Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

'He Lived The Joy Of The Gospel'

Members of the Mater Dei High School football team join two staff members from Pierre Funeral Home in Evansville to carry Father Phil Kreilein to the hearse following his Oct. 29 Mass of Christian Burial at Resurrection Parish.

Father Steve Lintzenich, retired priest of the Diocese of Evansville, served as homilist for the Oct. 29 Mass of Christian Burial for his friend, Father Phil Kreilein. “He lived the joy of the Gospel,” Father Lintzenich told a crowd that filled the sanctuary of Resurrection Church on Evansville’s west side to overflowing.

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated the Mass. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis, who served as bishop of Evansville from 2011 to 2017, and Bishop-Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger concelebrated. More than 50 priests joined them, including active and retired priests from our diocese, and visiting priests. More than 20 permanent deacons attended. Deacon Luke Hassler served as Deacon of the Mass.

Father Lintzenich talked about what it’s like to be a priest today as he began. “It is to know that your greatness is found in service,” he said, adding that it also is to know that “you are part of the Body of Christ and the body of the Church.”

Father Lintzenich said that Father Kreilein was a priest born in the spirit of Vatican II. “He had the smell of sheep all over him,” he said, to laughter from the sanctuary. “He lived the joy of the Gospel. He led a church of the poor and for the poor. He, like Bartimaeus (the blind man who asked Jesus for sight in Mark 10:46-52, the Gospel reading for Oct. 28), was transformed over the last 15 years by the love of the Resurrection people, and his love and sacrifice for them.”

Father Lintzenich said that, like all priests, Father Kreilein’s “greatest task” was celebrating Mass, and that his primary duty was proclaiming the Gospel. “He did it with humor, holiness, hospitality and humility,” he said. “His daily work was growing in holiness like all priests and disciples – building up the Church, the people of God.

“He knelt before children to speak to them,” he added. “He streaked along the sidelines of Mater Dei (High School) football games. He warmed the bench and prayed at (University of Southern Indiana) basketball games. He taught us ‘the wisdom of God’s Word.’”

At Father Kreilein’s request, 18 members of Mater Dei’s football team served as pall bearers – six for the opening procession of the Mass of Christian Burial, six for the closing procession, and six for the graveside service, which occurred in his hometown of Jasper. Team captains served and the Resurrection School alumni served.

Father Kreilein’s brother, Sylvester, spoke briefly before the Mass concluded. “On Sunday (during visitation), I heard eight hours of stories about Phil,” he said. “The line was unending. My wife, Joan (Parsley), my son (John Alexander Kreilein) and I got to see him as a pastor on so many levels.”

He thanked “Team Kreilein,” the group of tireless volunteers who served as Father Kreilein’s primary caregivers over the past two months. He thanked Father Lintzenich, who helped with all the arrangements, and he thanked the many Resurrection parishioners and friends who attended visitation and the Vigil Service on Oct. 28, and the Oct. 29 funeral Mass, all held at Resurrection. “Thank you all for all your love you gave Phil over these many years.”

Father Kreilein died on Oct. 23 after a brief-but-courageous battle with cancer.

He was born in Jasper on Sept. 28, 1948, to Raymond and Lucille (Keusch) Kreilein.

He attended St. Meinrad High School and College in St. Meinrad, and St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md. Bishop Francis R. Shea ordained him a priest of the Diocese of Evansville on June 2, 1974.

His priestly assignments included Associate, St. Simon Parish, Washington, 1974; teacher, Mater Dei High School, Evansville, 1977; associate, St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Evansville, 1980; pastor, St. Mary Parish, Washington, and teacher, Washington Catholic High School, 1982; pastor, Holy Cross Parish, Fort Branch, 1988; pastor, St. Ferdinand Parish, Ferdinand, 1991; pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Jasper, 1999; pastor, Resurrection Parish, Evansville,  2002; three-month sabbatical, 2010 (June-September); Pastor, Resurrection Parish, Evansville, 2010; Moderator, St. Boniface Parish, Evansville, 2010; Administrator, St Boniface Parish, Evansville, 2018 (Feb. 1-Feb. 13).

He served many years as the chaplain for athletes and teams at Mater Dei High School and the University of Southern Indiana.

Father Kreilein’s other responsibilities included service as Director of Continuing Education: Ministry to Priests, 2012; Dean, Evansville West Deanery, 2014; and Dean, South Deanery, 2015.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Resurrection Parish, 5301 New Harmony Road, Evansville, IN 47720, for use in renovating the parish cafeteria.