‘I feel grateful for this journey’: Msgr. Mark Lane celebrates 50 years as a priest

Msgr. Mark Lane, vicar for clergy at the time, receives papal honors when he is named a monsignor and given the title of prelate of honor on June 28, 2008, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Diocese of Richmond)

“God takes you where he wants you. Since I’ve always believed in divine providence, I believe wherever you are, that’s where God wants you to be,” said Msgr. Mark Lane, retired priest and former vicar general of our diocese.

Ordained in 1974, Msgr. Lane celebrated his 50th anniversary of becoming a priest on May 4.

At one time, Msgr. Lane wanted to be a doctor, but he started to feel called to a different way of life during his senior year of high school. He took a year off after graduating and worked as a data processor. One year is all it took for him to realize that wasn’t where he belonged.

After speaking with his pastor several times, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore. Born in Manhattan and raised in Philadelphia, his family was surprised but supportive of his decision to become a priest.

“I’m grateful for my family. Practically all of them are deceased, but they were my inspiration,” he said. “They were normal people. They weren’t saints, but they followed the faith and gave me a strong foundation in faith.”

A chance trip to Richmond to visit his roommate led him to request being placed here. “I chose Richmond, and I never regretted it,” he said.

He has spent his entire tenure as a priest in the Diocese of Richmond, wearing a multitude of hats.

Art and Christian life

While in seminary, Msgr. Lane relished learning about Christian art, intrigued by some of the earliest works found in the Roman catacombs. His favorite artist is Baroque master Caravaggio.

“I like it because he uses light and shadow and that’s part of the Christian life, isn’t it?” he said. “Sometimes we live in shadow, but we are called to light. His art is struggling for perfection and that’s what Christians are called to.”

Over the decades, Msgr. Lane has offered art history workshops at various parishes and also taught classes at the University of Richmond.

Msgr. Mark Lane

Father Horace “Tuck” Grinnell and Father Patrick Holroyd have known Msgr. Lane since they were in seminary together some 56 years ago, when they forged a friendship that remains strong to this day.

“To me, they have been a constant source of courage, of challenge, of support, and none of that has ever waivered,” said Msgr. Lane.

“We’ve gone the extra mile for one another,” added Father Grinnell. The three priests were ordained together, vacation together, and taught classes and workshops at each other’s parishes.

Father Grinnell said that while Msgr. Lane’s “focus on art really developed over the years as a spiritual way to see God, his real gift … is in counseling, and listening and understanding the complexity of us as human beings.”

A big part of Msgr. Lane’s ministry has included social justice initiatives in Richmond.

“I got involved with the social [aspect of] the Gospel by participating in outreach to the poor and the marginalized, bringing Christ to them and letting me see Christ in them,” he said.

“We all wanted to build up the sense of the Church being a community, that we’re all in this together,” Father Holroyd said.

A licensed clinical social worker with a doctorate in pastoral psychotherapy, Msgr. Lane has counseled hundreds of people over the years, including many priests and parishioners. For 20 years, he maintained a full-time private practice while also serving as a priest, a unique situation permitted by former Bishop Walter F. Sullivan.

“It was another avenue whereby I could assist people dealing with very human issues,” explained Msgr. Lane. “I was always grateful … for the trust people put into me … and their honesty in dealing with these issues.”

In 2004, Msgr. Lane was appointed vicar for clergy by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and soon gave up his private practice so he could devote his full attention to his new position.

“I assisted the bishop with the wellbeing of the clergy and dealt with any issues that might arise with them,” Msgr. Lane explained. “I used my clinical background to assist the priests. I think that’s one of the reasons the bishop chose me.”

In 2011, he was made vicar general and moderator of the Curia. He was wary at first of taking on an administrative role, saying he didn’t think he had the skills. “What I found out is you learn on the job,” he said. “Once it clicked in that you don’t have to know everything, it was a freeing moment.”

He was named a monsignor and prelate of honor by Pope Benedict XVl in April 2008. He was also elected diocesan administrator following Bishop DiLorenzo’s death in 2017, until Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s tenure began, at which point he was named vicar general again until his retirement in 2018.

Appreciating his priesthood

Father Timothy Kuhneman, current vicar for clergy, has known Msgr. Lane for nearly 20 years. “He’s a real son of the Church,” said Father Kuhneman. “It can be seen throughout his ministry.”

Calling Msgr. Lane “a tremendous friend and a great model,” Father Kuhneman said Msgr. Lane helped him during his transition into his new role.

“There’s a joy that he brings. I think he has a great compassion for people. I think he has great insights into the Catholic Christian life and how that life can be lived out,” said Father Kuhneman. “He’s got the gift of having so many years of experience … He can bring all that wisdom to those moments.”

Anne Edwards has known Msgr. Lane for 42 years. That’s how long she’s worked for the diocese, first as an administrative assistant in the Tribunal, and now as executive assistant and adviser in the Office of the Bishop. She considers Msgr. Lane “one-of-a-kind.”

Edwards explained that Msgr. Lane’s background in counseling made him uniquely qualified to carry out his duties for the bishop, including advising the bishop on mental health issues in both parishioners and the clergy.

“He has a deep understanding of what it means to live out one’s vocation,” she said. “He appreciates his own priesthood, and the gift it has been in his life. He has always been ready and willing to provide sacramental and pastoral care whenever asked or needed.”

She recounted how Bishop DiLorenzo’s schedule became difficult to maintain while he was ill, and Msgr. Lane began traveling occasionally in the bishop’s place. He crisscrossed the diocese, confirming hundreds of youth in the Catholic faith.

“I loved going to the parishes and meeting the adolescents,” Msgr. Lane shared. “I loved their enthusiasm, their questioning, and their faith. … It was a real high point.”

Grateful for God’s grace

Msgr. Lane recently fractured his shoulder and pelvis, and has been in rehabilitation and physical therapy for the past 18 months. While this has put many parts of his life on hold, it has also given him an opportunity for deeper self-reflection on his past and present.

“I feel grateful for this journey,” he said, “and I feel grateful for the grace of God which has accompanied me through this journey and for the people of God who have sustained me.”

Two of those people, of course, are Father Grinnell and Father Holroyd, who visited Msgr. Lane in rehab.

“He’s been through lots of ups and downs, many difficulties,” said Father Holroyd. “He’s been asked to do things he didn’t think he’d do, but he did it. He’s done wonderful work.”

Msgr. Lane is getting stronger every day and hopes to soon get back to what he loves: celebrating Mass, teaching about art, and helping the community.


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