Precious Blood priest leaves a lasting legacy with students, diocese

Father Kevin M. Scalf, C.PP.S., is at home in the classroom, but he'll be trading the one at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond for a new one at Archbishop McNicholas High School in Cincinnati, Ohio next fall after moving back to his home state this month. His new assignment with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Cincinnati Province, will have him serving as the only priest on the faculty of a Catholic high school in Cincinnati. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)

            HAMMOND – Thomas Wolfe tried to say, "You can’t go home again,” but Father Kevin Scalf, C.PP.S. is out to prove him wrong when he returns to Cincinnati after more than a decade of service in Northwest Indiana.

            “I’ll be teaching two sections of senior theology and serving as chaplain at Archbishop McNicholas High School in a role that is somewhat evolving,” said Father Scalf, a Missionary of the Precious Blood priest who will become the only priest on the faculty of any of the 16 Catholic high schools in the city.

            “It will be uber-awesome to spend most of my days with young people, in and out of the classroom, on retreats, at Masses, in community service throughout Greater Cincinnati, together in mission with faculty and staff, and with parents – all around those animating values that make Catholic education so transformative,” he explained. This will be holy fun!”

            When Father Scalf received approval to return to Cincinnati, “back where my vocation began,” he aimed for a return to secondary education, meeting with administrators from five local parochial schools. “I didn’t know any of the schools, but I felt a lot of peace when I met with the principal, board of trustees and faculty at McNicholas,” the first co-ed parochial school in Cincinnati, with an enrollment of 500.

            An only child, Father Scalf also looks forward to spending more time with his parents, who live in Cincinnati.

            In addition to chairing the Theology and Humanities Department at Calumet College of St. Joseph and serving as director of Mission and Ministry, Father Scalf has served the Diocese of Gary as associate pastor at St. John the Baptist in Whiting, chaplain and part-time theology instructor at Bishop Noll Institute, and instructor in the lay ecclesial ministry and deacon formation programs in the Gary, Lafayette and Chicago dioceses. He also helped at several parishes and served on a temporary leadership team at Andrean High School.

            Before entering the seminary, he taught at the high school level for five years. After two years studying to be a diocesan priest, he felt called to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and completed his seminary studies with the Cincinnati Province.

            “I first came to the Gary diocese in 2005 as part of a ‘community life internship’ whose purpose was to expose aspiring C.PP.S. members to our way of living and praying with other priests and brothers in ministry,” Father Scalf explained. “I then came back as a transitional deacon, and then (after priestly ordination) to St. Joseph College.”

            Father Scalf was a part-time faculty member at the University of Dayton, a full-time faculty member and administrator at the former St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, and part-time faculty member at a graduate seminary in Tanzania, Africa.

            “Northwest Indiana has been my second home in many ways for almost two decades and I’ve come to appreciate the beautiful humility, openness, depth and spirit of the people here,” Father Scalf said. “It’s easy to be yourself and be loved for it. You don’t find that everywhere.”

            “Looking back, there’s very little of myself that I would recognize 20 years ago,” the priest/educator said. “I’ve changed for the better thanks to a lot of hard work, and God’s grace, and opportunities to serve others, especially the Catholic community in Whiting. I firmly believe that I am the priest I am, in large part, because of the people of Whiting, and because of the Diocese of Gary. This is a special place. It’s easy for me to discover Christ here.”

            “He has a real passion to serve the Lord Jesus and the Church,” said Bishop Dale Melczek, who headed the diocese when Father Scalf arrived. “He is someone who gives himself completely to his service, which is very edifying and a great example. He serves the Lord with gladness.”

            Admitting he is “very disappointed” with Father Scalf’s departure, Bishop Melczek said, “When I had my stroke just over two years ago, he volunteered to take my place at St. Mary of the Lake, and the people loved him, but then who doesn’t love him?”

            Working with the three diocesan high schools, Father Scalf said he’s grateful for “starting the four-day Kairos retreat program. Students often report life-changing experiences.”

            “Father Kevin will be greatly missed as chaplain; he played an instrumental role in re-imagining our retreat programs and student formation,” said Lorenza Jara Pastrick, BNI principal. “Students will miss him for his profound messages during homilies and his ability to connect with students on a personal level.”

            At CCSJ, Father Scalf said he’s proud of working closely with President Dr. Amy McCormack and her team, “who have advanced our mission-centered culture in a way that influenced all aspects of the institution. We are the only Catholic college in Northwest Indiana. We are proud of that. We take that seriously."

            “He is such an endearing and accessible person,” McCormack said of Father Scalf. “He is warm, humorous, caring and very interested in students and their perspectives. He is that one person I can count on to make me laugh and lean on to make me strong.

            “He is a true gem and we will miss him terribly, but we know that he is following a different plan right now, one where he hears and feels his calling,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful that Father Kevin will remain a member of CCSJ’s board of trustees and actively engaged in the college, its mission and future.”

            As for how to engage youth in the Church’s mission, Father Scalf went to the source. “Taking a cue from Jesus, people tend to open up to people they can relate to,” he said. If we have any reasonable hope of engaging young people, then we would do well to engage them with immense respect, humility and good humor.”