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Welcome Father John!

Fr. John Kettelberger joins The Basilica Shrine to help usher the faithful to “come to the foot of the altar” for Mary’s graces

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In his new role as Spiritual Director for the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM), Fr. John Kettelberger, CM will continue and build on Mary’s mission — which devoted supporters like you are making a reality. Fr. Timothy Lyons, CM previously served as Spiritual Director of CAMM and remains in his role as the Rector of The Basilica Shrine. 

“I am so grateful to join our Miraculous Medal family as we bring the power of Our Blessed Mother to the world,” Fr. John says. 

Fr. John grew up in the Oxford Circle area of Northeast Philadelphia during the 1950s. His neighborhood was in what he calls a “Catholic enclave.” Most people lived in row houses, had one car, and everyone went to St. Martin of Tours Parish. 

In addition to his parents, Fr. John had three sisters and a brother. His mom was one of eight children, and he had 40 cousins on her side of the family. One set of grandparents lived in Mayfair and were parishioners at St. Matthew’s, and the other set lived in North Philly, near Connie Mac Stadium, and were parishioners of St. Columba’s. 

When Fr. John was in 7th grade, he was part of a Vincentian Vocations Club run by Brother Al Smith. A group of students from St. Martins would go to monthly meetings. Their fathers would take turns driving the boys to the meetings. They would play basketball, listen to talks by Brother Al, and go to prayers and Benediction at Mass. Then everyone would go out for ice cream. 

Fr. John first felt inspired to become a priest while in grade school. He was an altar server and spent a lot of time around the priests. 

One of them was Fr. McSherry, a very good priest who was in charge of the altar servers. Fr. McSherry was an excellent role model. Watching him and being in his presence led to a very young John Kettelberger picturing himself as a priest.

Another priest, Fr. Ed Rouse, was a friend of the family and stationed in Panama with the Vincentians. This exposed Fr. John to the world of “order” priests instead of parish or diocesan priests. 

Fr. John entered the Minor Seminary for the Vincentians located in Princeton, New Jersey and then attended Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York graduating in 1974 . 

After college, Fr. John entered Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pennsylvania, which like the Minor Seminary in Princeton, was built by donations from devotees of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal. 

Ordained a priest in 1978, Father John was assigned to the minor seminary in Princeton for two years, teaching religion and American history. On weekends he would celebrate Mass in local parishes near the seminary. 

That’s when Fr. John had an awakening. He discovered that he liked parish work more than teaching. So he talked with the Provincial and learned there was an opening at the parish in Queen of the Miraculous Medal in Jackson, Michigan. The Provincial said it might be for three years. 

Fr. John’s parents drove him to Michigan in the family’s station wagon. And guess what? He loved it and ended up staying at the parish for 16 years — five years as Assistant Pastor and the next 11 years as Pastor. 

The parish had a large grade school and Father John always managed to find time to spend with the children on the playground during their lunch break. 

In 1996, Fr. John moved to Niagara University to serve as the local Superior of the Vincentian community of 20 priests and brothers and to work in campus ministry. He was there for six years. He loved the experience and the students. And every Christmas break he took students to Panama for service to the poor with the Vincentian priests working there. Being exposed to extreme poverty was life-changing for many of the students. 

To this day, Fr. John says his former students still talk about their time in Panama. He’s conducted many weddings for these students and gone on to baptize their children. 

In 2002, Fr. John came back to Germantown to be pastor of St. Vincent’s parish right down the street from the Basilica Shrine. He served the congregation for five years, during which time he celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest in the company of family and friends. 

In 2007, Fr. John began serving as the University Chaplain at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York. In this position, he served as pastor of the campus parish, and worked with campus ministry and also the Mission Office which helps employees of the University deepen their knowledge and love of the Vincentian Mission. He also participated in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers, where he took students on service trips to France. Lourdes exposed these youngsters to a deeper Catholic faith. Every night they took part in the iconic Lourdes torchlight procession, which dates back to 1858. This helped the students to better know the rosary. They listened to sick people tell heartfelt stories about how God transformed their lives, and how His healing grace helps them live with their ailments. 

