Father Venantius "Vincent" Preske came to Arkansas to work in a Glenmary mission in 1963, but he later realized it was part of God's plan for him to be a priest in the Diocese of Little Rock.
"I wanted to do mission work, which is why I was with Glenmary for 23 years. Yet, at a certain time, God clearly pointed out what he wanted from me -- to be a diocesan priest. I won't go into it in more detail, but it was clear that God wanted me here."
Father Preske was born in Indiana in 1924, one of nine children. He credits his mother, his Catholic upbringing and his love of the liturgy for inspiring his vocation early in his life.
"My mother prayed that every one of her children would have a religious vocation," he said.
Out of the nine children, four were called to a religious vocation. Father Preske and his older brother became priests; his older sister became a Benedictine nun; and a younger brother became a deacon. He also had two uncles who were priests.
"My uncles visited frequently and I was influenced by them. They made me feel comfortable being around priests. At my parish church, I saw the beauty in the liturgy and prayers," he said. "It flowed naturally out of all these three things. I never thought I would be anything other than a priest."
He studied at St. Meinrad Minor Seminary in Indiana during high school. After that he went to St. Gregory Seminary and Mount St. Mary Seminary, both in Cincinnati.
He was ordained May 31, 1952, at St. Monica Cathedral in Cincinnati as a Glenmary Home Missioner priest.
He worked in rural missions in Sunfish, Ky., Appalachia, Va., Russellville, Ky., and Dahlonega, Ga., before working at Glenmary headquarters. He then was sent to Arkansas at Our Lady of the Ozarks Shrine in Winslow with an additional mission in Huntsville.
After 12 years in Winslow, his work with Glenmary was coming to an end.
God was calling him to be a diocesan priest, so he looked to Bishop Andrew J. McDonald to let him return to Arkansas.
"God made it clear that's what he wanted," he said. "It was hard because I loved Glenmary, but my first assignment here was challenging. I fell right into it and was very busy."
In November 1975, he returned to Arkansas as pastor at St. Mary of the Mount Church in Horseshoe Bend with a mission in Hardy/Cherokee Village.
He was incardinated into the Diocese of Little Rock on Feb. 18, 1979. In 1982, he became pastor at St. Anthony Church in Weiner and St. Norbert Church in Marked Tree.
When his health began to deteriorate, he had to retire in 1993. For Father Preske, this helped reduce his stress now that he no longer had the duties of a pastor.
"I didn't want to retire from priestly duties, just the stress of being a pastor," he said.
He moved back to Horseshoe Bend, where he began gardening and became a beekeeper. Both hobbies have roots in his youth, as his family survived the Great Depression by selling strawberries. His brother kept bees, which Father Preske, 88, remembered when he needed a way to help pollinate the plants in his garden.
He continued helping out at the parish there, as well as filling in for priests in other places.
A few weeks ago, he had to slow down again because of his health and is not able to celebrate the weekly masses in Horseshoe Bend. He'll continue to serve as a priest in whatever way he can. It's a part of who he is.
"The liturgy is the center of my life and is what brought me to the priesthood. By doing the liturgy well and bringing the people into it, that is something powerful that really affects their lives," he said. "The liturgy and how we prepare for it should be serious, earnest, beautiful and attractive. If you don't put your whole heart into it, it becomes a chore and that is a loss. It should not be that way. It should be a tremendous experience."
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