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July 6, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 18


photo: Father Gregory Kandt
Father Gregory Kandt

Fr. Gregory Kandt celebrates 25 years as a priest

F ather Gregory Kandt, pastor of Church of the Incarnation in Charlottesville, celebrated his Silver Jubilee on May 21.

A man of great compassion and enthusiasm, Father Gregory worked as a special education teacher before deciding to enter the priesthood. “People always say it takes someone with a lot of patience (to teach children with special needs), but that’s not it,” he said. “It takes someone who’s willing to accept differences.”

In the years before deciding to enter the seminary, Gregory Kandt was active in the Church, serving as an adult leader in Discovery and Christian Awakening retreats for teens.

He was working at a Catholic school in the Washington, D.C. area when he heard “a very direct call” to join the priesthood.

“I was teaching regular 5th and 6th grade at Holy Redeemer in Kensington, Maryland,” he explained. “One day I was putting up a bulletin board on vocations and I heard, very clearly, the quote from St. Paul: ‘Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation’.”

He was then 27 years old.

Father Gregory grew up in Mt. Vernon, just south of Alexandria, which is now part of the Diocese of Arlington. At that time, however, the Northern Virginia area was part of the Diocese of Richmond.

Because of his “love for Virginia and admiration for Bishop Sullivan” he wanted to remain connected to the Richmond diocese. He applied to the Diocese’s priestly formation program and at age 28 began his seminary formation at Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington.

As a newly ordained priest in 1990 his first assignment was at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Newport News. The parish had been established in 1953 under the Carmelite priests, but in 1990 was in the transition of being staffed by diocesan priests.

Father Gregory served as parochial vicar for three years with Msgr. Michael McCarron as pastor.

His next assignment was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Richmond for a year before being assigned to his first pastorate at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Salem. He served there for five years.

After spending a year with a Discalced Carmelite Order, Father Gregory returned to the diocese in an administrative capacity serving at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in West Point.

Since 2001, Father Gregory has been pastor of Incarnation in Charlottesville. Located just off the busy highway of Route 29, Incarnation is an unexpected woodsy oasis amid the clusters of nearby retail establishments and general urban development.

“We’re the only parish with its own nature trail,” beams Father Gregory. In addition to the trail, there is a tranquil meditation garden adjacent to the sanctuary, complete with fountain. The effect is quite peaceful and lovely.

If there is a theme to Father Gregory’s accomplishments in his 25 years as a priest, it would have to be mentorship. In the list of personal highlights of his priesthood, he mentions the five years he served on college diocesan retreats, leading weekly faith sharing with prisoners at the Henrico County Jail, and — most meaningful to him — hosting seven seminarians in as many years at Incarnation, all of whom are now priests in the Richmond Diocese.

He found the role “very rewarding” and would love the opportunity to do it again.

In speaking with Father Gregory, it doesn’t take long to know where his heart belongs.

“I’ve had the privilege of being here (at Incarnation) for 14 years,” he says. “The parish becomes your family.”

He speaks animatedly about the excitement of being there for the sacrament of Confirmation of those to whom he had given First Communion, noting a couple of youths in particular.

Two of the young people whom Father Gregory watched grow up in the parish went on to work for National Evangelical Teams, or “Net Ministries.” This ministry calls young Catholics between the ages of 18-28 to travel across the United States for nine months to share the Gospel.

The two were home this past Holy Thursday, and during the ritual of the washing of the feet, they both approached Father Gregory when it was their turn and asked if anyone had washed his feet yet. When he said no, they both wanted to do it.

“I feel so cared for,” he told them.

“Well, you cared for us our whole life,” they replied.

Father Gregory is a man of ideas, with the vision and determination to make them a reality. One dream he held for more than 10 years was to hold an old-time Southern tent revival, Catholic-style. This came to fruition at Incarnation in the summer of 2010.

His dream didn’t end with the tent revival, however.

Father Gregory would eventually like to open a “Catholic Storefront” in a mall or shopping center in the Charlottesville area.

He envisions it as a “non-threatening space, with a peaceful atmosphere and a friendly person or people (to greet visitors)… and it would offer a low-key exposure to the Catholic faith.”

He believes “it would be primarily a way to reach out to the non-Catholic world in evangelization, but it would be a place for Catholics to be renewed as well.”

One thing is certain. With his dedication to evangelism and passion for mentorship, Father Gregory wants to have a profound impact on those he serves for years to come.

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