Local Religious life

Seventy years a priest and still serving the people of God

Father Anthony Lickteig, senior associate pastor in residence at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, prays over a participant at the 2023 healing Mass at Curé. Despite being 96, Father Tony still is active in ministry. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Jeanne Gorman
Special to The Leaven

LEAWOOD — Travelers on Mission Road here regularly stop for an elderly man donned in black slowly, yet confidently, crossing the street between the Curé of Ars rectory and the church.

Father Anthony Lickteig, or Father Tony, as he is known, has served the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for nearly 70 of his 96 years. He has the distinction of being the oldest priest of the archdiocese and the longest serving in active ministry.

The young Lickteig and his nine siblings were born on the family farm in Greeley, which members of the family still own and operate today. Father Lickteig began thinking of becoming a priest at a young age and continued contemplating his vocation as he pursued his education.

Upon graduation from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, he returned to Greeley and taught school for a year. After he decided to enter the seminary, Bishop George Donnelly sent him to the Pontifical North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome for his priestly studies.

Despite his mother asking whether there was any place closer he could go, Father Lickteig boarded a ship for a 10-day trip across the ocean to Rome — this was before commercial air travel was common. Because of the lengthy travel time between Rome and Greeley, he remained in Europe throughout his seminary studies.

During the summers, he and a friend traveled by bicycle across all parts of Europe, and he was even able to visit the farm in Germany where his grandfather lived until he immigrated to the United States. After his ordination in Rome on Dec. 8, 1954, Father Lickteig  returned home and was assigned as associate pastor at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, where he served until he was made pastor at St. Dominic in Holton, where he also served the people at Our Lady of Snows on the Pottawatomi reservation.

Thereafter, he pastored a number of parishes and left a large footprint in the archdiocese in the form of the many buildings constructed during his tenures as pastor. After his formal retirement, Father Lickteig became a senior associate pastor at Holy Spirit in Overland Park.

Father Anthony Lickteig shakes hands with Pope Francis before a Mass with the pope in 2015. Father Lickteig has served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for nearly 70 years.

His most notable contribution to the people he’s served, however, might be in this current chapter, said Father Richard Storey, pastor of Curé. When Father Lickteig was pastor at Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea, he encouraged Storey in the discernment of his own vocation and completed the paperwork required for Storey to enter the seminary.  

In 2009, they reunited when now-Father Storey was assigned as pastor at Holy Spirit in Overland Park and Father Lickteig resided there as senior associate pastor. What could have proved challenging with an experienced former pastor serving with a younger, newer pastor, proved to be a blessing for both men.

Father Storey quickly appreciated the older priest’s wisdom and sound advice and would ask him for guidance on various matters. Likewise, Father Lickteig appreciated the opportunity to continue serving with his protégé.

When Father Storey became pastor at Curé of Ars, Father Lickteig moved with him. Despite his advanced years and soft voice, Father Lickteig continues to serve the Curé faithful and others. He celebrates Mass at St. Joseph’s Place in Overland Park once a week, anoints the sick, hears confessions on Saturdays and says several early weekday Masses, as well as a Sunday Mass at Curé, where he is appreciated not only by parishioners, but his fellow resident priests and parish staff.

Bob Kolich served as parish manager at Curé for a number of years and worked with Father Lickteig for about 10 of those — first at Holy Spirit and then at Curé. Kolich found it easy to work with him. At finance council meetings, Father Lickteig would only speak when asked, but when he did, he had a lot of financial experience to draw on.

Kolich also enjoyed chatting with Father Lickteig, whom he considered to be a living history book, particularly knowledgeable about church history.

Father Tony Lickteig, left, concelebrates the centennial Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park in September 2023 with Father Bill Porter, Father Jim Shaughnessy and Msgr. Tom Tank. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Looking back, Father Lickteig believes the Second Vatican Council was the most significant event in the life of the Catholic Church during his priestly tenure. He thought the decision to say the Mass in the vernacular and turning the altar around so the priest faced the congregation during Mass were positive changes, which were well accepted by the people because they were made with a good explanation for why they were being done.

Although Kolich thought Father Lickteig was a bit intimidating as pastor of Holy Cross when the younger man was a parishioner there, that wasn’t the case at Curé. Kolich found it easy to work with Father Lickteig, who had a lively sense of humor.

Barbara McGrath, a longtime Curé parishioner, noted Father Lickteig’s discipline and how he keeps up with the family farm by reading grain futures and weather reports. From time to time, he drives to Greeley to check on the farm, where his youngest brother still lives. He spent this past Easter with about 50 of his relatives there, including about 20 young grandnieces and nephews, who enjoyed a spirited Easter egg hunt.

Father Lickteig leads a highly organized and disciplined life and sticks to his daily routines — rising early, riding his stationary bike at four or five in the morning and saying his prayers — all before 6:30 a.m. Mass. 

And he truly enjoys being around his parishioners. Otherwise, he says, his life would have been a lonely one. He believes you need to be happy wherever you are.

He recommends that people keep up their prayer life wherever they may be, and the Lord will be their friend, accompanying them through life.

Father Lickteig’s life of service has been a blessing to the many people he has shepherded over the years and an inspiration to his fellow priests — young and old.

Father Storey sums up his admiration for Father Lickteig this way.

“For 70 years, Father Tony has given his blood, sweat and tears to the church,” he said. “He has lived his life with faith, hope and joy.

“He truly lives the Gospel as he came to serve and not be served. He brought and continues to bring joy and peace to all blessed to know him.”

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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