Father Koch takes to heart the Order’s mission to promote and support Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East.
“During these days of political turmoil and the heightened persecution of Christians there, deepening awareness and a need to support them in their struggle is more acute,” he said, noting that he has visited the Holy Land on three occasions: the first to study in 1990, the second as a seminarian in Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, South Orange, in 2011, and the third this past February along with Sister of Charity Margaret Tierney of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, to lead a pilgrimage.
“Seeing the many differences and struggles of the Palestinian Christians over that time, I felt the call to become a knight in solidarity with their suffering,” he said. Father Koch shared that his nomination came at the behest of a priest friend, Msgr. William Baver, whom he had known from his former seminary days in Allentown, Pa. Father Koch told of how Msgr. Baver has been a Knight for some 20 years and is “very committed to the Order and serves as the chair of the nominating committee for the Eastern Lieutenancy.” Though Msgr. Baver had encouraged Father Koch to become a knight for many years, long before he was ordained a priest, Father Koch had not accepted the invitation.
Father Koch accepted Msgr. Baver’s most recent invitation to be nominated to the Order, but made it a point to say that now, as a priest, “the real nomination” came from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“Bishop O’Connell was gracious to grant me permission and completed the nomination,” he said.
Father Koch is a native of Allentown, Pa., and is the son of Phyllis Koch of Whitehall, Pa., and the late Richard Koch. Upon his graduation from high school, he entered St. Pius X Seminary, Dalton, Pa., while he simultaneously pursued a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Scranton. After receiving a master of divinity degree in 1982 in Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, Pa., he was nearing his ordination as a transitional deacon but instead accepted a teaching position in Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, which marked his arrival to the Trenton Diocese.
During his 28-year career in CBA, Father Koch pursued advanced studies in theology, earning a doctor of ministry degree from Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana in 1992. In that time, he had an opportunity to teach in the Diocese of Trenton’s permanent diaconate formation program.
In 2010, he gave up his teaching career in the all-boys high school to once again respond to the call to a priestly vocation. He entered Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, South Orange, where he earned a master’s degree in ecclesiastical history. Father Koch was ordained a priest June 1, 2013, by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. His first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, where he remained until July 1, 2015, when he was appointed administrator of St. Benedict Parish. He was appointed pastor five months later. Father Koch is also widely known throughout the Diocese and beyond through his 19 years of writing a Scripture column for The Monitor. He is also a frequent contributor on Scripture to the diocesan podcast, Catching The Word.