Reverend Pat Bittel knew in elementary school that he wanted to enter the priesthood.
Bittel, who graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1971, said it was in his childhood parish, St. John Paul, that he began what would become a lifelong ministry.
“I started serving Mass in sophomore grade and never stopped,” said Bittel, who now serves as pastor of St. Martin’s Catholic Church, 5856 Kentucky Highway 81, in the Daviess County community. in Rome. “I just knew that I was called to be a priest. And the older I got, the clearer the call became.
Bittel, one of five siblings, came from a prominent farming family in Daviess County. Bittel Road was named in honor of his grandfather.
Bittel, 68, was ordained at St. Stephen’s Cathedral on February 20, 1982, making it his 40th year as a priest.
This step will be celebrated by his parish at noon on Sunday with a “roast and a toast”.
During those four decades, Bittel pastored several parishes in western Kentucky, served as chaplain at Eddyville State Penitentiary, and survived two bouts of cancer.
His first pastorate was at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Princeton. While there, he was also assigned to the maximum security prison, where he provided spiritual and emotional counseling to inmates, including those on death row, for seven years.
He spent about three days a week talking with the men and helping them ask for forgiveness for their crimes.
And because of the emotional impact the duty had on him, Bittel said it was a good time to be a prison chaplain at the start of his calling.
“The prison ministry has cost you a lot,” Bittel said. “Inmates thrive on the energy you have. A lot of these guys never had an upbringing where they could be normal. Many of them would unload, and I could see them making changes in their lives. I could see change happening (for the better) when they dealt with the truth.
Bittel ended his prison ministry in 1992 while serving as pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mayfield.
“St. Joseph had a school, and it took a long time,” Bittel said.
After Mayfield, Bittel was assigned to St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Morganfield.
Since returning to Daviess County, he has pastored several parishes – St. Mary of the Woods Catholic Church in Whitesville; St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Sorghum and St. William and St. Lawrence Catholic Churches in the communities of Knottsville and Philpot.
And since 2013, Bittel has served as pastor of St. Martin’s Catholic Church.
Bittel’s faith journey has also included two battles with cancer over the past 20 years.
“I survived pretty well, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come back,” Bittel said of her cancer remission. “I lost one of my kidneys, which sometimes holds me back. I no longer have the energy I had before.
Despite the health issues, Bittel described his tenure as “40 great years” in the priesthood.
Regarding his retirement, Bittel said he doesn’t have a date in mind.
“I’m thinking about retirement in the future; when it will be, I don’t know,” he said. “But I don’t think a priest ever really retires. You retire when they put you in the grave.