Father Mike Langell
CINCINNATI (May 1, 2009)—Father Michael Langell, 70, a native of St. Clair Shores, Mich., and a Glenmary Home Missioner for over 40 years, died April 29, 2009, in Windsor, N.C., following a brief illness. Father Langell was ordained in 1968 and served home mission counties in Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. In 2004 Father Langell arrived in eastern North Carolina and called together the Catholic Community of Bertie County, the first Catholic congregation to be established in the county. He was serving as pastor of that community as well as the St. Joan of Arc mission in nearby Plymouth at the time of his death.
"Father Langell was a quiet, deeply compassionate man whose commitment to his home mission ministry and to those living in the missions was unparalleled," said Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary Home Missioners. "He was a gifted homilist whose extraordinary talents lent themselves to outreach efforts that included his radio program and his newspaper columns.
"The past five years in Bertie County were the happiest of Father Langell's life," Father Dorsey continued. "Although calling together a new mission community is challenging, he rose to the challenge and thrived in it."
Father Langell received his bachelor's degree from the Athenaeum of Ohio in 1964 and a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology in 1971. In subsequent years he continued his education, taking periodic classes and workshops focusing on a wide range of topics including evangelization, the Enneagram, preaching, pastoral counseling and small faith communities. He was one of the first Glenmary missioners to pursue Spanish language studies. In 1993 he took part in a cultural immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, following up with formal classes at East Georgia College and the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) in San Antonio, Texas. Father Mike used his Spanish skills throughout his ministry and was celebrating a weekly Spanish Mass in Bertie County.
Following his ordination, he served briefly in Glenmary's missions in Beaver Dam, Ky., and Commerce, Texas, before moving to Franklin, N.C., as associate pastor in 1969. In total, he spent 13 years ministering in Franklin, three years as associate pastor and 10 years as pastor. It was during this time he began his well-received radio program, "Let's Take Five with Father Mike." Six days a week, his five-minute messages were broadcast on a local radio station.
In describing the content of these messages, which he wrote and produced, he said at the time he was trying "to preach the Reign of God. If you're going to be a Baptist, then be a good Baptist. But every once in a while, I throw in a Catholic thing or two." He became well known in the community through his radio program and his audiovisual homilies. One radio listener called in to say he really liked Father Langell's message and added, "I just can't believe that you are a Catholic!"
While in North Carolina, he also served as chaplain at Western North Carolina University and used his counseling skills to help students cope with drug addiction and other crises. "By training and by study, I believe I am a competent counselor," he said. "Nothing beats knowing that help was sought and help was given."
He continued his radio program during his mission assignments in Shelbyville and Lewisburg, Tenn. (1983-96) and Swainsboro, Ga. (1996-98). In 1998, he became the director of Glenmary's Department of Pastoral Services, today called the Department of Pastoral Ministers and Pastoral Services, located in Nashville, Tenn. He was able to utilize his creative skills in leading this department, which works to enhance the quality of ministry in Glenmary parishes by assisting pastors, professional staff and parish members in the development of ministerial skills and programs.
Growing up in Michigan, he was a gifted athlete in both football and baseball and continued his love of sports in his mission assignments by playing on or starting softball and baseball teams. He also enjoyed gardening, photography, carpentry and listening to and playing music. While in Franklin, N.C., he even designed new vestments, which were then sewn by ladies of the parish.
While he recognized his many creative gifts and used them very effectively in his home mission ministry, he never lost sight of his role as a missionary priest.
"My goal is to gather and harness the incredibly diverse talents and gifts of my parishioners and immerse them fully into the missionary life of the church," he said. "For me, as one among many, my talent is to preach the Word. For this I was ordained, and this is where I lend my best effort.
"I am a rural missioner, not just a rural pastor. I need to reach out to the unchurched through my word and deed and convince our Catholic people to pick up the challenge that we are a missionary church called to share Jesus Christ with all people by word and deed."