Koch dies in Saskatoon
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — Msgr. Michael Koch, the Director for Christian Initiation for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, died May 10 at the age of 78.
Koch was diagnosed in April 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or “Lou Gehrig's disease.” In spite of this, he continued to be an active participant in parish and diocesan events, as well as a passionate advocate for implementing the full vision of the catechumenate in every parish.
Koch was born in 1934 in Wilkie, Sask., the eldest of nine children. He attended Grades 1 to 8 at Coldspring Country School, before leaving school to work on the family farm. He completed Grades 9 and 10 by correspondence, before completing Grades 11 and 12 at McLurg High School in Wilkie, graduating in June 1957.
He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Saskatchewan as a student at St. Thomas More College, earning a BA in 1960. He spent nine months in the novitiate of the Congregation of St. Basil before leaving to attend St. Pius X Seminary in Saskatoon for a year, and then continuing his studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton.
He was ordained in June 1966 in Saskatoon by Bishop Francis Klein. In his first year as a priest he served as parochial vicar of St. Paul's Cathedral. He also served at parishes in Beechy, Milden, Lucky Lake, Elrose, Forgan, and Kyle; as well as at Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Philip Neri, Holy Family and Holy Spirit parishes in Saskatoon; and at St. George Chapel on the Canadian Armed Forces Military Base in Dundurn. From 1974 to 1980, he was the diocesan director of religious education.
In 1974, Koch studied the sacraments of initiation at the University of San Francisco with Christiane Brusselmans of Belgium, beginning an interest and love for the catechumenate and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). He was one of 12 founding members of the North American Forum for the Catechumenate, serving on the forum from 1982 to 1987.
In 1990, he was also one of the founding members of the Western Conference for the Catechumenate, which provided formation and leadership about RCIA and the catechumenate to parishes of Western Canada. He served as chair from 1990 to 1995, and from 2000 to the present, organizing annual gatherings to focus on different themes related to Christian initiation.
He was a contributing author to four books on the catechumenate and contributed articles on the RCIA to various Catholic newspapers and journals. He conducted RCIA workshops across Western Canada, and while on sabbatical in 1997-1998, presented workshops and conducted research on the development of the RCIA in Africa, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Koch was appointed diocesan director for Christian Initiation of Adults in 2010. He also served on the priest's council, on both the diocesan liturgy and vocation commissions, as well as on the committee for the restoration of the order of sacraments of initiation for children.
In recognition of his contributions and service, Koch was awarded the title of Monsignor in April 2012, named a Prelate of Honour by the Holy See.