On April 19, Father Joe Vetter received the Council’s Distinguished Service Award during lunchtime ceremonies at the 2012 Critical Issues Seminar. After Council President Stan Kimer offered the following remarks in presenting the award, Father Joe was greeted with a standing ovation for his years of service.
Every year, the North Carolina Council of Churches presents its Distinguished Service Award to someone with both an exceptional and extended record of service, within the Council, to the causes to Christian wholeness, justice and peace. This year it gives me great joy to present the 2012 Distinguished Service award to Father Joe Vetter.
In researching Father Joe’s service to the council, our records did not even go far back enough to count the number of years Father Joe has been on the Council’s board. Someone even suggested he may have been one of the original founders back in the 1930’s, but that isn’t possible since Father Joe was only ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood a mere 39 years ago in 1973.
In all seriousness, Father Joe has long history of thoughtful, gentle and prophetic ministry both within the Catholic Church was well as in the Council of Churches.
Father Joe is rarity – a native born in the state North Carolinian, who loves bluegrass music and barbecue. He was born in Greensboro, grew up in Burlington, served parishes in Cary, Siler City, Raleigh, Southport and now Wrightsville Beach. In addition he served as the campus priest at UNC Chapel Hill and at Duke, where he lead the ministry into a beautiful new facility and growth to become a well respected important ministry at Duke. In addition he did many other ministries within the Church including editing the North Carolina Catholic newspaper and serving as a vicar for priests…. A pastor to the pastors.
But Father Joe’s outstanding ministry was not just limited to the Roman Catholic Church … it extended into statewide ecumenical ministry. Father Joe served at least 17 years on the Council’s Board as well as on various committees including the current nominating committee.
And I had my own personal interaction with Father Joe as he chaired the original ad hoc Strategic Planning Committee with myself as the vice-chair. Father Joe demonstrated his deep love for the council by being the impetus for this Planning Committee by daring to raise the bold questions of how the Council will remain relevant and sustainable in a very fast changing religious and demographic landscape. We have streamlined and modernized the Council’s structure and formed an ongoing permanent planning committee to assist the Council in growing and thriving into the future, and for that we should all thank the visionary Father Joe.
Father Joe’s sister Marie Felder was not able to be with us today due to other family commitments, but she writes, “Joe is definitely committed to doing the work of Christ in the world. He mainly does this through his love and compassion for people. Time and time again, people tell me of the “time that Joe helped him or her when they needed someone to listen to them, to guide them, or comfort them.”
And Joe not only loves his church and loves his state, but he is a committed family member, keeping up with his nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. And he makes a concerted effort to be there for family events – – birthdays, baptisms, first communions and anniversaries.
And though Marie could not be here with us today, Joe is joined by his brother David and friend Dawn, as well as friends from the Fletcher Foundation, his current parish St. Therese Catholic Church, and from the Catholic Charities.
Father Joe – you model Christ like love, servanthood and leadership …. And it gives me great pleasure to honor you with the 2012 North Carolina Council of Churches Distinguished Service Award!
–Aleta Payne, Development and Communications