Capuchin Fr. Keith Clark dies

Retreat center director and St. Lawrence president was also an author

ALLOUEZ — Capuchin Fr. Keith Clark, whose ministries included eight years as director of the now-closed Monte Alverno Retreat Center in Appleton, died Dec. 4 at age 82.

Fr. Clark grew up in Monroe, Wis., the oldest of four sons of Donald and Lois Clark. In a 2002 column for The Compass, Fr. Clark recounted his first invitation to a priestly vocation.

Capuchin Fr. Keith Clark, who spent years as a lecturer, author and retreat leader, died Dec. 4. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“When I was in sixth grade, our teacher, Sr. Dorothy, kept me after school one day,” he wrote. “She sat me down and said, ‘I’ve taken a lot from you, Keith Clark, because I think you might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But I’m here to tell you that I’m not taking any more!’ I had never thought of being a priest or religious.”

Fr. Clark attended St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary for high school. He was invested in the Order of Capuchin Franciscans on Aug. 31, 1958, in Baraga, Mich., professed perpetual vows on Sept. 1, 1962, in Huntington, Ind., and was ordained a priest by Bishop George Hammes of the Diocese of Superior on Sept. 16, 1965, at St. Anthony Capuchin Seminary in Marathon, Wis.

Theological studies continued for Fr. Clark after ordination. In 1968, he earned a master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University in New York. He would later (1984) attend postgraduate study at Greyfriars Hall, Oxford University, England.

Fr. Clark served the novitiate formation team for the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph from 1968 to 1970. He then was a lecturer in psychology at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., for three years before returning to the province to serve as director of novices.

In 1975, Fr. Clark returned to education as a lecturer in psychology at St. Francis School of Pastoral Theology, Milwaukee. He also served as a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (1982-83) and St. Norbert College, De Pere (1989).

Fr. Clark’s leadership positions for the Capuchin Province also included serving as vicar provincial and personnel director from 1978 to 1982. In 1985, he joined the staff at St. Lawrence Seminary and was appointed president a year later. He served as president until 1997, and then stayed on staff as president emeritus while working as the director of institutional advancement.

In 2005, Fr. Clark became director of Monte Alverno Retreat Center. He served at the retreat center until it closed in 2013.

“The center was like an oasis of peace in the midst of a very hectic world,” he said in a 2013 interview with The Compass. “We’ve had different religious groups — Lutheran, Episcopal and such — as well as a group of modernistic Buddhists from Neenah, who have used the center. A common denominator has been the quiet. The center was a place people could be quiet enough, so they would be found by God. They made themselves available to God.”

Monte Alverno, located along the Fox River, annually served approximately 2,400 retreat and program participants.

“It’s been a privilege to walk with the many people who attended retreats and made themselves available to God,” said Fr. Clark. “Giving people spiritual direction has been the most satisfying experience for me. People allow you deeply into their lives. That is quite a privilege.”

Fr. Clark wrote a number of books, including “Servant Leadership: The Art of Empowering,” “Make Space, Make Symbols: A Personal Journey into Prayer” and “An Experience of Celibacy.” He was a frequent lecturer for clergy convocations, religious formation gatherings, and at workshops on sexuality and celibacy.

Fr. Clark was preceded in death by his parents, and his stepmothers, Helen (Hurlbut) Clark and Lois (Jiede) Clark. He is survived by his brothers, Charles, Tom and John; sisters-in-law, Joyce, Marcia and Linda; and his many Capuchin brothers.

The funeral Mass was celebrated on Dec. 8 at Holy Cross Church, Mt. Calvary.