“In Vincentian service, you always have reflection”, Fr. John says. “What am I learning about myself? What am I learning about others? Both those I am serving with and those I am serving.” Then he added, “Where am I feeling the presence of God? Where do I see the face of God?” 

Fr. John spent a decade at St. John’s, then in 2017 was appointed by the Superior General of the Vincentian Community as Provincial Director of the Daughters of Charity and moved to their headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. The Provincial Director serves on their Leadership Team and visits the Sisters in their local communities spread over 16 States. “Not only did I rack up many frequent flyer miles but also got to see the many wonderful projects for the poor run by the Sisters” Father John said. 

After six years with the Daughters of Charity, Fr. John was asked by Fr. Stephen Grozio, the Provincial of the Eastern Province of the Vincentians to serve as Spiritual Director of CAMM. 

Fr. John assumes this leadership position at a critical moment in the U.S. and the world. The need for us to join in prayer and ask for the healing balm of Christ’s love has never been greater. 

And with the support of caring friends like you, we will continue to bring Christ “to the world and to every person” through Mary’s Miraculous Medal. With her graces and motherly help, the suffering can find hope and healing. 

Please join every member of Mary’s Miraculous Medal Family in extending a warm welcome to Fr. John Kettelberger, C.M. And please pray for him and for the success of Mary’s holy mission. 

Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag gives keynote address at NASPA 2023 Convention

In September, the National Association of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate held its annual convention at The National Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan, Texas. Mary Jo Timlin- Hoag, CEO of the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, delivered the keynote address. 

The theme of this year’s convention was “Welcoming the Pilgrim,” focusing on the role of Shrines to be welcoming places to all — especially to the marginalized and the outcast. Mary Jo told the audience about our programs for the needy. One of these is Mary’s Table, the weekly food bank at the Basilica Shrine where community members can get packaged food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and eggs and cheese. Another are our Blessing Bags, where we distribute food and clothing to anyone in need, seven days a week. 

Join us in Italy

For pricing and full details, visit and click the “NU CAMM Italy” link. The password is “purple”. Or contact Rocco Claps at Miracolo Tours: 800-205-7413, Ext. 706.

Gen Verde performs at the Basilica Shrine

We were extremely blessed to welcome the international touring ensemble, Gen Verde, to The Basilica Shrine for our special Mass celebrating the Solemnity of St. Vincent de Paul last September. Their exquisite choral music inspires us to continue to follow the compassionate example of St. Vincent in service to those experiencing material poverty and those who are poor in spirit. 

Just as St. Vincent called us to see the face of Christ in the poor, we gathered for distribution new gloves, socks and hats for those in need here in Germantown. 

Faith-inspired legacy: Jim and Peggy McHugh

Jim and Peggy McHugh are no strangers to tragedy and despair. 

The retirees from Deptford, New Jersey, each encountered those bleak human conditions regularly in their professional careers -- Jim as a longtime Philadelphia police officer and Peggy as an emergency room nurse in the city. 

Yet, even today, they each speak fondly of their work, their home city, and their experiences, their words reflecting appreciation for the opportunity to serve others and the many joys life has given them, including 54 years of blissful marriage and a prosperous family. 

“There are more good days than there are bad days in both jobs,” Jim says, recalling his 28 years as a cop and his own experience as a registered nurse. “They are two jobs where you get to touch a person’s life. Very few people can say that they’ve done that. And you get to see that most people out there have the same goals, the same ideals that my wife and I share.”

Jim grew up in Philadelphia’s Germantown section within walking distance of what was known at the time as The Miraculous Medal Shrine. In his parish grade school, they would pray the Miraculous Medal Novena every Tuesday afternoon. When he grew a bit older, he began visiting the Shrine each Monday for services known as the Perpetual Novena. 

