On a mission from God–Father Norbert Lickteig–1934-2010

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For all his years serving here in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Father Norbert Lickteig just might have been one of the best missionaries around.

Father Lickteig, 75, who died on Jan. 7, loved the missionary church and worked tirelessly to promote its welfare. For 38 years, he served the archdiocese with élan and zeal as the director of the archdiocesan office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

“He was very good with the visiting missionary bishops, pastors and Sisters, and was really good with names,” said Father Al Rockers, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Basehor. “He was very interested in the international flavor and dynamic of the church, and he had contact with missionaries around the world.”

To several missionary bishops, Father Lickteig was the face of the Catholic Church of northeast Kansas.

Father Lickteig was on the national board and council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and would frequently travel to New York to meet with officials and staff. Occasionally, he would even go overseas.

“I would say that [the missions] were at the depth of his spirituality, and he saw himself as a missionary,” said Msgr. John Kozar, national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

“In every aspect of his priesthood there was a missionary dimension,” he continued. “He had a marvelous capability to relate to people of every age. He had a gentleness about him, so he could communicate with anyone.”

Father Lickteig didn’t speak Spanish or Italian, but that didn’t stop him from relating to others. While attending meetings overseas, he would go out to lunch with people who didn’t speak a word of English.

Despite the language barrier, they’d all have a wonderful time.

“That was a testimonial of his personality,” said Msgr. Kozar. “He didn’t even need to know another language. He had this ease of communication and gentility.”

Father Lickteig loved helping out his brother priests closer to home as well. It was no burden for him to travel all over the archdioceses to help his fellow pastors.

“He just loved going out to all the parishes and helping other priests on weekends,” said Father Rockers, who is also a cousin. “In a 2008 Christmas card, he mentioned that he visited 26 parishes that year.”

Father Norbert had a reputation for being precise, neat, organized, and businesslike. He took every task and responsibility very seriously. Even while serving as infirmarian at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, he was known as “Little Doc.”

He carried this attention to detail throughout his priesthood.

“He was just so precise and neat,” said Father Rockers. “Just everything he did was perfectly in order — the marriage papers, the teachers and personnel he’d hire — just perfect in detail. I’d almost say he reveled in detail. His parishes were well administered.”

He had, one priest related, “a memory like an elephant” and knew the name and personal details of every single parishioner. Nothing happened in his parish without his knowing or say-so, said another. No one got away with trying to pull a fast one on him, or feeding him a lot of baloney. Father Lickteig never let you forget that he was in charge of the parish, but he tempered that with compassion.

“No other priest was more organized than Father Norbert Lickteig,” said Father Rick Storey, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. “He was strict, and he ran things with an iron fist, but that iron fist was very gentle if you got to know him.”

If Father Lickteig seemed a bit formal, he could also be warm and had a great sense of humor. He wasn’t afraid to call ’em as he saw ’em.

“You either liked him or you didn’t,” said Father Storey. “He was straightforward and said it like it was. And [he demanded] if you were going to do it, you were going to do it right. Not everyone can handle that.”

Priests who knew him relate all kinds of stories about his neatness, organization, and talent for administration.

He could substitute for a Mass and have a sermon ready at a moment’s notice, because he filed handwritten homilies for every single day in the liturgical year.

He kept a list of his old classmates from the seminary and every year he’d call every single one, checking them off as he went, with notes like, “Left message” and “Call back later.”

His desk was always organized “just so,” and rectories were organized that way, too — even to the canned goods in the kitchen pantries.

“For my mother’s funeral, he was very particular about how the flowers were arranged in the sacristy,” said Father Jerry Volz, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Topeka. “He directed the funeral home to have all the cards pulled off, because the arrangements looked better without the cards.”

And it might just be possible that Father Lickteig was the guy who woke the early bird.

“[In the 1970s] he would get up at 4 a.m., while at St. Patrick Parish [in Kansas City, Kan.] and go speed walking,” said Father Pat Riley, pastor of Holy Family Church in Eudora. “He’d have half a day’s work done by 6:30 a.m. He’d give me a call at 6:30 a.m. if he needed something. He’d been up working for hours.”

And he had a big, big voice with a lot of e-nun-ci-a-tion.

“He told me that he originally wanted to write plays,” said Father Storey. “He could be very theatrical, and his voice carried without needing a microphone, no matter how large the church. He said, ‘God gave you a voice — use it.’ He had a way of enunciating.”

That combination of discipline, attention to detail and compassion for others made Father Lickteig a good pastor.

“He was just a good, good man,” said Father Storey. “He had a genuine love of people.”


Father Norbert Lickteig served archdiocese for 48 years

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Norbert Lickteig, 75, who served as a pastor and administrator in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for 48 years, died on Jan. 7 at his home in Shawnee.

Father Lickteig was born on Feb. 27, 1934, in Welda. He was the eldest son of Greg and Veronica Lickteig. The family attended Holy Angels Parish in Garnett.

He and his two sisters attended Garnett Elementary and Holy Angels School. When he was eight years old, the future priest volunteered to serve Mass for Father John Trompeter. Father Lickteig later said Father Trompeter inspired him to pursue a vocation to the priesthood.

Father Lickteig graduated from Garnett High School in 1952. He spent a year in the novitiate with the Carmelites at Niagara Falls, N.Y., but opted for the diocesan priesthood and went to St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. There, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1957, and a master’s in sacred theology in 1961.

Following his studies, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1961, by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Kansas City, Kan.

His first assignment was as associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kan. In August 1961, he became associate pastor at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and served as chaplain at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

In subsequent years, Father Lickteig served as a pastor and administrator at a number of parishes and ministered in a variety of archdiocesan offices.

He served as vice chancellor of the archdiocese from 1971 to 1978, and as archdiocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith — more commonly known as the missions office — for 38 years. He also served as a judge working with matrimonial cases in the archdiocesan tribunal office, and in 1971 was director of the archdiocesan Pastoral Formation Program.

He served as chairman of the presbyteral council for 10 years, and for 10 years was the provincial representative to the National Federation of Priests’ Councils. He also served on the national board of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, was a member of the archdiocesan priests retirement board, and was an archdiocesan consultor.

His civic involvements included serving as chaplain of the Downtown Optimists of Topeka and of the Topeka Serra Club, which he founded in 1991. He was also active in local ministerial councils wherever he was assigned.

Father Lickteig served as a pastor until June 2002 and took a sabbatical in 2003. Although he retired in July 2004, he had a busy retirement. He continued to work in the archdiocesan missions office and drove throughout the archdiocese to help other pastors with hearing confessions, conducting funerals, and celebrating Masses.

Father Lickteig was preceded in death by his mother and father. Survivors include: his sisters, Loeda Lickteig of Garnett and Linda Teichgraeber of Lisle, Ill.; and nephews and nieces.

A visitation was held on Jan. 11 at Holy Angels Parish, followed by a Mass of Christian burial on Jan. 12 at Holy Angels. He was buried in the family plot.

Leave a Reply