Father Gerard Knapp
Growing up in Baltimore, MD, in the 1950s, Father Gerard Knapp was fascinated by the Redemptorist priests who served his parish — Sacred Heart of Jesus. He saw them at the altar during daily school Masses, and then they were over on the sidelines cheering on the youth sports teams. The nuns who taught him told stories about the priests in their classrooms.
"I knew no other type of priest," says Father Jerry, who is now pastor of his childhood parish. "They interacted with the people."
He left home at age 14, accompanied by a handful of elementary school classmates, to attend the high school seminary and begin his journey toward becoming one of the Redemptorists who had been such role models.
He professed his final vows in 1972 and was ordained in 1975 in the chapel at the Redemptorist major seminary, Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY.
"It was the fulfillment of a dream," Father Jerry says, looking back. His years in formation and preparation for the priesthood taught him about the importance of community in living out the Redemptorist vocation. He had also learned more about the Redemptorists' ministries as foreign missionaries, itinerant preachers and their work in giving retreats.
Over the years, Father Jerry has been a parish priest, a seminary professor, and the treasurer of the Baltimore Province. But he's finally returned to the type of assignment he most wanted when he was ordained — parish priest.
"Preaching plentiful redemption and assisting people in their relationship with Jesus Christ are the two things I like best about working in a parish," he says. Both of those activities lie at the heart of a Redemptorist vocation, along with an ability to relate to all types of people.
"We have to be available to people," Father Jerry says. "We're kitchen priests, we're comfortable with the regular church-goer, with people of ordinary means."