Father Koch realizes long-awaited dream as new pastor
Story by Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
On the occasion of his installation as pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, Father Garry Koch unabashedly admitted that the day was the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream. Still, the first-time pastor emphasized that it was also an “awesome responsibility,” and one that he was honored to fulfill.
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Father Koch was installed during the Feb. 27 Vigil Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
During his homily, Father Koch shared a bit of what his new role meant to him. Serving as the pastoral leader of the vibrant and sprawling St. Benedict Parish requires that he understand its history, even as he strives to prepare for the future, he remarked.
The faith community comprises some 3,300 families, and has a parish school with 454 students enrolled in grades pre-K through eight, a religious education program with 560 students and a roster of 90 parish ministries.
Among the concelebrating priests at Father Koch’s installation was Father Daniel Swift, former pastor of St. Benedict Parish. Father Swift now serves as pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford.
Father Koch acknowledged the blessings of working with Father Daniel Kirk, parochial vicar, and a professional and supportive team of parish leaders with whom he collaborates, as well as parishioners – both long-time and newly-enrolled – known for their “deep commitment to social justice and a healthy sense of parish ownership.”
Building on that foundation, Father Koch looked to the future and expressed his desire to prepare his community to “meet the challenges that face the Church in the 21st Century.” Of particular interest, he noted, was the desire to focus attention and energy on establishing the parish as “a beacon of faith formation.”
“That’s a formation from womb to tomb,” he said, “and one that enables our community to grow ever deeper in its relationship with Jesus Christ, in service to the Gospel and in leading us to eternal life.”
The new pastor of St. Benedict Parish is a 58-year-old a native of Allentown, Pa., and is the son of Phyllis Koch of Whitehall, Pa., and the late Richard Koch. With thoughts of becoming a priest, he entered St. Pius X Seminary, Dalton, Pa., following his high school graduation. At the same time, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Scranton. After receiving a master of divinity degree in 1982 in Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, Pa., he was nearing his ordination as a transitional deacon, but instead accepted a teaching position in Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, an all-boys Catholic school, which marked his arrival to the Diocese of Trenton.
Father Koch boasts a 28-year-career in CBA, during which he pursued advanced studies in theology, earning a doctor of ministry degree from Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana in 1992. In that time, he had an opportunity to teach in the Diocese of Trenton’s permanent diaconate formation program.
In 2010, he gave up his teaching career to once again respond to the call to a priestly vocation. He entered Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, where he earned a master’s degree in ecclesiastical history. Father Koch was ordained a priest June 1, 2013, by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. The newly ordained priest’s first parish assignment was as parochial vicar in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River. He remained there until July 1, 2015, when he was appointed administrator of St. Benedict Parish by Bishop O’Connell. His appointment as pastor came five months later and was effective Dec. 8. Father Koch is also widely known throughout the Diocese and beyond through his 15 years of writing a Scripture column for The Monitor.