By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Father Frank Uter sees his upcoming retirement as moving forward into another ministry in which he can better serve the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  

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Bishop Robert E. Tracy ordained Father Frank Uter on March 1, 1969 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. Photo provided by the Archives Department of the Diocese of Baton Rouge  

 

“I could have retired seven years ago (according to diocesan policy), but I enjoyed what I was doing, and I was happy to keep going,” said Father Uter, pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Spring. “Then it dawned on me it was a Catch 22 because I enjoyed it, if I didn’t do something the transition into retirement would be more difficult.”  

Father Uter attended a pre-retirement workshop for priests at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology at St. Meinrad, Indiana. The workshop informed priests about moving into other ministries once they retire.  

“From years of serving on the priest personnel board I knew that the diocese needed a priest who could take the place of priests while they were sick, away, or on sabbatical,” said Father Uter. “For me this was the ideal situation. I can be there as long as necessary and do what I like most, administering the sacraments and pastoral ministry.  

“After 51 years serving in the diocese I know the diocese rather well. I am looking forward to that.” 

Originally scheduled to retire July 1, Bishop Michael G. Duca asked Father Uter if he could stay a little longer, which he has been happy to do. He said the delay has also been part of making the transition easier.  

Father Uter has traveled the diocese in his 51 years of priesthood. Many well wishers packed ICC in May 2019 when Father Uter and several fellow priests celebrated his 50th anniversary Mass.  

Father Uter has served as pastor of St. Mary of False River Church in New Roads, St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge, the cluster parishes of St. Michael the Archangel in Convent, St. Joseph in Paulina and Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Gramercy, as well as parochial vicar at St. Isidore Church in Baker and St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge.   

Several of the parishes were approaching milestone anniversaries at the time of his assignment.   

When Father Uter was assigned to St. Mary of False River in 1976, he helped plan the 250th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Catholic Church in Pointe Coupee Civil Parish at the Post de la Pointe Coupee by French missionaries in 1728.   

Likewise, when he was assigned to St. Joseph Cathedral in 1984, he helped plan the bicentennial celebration of the cathedral and the Catholic Church in Baton Rouge.  

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Father Uter holds “Little Frankie,” a baby goat named after him that was born at the petting zoo at the 2013 Parish Fair at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs. Photo provided by Father Frank Uter 

 

Father Uter has ministered to some families for several generations through baptisms, weddings and funerals. He mused that with one family he taught the grandfather eighth-grade religion, married him and his wife, baptized and married their children and is now getting ready to baptize one of their grandchildren.  

“It’s like in some ways I am a great grandpa,” laughed Father Uter. “For 46 years I have journeyed with that family.”  

He added, “I have been with the people for 51 years, who have made a difference in my life and whom I care about.”  

Father Uter will be on hand to “pass the torch” to Father Matthew Graham when he assumes the assignment of pastor at ICC on Aug. 10.  

Father Graham served at ICC in the summer of 2012 when he was a seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.  

“I am very excited about him coming as he is very gifted and is a good pastor.  Everyone, including myself, enjoyed his months here with us,” said Father Uter.  

Meanwhile, as he reflects on his upcoming retirement, Father Uter said, “I don’t see retirement as ‘turning out the light’ as much as shining the light on the things that you haven’t had a chance to see and do.”   

And to continue shining the light of faith to the entire diocese. 

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Father Frank Uter is pictured at the Canterbury Cathedral next to the tomb of a brother of an ancestor, Hubert Walter, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1193–1205.  Archbishop Walter was buried near the tomb of St. Thomas Becket, who had previously served as Archbishop of Canterbury. Photo provided by Father Frank Uter