". . . then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant . . .'" Matthew 26:27
“For most priests, the chalice is the most significant vessel that they use. Of all the vestments and vessels we use, it’s the most significant because it’s the one we use the most often, and because the Eucharist is at the heart of what we do as priests as far as being nourished ourselves and nourishing the people of God.
“The chalice is very significant.”
That’s how Father Alex Zenthoefer understands the importance of the chalice. He’s the assistant pastor at Holy Rosary Church and chaplain at Memorial High School, both in Evansville, Indiana, and diocesan director of Vocations.
His own chalice has added significance, because it connects him to two other diocesan priests, linking them all the way back to 1911.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 2005. Before his ordination, he was given a chalice which had belonged to Father Eugene Dewig, who died in 2002. Father Dewig had been his pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Evansville, and he had used the chalice during his 50-plus years of priesthood.
Father Dewig had served as Father Alex’s mentor, and the two men often talked about the priesthood. “Before he died, we sat down. He wanted me to ask him questions about the priesthood, and that was helpful for me. During our last conversation, we sat down, and he asked, ‘Do you have any questions?’ Then he pulled out a sheet he had prepared of things he thought I needed to know. He went through the list of things, which was wonderful. Then he hinted that he wanted me to have his chalice.”
Father Alex’s mom, Mary Ann, was the parish DRE at the time. “He told my mom he wanted me to have it. It was fitting, because the two biggest influences on my vocation were Father Dewig and my parents.
“She told me, and she said they were going to get it replated.”
Then in December of 2009, while he was doing a wedding someone asked where he had gotten his chalice. When he answered “from Father Dewig,” he was told that Father Dewig had received the chalice on June 3, 1950, on his ordination from Father Bernard Reidford.
Father Reidford had received the chalice from his parents on the occasion of his own ordination on June 10, 1911.
“So this June, I am celebrating the ninety-ninth birthday of my chalice,” Father Alex said.
“It’s amazing,” he said, “when I use it. It’s so much more clear to me that what I do as a priest is so much bigger than myself. Jesus handed his ministry to the apostles, and I think I am in line. I’m doing my part for the Church.”
Father Alex is 31 years old, and retirement is years away, but he says “when I start getting up in years, I hope I have some awareness — as Father Dewig — that this has to come to an end. I hope there is a young man considering the priesthood that I can pass this on to.”
Having this chalice — with its years of tradition — is a “great reminder to me that I’ve been chosen for this. You can never plan for this. We are chosen for this, and it’s a great gift.”
Printed with permission from The Message, newspaper for the Diocese of Evansville, Ind.