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Fr. Dan Atkins ’66 returns to Providence again

For Fr. Dan Atkins ’66, serving as our school chaplain is a bit of a homecoming. He was first a student here from 1962 to 1966 and then a theology teacher from 1972 to 1984. He left Providence to attend seminary and became a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1987. He recently retired as pastor of Holy Family Parish in New Albany.

He still remembers when he left Providence as a teacher and one of his students shared his disappointment. He explained to him that he “would like to someday maybe do for kids what the priests here have done for me.”

Now he has that chance. He will celebrate morning liturgy on Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. in the Chapel and offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to students during lunch on the first Thursday of the month. He also will serve as chaplain coordinator, working with priests in the Deanery to bring them to the school for all-school Mass and penance services. Additionally, he will assist with two of the senior retreats.

Being back at Providence as a retired priest and after nearly 35 years have passed is almost like coming to a new assignment altogether. The Chapel in which he celebrates the liturgy didn’t exist, and weekday Mass was celebrated in the former convent. The school wasn’t air conditioned, and the Larkin Center, Robinson Auditorium, and the new cafeteria and floors above it also weren’t built yet.

So while the school is familiar, it’s also very different. Students have iPads, wear lanyards, and follow a block schedule – all additions in recent years.

“It’s going to be a learning experience for me,” Fr. Dan said. “I’m learning at Providence again – this time just how things are done.”

But what is the same is his connection to his classmates and his former students, a number of whom were his parishioners at Holy Family.

“It’s amazing the way the Lord moves us around to where He needs us,” he said. “I was so happy when the archbishop asked me to go to Holy Family (after serving as pastor of the tri-parishes in Corydon, including St. Joseph). My former students are grandparents now. Now I get to be here. It’s just amazing how God works.”

Mrs. Leah (Cissell) Kelly ’05 also appreciates how God has brought Fr. Dan back to Providence.

“It’s the definition of coming full circle,” Mrs. Kelly said. “For Fr. Dan to be here as a student, then as a teacher, and now to come back in the role as chaplain – it’s what Providence is all about. He’s coming back to serve the community that served him as a young person. In general, it’s just so important for our students to have interaction with a priest beyond Sunday Mass. Fr. Adam’s presence here the last three years was invaluable, and we want that to continue for our current students. Fr. Dan is such a joyful, faithful, and humble man. We all can and will learn so much from his presence here this year.”

We also welcome two new teachers: Coach Sean Smith, who teaches social studies, assists with student and athletic activities, and is the new head Boys Basketball coach, and Ms. Monica Vander Woude. They will be profiled in future eVision editions.

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