Meanwhile, Peggy grew up just outside the city in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and became familiar with the Shrine through her father, who worked there as a plumber. In addition, she had two cousins who were Vincentian confreres – one priest and one brother. She remembers inheriting strong Marian devotion from her parents and experiencing visions of Mary as a child. 

Peggy first met Jim when they were teenagers attending the wedding of her older sister to Jim’s older brother. “When they bought their first house, they were painting and they wanted help,” Peggy recalls. “Jimmy volunteered and I kind of had a crush on him. My sister said, ‘Jimmy’s coming over to help paint. Do you want to come?’ And I said, ‘yes.’” Peggy artfully eschewed typical house-painting clothing that day, such as an old pair of jeans, a smock, and perhaps a kerchief for her hair. “I wore my other sister’s nice clothes to paint,” she chuckles. 

The strategy worked. They became friends, began dating, and have been together ever since. 

Along the way, Jim served two years in the U.S. Army, including a year of combat duty in the Vietnam War, where violence and the risk of death were constant ordeals. Jim believes that Mary interceded on his behalf in that hostile environment. “I feel as though I do have God on my side because of my faith,” he says. “Mary is the mother of Christ. And guys don’t say ‘no’ to their mother.” 

After returning home from the war, Jim and Peggy were married and he joined the Philadelphia Police Department, where he rose to the rank of captain. Together they raised two children, one who became a physician and the other a bond trader. Peggy enrolled in the nursing school at the former Northeastern Hospital, a community hospital in a working-class urban neighborhood. She became an emergency room nurse, a position she held for 16 years. 

“We saw a lot of heart attacks, a lot of lung issues, and yes, we did have a lot of drug overdoses,” she says. “There was a lot of prayer. A lot of times I had to pray for [patients], and other times pray for myself just to get through different situations.” 

Jim and Peggy credit their strong faith and lifelong devotion to the Blessed Mother for sustaining them through difficult times and granting them the strength to be positive forces in the world. 

As an extension of that faith and devotion, and in tribute to their parents, the McHughs have donated a major gift to the Basilica Shrine in support of St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk, an outdoor sanctuary for prayer, meditation, and natural beauty on the grounds of the Basilica Shrine. 

The gift for those who have everything

Christmas is upon us again and many of us are wondering what to get family members who have everything. The answer is something everyone needs — prayer! 

Those who believe in the true meaning of Christmas will greatly appreciate a gift of “Family Perpetual Enrollment” in our Miraculous Medal Family of Prayers. This enrollment includes all members of the immediate and extended family, both living and deceased. All share perpetually (during life and after death) in the spiritual benefits of the Masses and prayers offered by our Vincentian priests for all those enrolled.

Includes a Perpetual Enrollment Certificate and Miraculous Medal Crucifix to give the family you enroll. What a great consolation to those who believe and know that masses will continue to be offered for the entire family, even after they are gone! 

Call toll-free 1-800-523-3674 to order by phone. Or visit us online at 

Gift shop hours: Monday - 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday thru Thursday - 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Leave a Legacy of Love: Join the Fr. Skelly Legacy Society

You can leave a lasting legacy of love, hope, and healing when you join the Fr. Skelly Legacy Society and make a planned gift to CAMM. Your gift will continue Mary’s holy mission of spreading devotion to her for future generations. And you’ll be protecting her sacred Shrine for years to come. Your membership in the Fr. Skelly Legacy Society comes with other tremendous benefits: 

• You will enjoy a Perpetual Membership in CAMM. 

• Your name will be engraved on a plaque on the Fr. Skelly Wall in the Shrine, and you will receive a

personalized certificate noting your Membership in the Fr. Skelly Society. 

• Your intentions will be remembered in the Masses said by the Vincentians at The Basilica Shrine for the rest of your life and forever after your death. 

• You’ll receive our Miraculous Medal Magazine, The Message, twice per year, featuring in-depth articles on the impact and importance of our Blessed Mother and her Miraculous Medal. 

For additional information on how to become a member of the Fr. Skelly Legacy Society, call us at our toll-free number: 1-800-523-3674 between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. EST.

© The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal 2024