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home : features : people of faith

10/25/2012 9:01:00 AM
ST. JOSEPH'S, TROY
Carmelite priest comes back 'home'
BY ANGELA CAVE
STAFF WRITER

A "pseudo-retired" Carmelite priest is back at St. Joseph's parish in Troy after 20 years of serving downstate parishes - and he feels he's come home.

Rev. Lucian Beltzner, O.Carm, isn't a native of the Albany Diocese, but he says South Troy is similar to his hometown of Allentown, Pa. At one point in time, the Troy locale and what he calls Allentown's "bloody" 6th Ward were all-Irish and heavily influenced by their Catholic parishes.

"It was sort of like a feisty neighborhood," Father Beltzner said of Allentown, where "people really stuck together.

"The motto of South Troy is, 'South Troy against the world,'" he continued. "The people have a great spirit and there's a great union among them."

Father Beltzner was assistant pastor of St. Joseph's in the early 80s and pastor for 10 years, a time he recalled as the "happiest" period of his priesthood.

The 75-year-old spent other chunks of his 50 years as a priest in Middletown, Tarrytown and Connecticut parishes, as well as teaching English literature and Latin at Catholic Central High School in Troy and Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady.

As a Carmelite, he's limited to nine years at a parish. "But somehow or other, I've always managed to get 10 years out of it," he said, laughing. Now, he's once again a priest in residence at St. Joseph's, along with three other Carmelites.

Father Beltzner can trace his desire to join a religious order to his childhood in the 1940s, when his mother read him books by Trappist authors. After a friend talked him out of joining that order of cloistered, contemplative monks, he decided to act on an attraction to the Carmelites' devotion to Mary and mission work.

The priest has a master's degree in English literature and an "all-but-dissertation" doctorate in ministry, with extra credentials from studying theology and religious life in Rome for six months. He says his background in education has been useful in running parishes.

"When you're a teacher, I think that you're very disciplined," he said. "As a young priest, that was very good for me."

Father Beltzner says the biggest changes he experienced during his priesthood came out of the Second Vatican Council, which began 50 years ago. It affected religious order priests just as much as diocesan priests, he said, especially in the areas of training, ministry and relationship to superiors.

He said the council "opened a new way of looking at things. It has been an opportunity for us to realize the different viewpoints that were brought up."

Father Beltzner returned to Troy in August and already has a long list of parishes where he's filled in. His order has no mandatory retirement age. He also reads history books and writes poetry.

He's happy to continue serving and boasted about being settled at "probably one of the most beautiful churches we have here" in the Diocese, where "the people have always been exceptionally nice."





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