By Lois Rogers, Correspondent
As Father Kevin Kimtis explains it, for centuries, the Catholic Church has been sending diplomatic emissaries out into the world on a compelling mission: to strengthen the bonds between the Holy Father and the local Church and carry the concerns of all people to his ear.
Now Father Kimtis, a priest of the Trenton Diocese, is preparing to join their ranks.
In Paris on a summer assignment from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy or Accademia, to improve his French, Father Kimtis reflected in an interview on this opportunity to enter into the diplomatic corps of the Church, an ancient service with roots dating back to the third century.
Ordained by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in 2011, the call to study at the Accademia came unexpectedly after six years of satisfying ministry as a parochial vicar in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, and St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, and the completion of a canon law degree from Rome’s Gregorian University this spring, he said.
While a bachelor’s degree in canon law is a requirement for entry to the Accademia, Father Kimtis, who will begin studying for a doctorate in canon law at Rome’s Lateran University this fall, said he never envisioned it would open the door to study at the venerable institution.
The selection process for the Accademia is rigorous, he noted, with priests sought from “a variety of nations with a variety of skills, dispositions and interests.” The range of its reach are global, Father Kmitis said, as the Holy See has bilateral relations with 183 states and a number of international agencies and organizations.
He had no expectations of being invited to study for the diplomatic service when Bishop O’Connell, who not only ordained him, but as president of The Catholic University of America, Washington, signed his bachelor’s degree diploma, sent him to Rome to study canon law.
“I anticipated a brief stay, then a flight home to work in the Diocese of Trenton,” said the son of Edward J. and Amelia C. Kimtis, who spent most of his formative years in the Princeton area attending St. Paul School and graduating from Lawrenceville’s Notre Dame High School.
It came as a real surprise then when Bishop O’Connell “called me one evening to discuss a letter he received from the president of the Accadamia (Archbishop Giampiero Gloder) … asking that he release me for further studies in Rome and subsequently for future work in the diplomatic service for the Holy See.”
So unexpected was the news, that Father Kimtis asked Bishop O’Connell for “some time to think and pray about whether this seemed to be a good ‘fit’ for me. When I called him back a day or two later, he said he had already drafted a letter giving permission.”
“Having known me for a bit of time, he knew before I did that I would say yes,” he said. “I can’t thank him enough for his kindness to me and his generosity in allowing me to embark on this new path. It is certainly a sacrifice to allow a priest to serve the Church outside the Diocese. But Bishop O’Connell knows well [and I am quickly learning] the importance of these other ministries and services in the life of the universal Church.”
He shared his memories of his first day at the Accadamia when Archbishop Gloder “spoke to us about the path upon which I and my fellow classmates were embarking. He described the priests of the Holy See’s diplomatic service as a type of ‘missionary,’ always with a suitcase in hand, ready to respond to the needs of the Holy Father.”
“From my admittedly limited sense of what it means to carry out this work, that seems an apt image,” Father Kimtis said. “The priests who work in the diplomatic service, whom I have been fortunate to meet and speak with, have all been service oriented and earnest men. I hope to take some of the lessons on true accompaniment and service, which I began to learn in the parish, hone them and carry them with me into my own future work.”
He expressed enthusiasm for the fact that his summer assignment brings him back to Paris where his father’s work brought the family from 1994 to 1997. It was there, in an English language parish, that Irish Passionist priests became an inspiration for his vocation, Father Kimtis told The Monitor at the time of his ordination.
“All students at the Accadamia are expected to study and come a degree of fluency in various languages. I lived in Paris for a few years and once had a much better grasp of the language than I do now. I have been busy drilling away at past participles, pronouns and subjunctive forms hoping that some of it starts coming back to me.”
He noted appreciatively, this summer session has also afforded him “the wonderful opportunity” to experience the great legacy of the Church in Paris. It has offered him the opportunity of reconnecting with Irish Passionists who still serve in in the parish of St. Joseph where he was an altar server.
And, he added, “On my way to class every morning, I get to pass the churches where the tombs of St. Catherine Laboure, St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul are located!”