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Fr. Nick Rice
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Conferral Speech for Fr. Nick Rice O'67, the 25th recipient of Saint Meinrad's Distinguished Alumnus Award

 

Tonight we have the honor of awarding the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award to the 25th recipient.

 

Twenty-six years ago in 1990, the Alumni Association began honoring deserving alumni as “distinguished” at this annual reunion. 

 

The first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award was the late Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and founder of Bellarmine University.

 

Tonight, we turn again to the Archdiocese of Louisville to confer this award on another of its deserving priests.

 

Father Nick Rice was born in Lebanon, Kentucky, as the second oldest of 12 children. He came to Saint Meinrad in 1961 as a college student and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Saint Meinrad College in 1963.

 

He then earned his Master of Divinity from Saint Meinrad School of Theology in 1967 and was ordained that year for the Archdiocese of Louisville. Father Nick is now in his 50th year as a priest.

 

He went on to study at Boston College, receiving a Master of Education in 1980. He also participated in two sabbatical programs, one in 1984, at the University of Louvain in Belgium, and the other in 2005, at the North American College in Rome.

 

In the Archdiocese of Louisville, Father Nick has served as pastor of two large suburban parishes – at St. Margaret Mary Parish from 1987 to 1994 and at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish from 1998 to 2011.

 

He has also held various positions in the Archdiocese, including the director of the archdiocesan offices for vocations, permanent diaconate, religious education, and communications.

 

He has served two terms as president of the Council of Priests and chair of the College of Consultors for the Archdiocese. And he has also shared his leadership skills with three national organizations, serving as president of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership, the National Directors of the Permanent Diaconate, and the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.

 

He has also led priest retreats in twenty-five dioceses and chaired three international meetings of priests from English-speaking nations of the world in Australia, England, and Nova Scotia.

 

Father Nick is also a certified trainer for the Stephen Covey Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

 

Nearly 40 years ago, Father Nick – after visiting with his bedridden father – saw a need for a Catholic Mass on television. He launched the weekly “Mass of the Air” in 1977 and has been personally involved in this ministry ever since.

 

In a newspaper article about the “Mass of the Air” a few years ago, he tells an interesting story about the role that Divine Providence has played in the success of this TV ministry.

 

After the show had been going for about 15 years or so, there was discussion about buying the equipment – the video cameras, sound boards, etc. – needed to produce the show, instead of using equipment at various TV stations.

 

When Father Nick asked how much the new equipment would cost, he was told it would be $266,000. That very day, a check came in for $266,000 from someone who had left a bequest to support “Mass of the Air.”

 

His leadership has not been confined to the Archdiocese. He has been a 20-year panelist on the Moral Side of the News, seen on WHAS-TV. And for 22 years he has served on the panel that awards grants from the WHAS Crusade for Children.

 

His civic and community service extends to many areas, including his work as a member of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Haven and for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

 

In 2000, Father Nick was tapped to lead a search committee for a new police chief for the City of Louisville, following the mayor’s firing of the previous chief and the turmoil that surrounded that.

 

And just this spring, Father Nick was among those honored at the Archdiocese’s annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni.

 

And though he is officially “retired,” he continues to help out in parishes and he gives retreats and presentations around the country.

 

Here’s how one nominator describes Father Nick:

 

He is known throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville, both ecclesiastically and civilly, as a man of keen intellect, judicious service, great enthusiasm, pastoral charity and effective leadership. He has been actively engaged in various facets of diocesan and parish life, always exuding a bold spirit of joy, creativity and compassion.

 

Another nominator commented: “It’s difficult to imagine how many thousands of people whose lives have been changed because of Father Rice’s ministry. He has done a great deal for us and, as far as I can tell, he’s done it very quietly, an unsung hero of sorts.”

 

Perhaps tonight we can rectify that “unsung hero” label.

 

It is my pleasure and my privilege to honor Father Nick tonight for his work, his ministry and his service. He has given generously to his vocation, his archdiocese, his community and the Church at large.

 

We are honored to name Father Nicholas Rice as the 25th recipient of the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award.

 


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