sacrament, West Lafayette.
In 2001, he was assigned as weekend assistant at St. Joseph, Delphi, and St. Mary, Frankfort, while continuing at the tribunal; in 2007, he was appointed weekend assistant at St. Joseph, Delphi, and Our Lady of the Lakes, Monticello. In 2008, he became pastor of Blessed Sacrament, West Lafayette, while continuing at the tribunal.
“Father Buckles is unique among the priests of our Local Church,” said Bishop Emeritus Higi. “His was, I would say, a baptism of fire. When sent to Rome to earn a
degree in canon law, he had to learn Italian. So he spent his first month in Perugia (near Assisi) where he and five other priests came down with a case of scabies (a skin parasite) and the Italian treatment for them is not fun! Imagine, being in a foreign country, trying to learn a new language,
and having to be treated for scabies by doctors who didn’t even speak English! Many a man would have said, ‘No way,’ and come home, but not David Buckles.
“I and, I am sure, many other people are most grateful to Father Buckles who has spent a majority of his priesthood serving people in our diocesan marriage tribunal,” he said. “It’s an unsung part of priestly ministry, one that is rarely recognized, but a ministry of healing for folks with failed marriages. He accepted that call and served in that capacity with distinction.”
Father David Rasner served on the tribunal for 24 years with Father Buckles and considers him a close friend.
“We have a lot of happy memories of vacations, concerts, and going on annual retreats,” he said. “During the years I worked at the tribunal and had two parishes, Father Buckles would help out with the RCIA, confirmation retreats and supply work. Parishioners were always very fond of him and spoke highly of his apostolate.
“Tribunal work is very little understood and oftentimes even viewed negatively,” Father Rasner said. “It is one of the most unappreciated apostolates a priest can work in. We were blessed to have a core group of priests and laypeople who were very valued colleagues and personal friends.”
“I have the highest regard for Father Buckles — his sermons are wonderful,” said Christa Keck, a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish who has known him for 20 years. “We are very, very fortunate to have him as our pastor. He’s fabulous with families and has increased our membership. From my own experience with my mother and her death, he is very thoughtful and caring with the elderly.
“Our parish runs like clockwork and parishioners just love him,” she said. “He works very well with our parish council — taking advice and joining in on discussions. He is good with all ages — he cares to take the time and talk to anyone. Father Buckles is a model priest as far as I’m concerned.”
Irene (Buckles) Skelton, who lives in Crawfordsville, is number five of the Buckles children.
“We are so blessed in having David as a priest,” she said. “We are all very proud of him and are reaping the benefits of Mother and Dad’s prayers. ... We go to him with a lot of personal problems — I can’t imagine how he deals with so many families. He does whatever it takes to know a family is at peace.
“He has grown so much as a priest,” she said. “He was always a priest about detail, but now I see he has a more intense faith, and has always had a devotion to Mary. His parish is his mission now — he loves his people and his work.”
“At different ages, being a priest has meant different things,” Father Buckles said. “In the early years, I was very idealistic about the priesthood. It is very powerful changing people’s lives through the sacraments. Through the years, it became very functional, but I had a lot of support in the tribunal and was able to travel throughout the diocese to give presentations on our work.
“The greater part, especially as a pastor, is seeing the priesthood as a powerful witness of a call that everybody has and having that ‘father’ dynamic with your parishioners,” he said. “You go through stages of caring for this family that you are called father of, and that really is something. It’s been a great 25 years.”