94-year-old priest Msgr. Charles Forst spreads Gospel in word, deed

Msgr. Charles J. Forst barely mentioned the 70th anniversary of his ordination at a Mass at St. Mark Church in Affton Dec. 20 marking the occasion.

At the end of a homily in which he stressed the Church's role from its simple beginnings to today in bringing the Good News to the ends of the earth, Msgr. Forst simply said he's been pleased to preach that message for 70 years. He then urged the congregation — an overflow crowd that included his family members — to attend a reception in his honor that afternoon.

At the beginning of the Mass, Msgr. Patrick Hambrough, pastor of St. Mark, cited the priest's humility and called his service "a great gift of God." Msgr. Hambrough, writing in his parish bulletin, called Msgr. Forst a "special priest who graciously and steadfastly arises each morning to share the goodness of Christ. ... He does so with enthusiasm, never tiring of bringing forth the Gospel message in word and deed."

One of the petitions at the Mass asked God to bless Msgr. Forst, who has served the parish since its formation in 2003, and to continue to look over the retired, yet very active, 94-year-old priest with love. It was emblematic of the love the parishioners have for the priest.

After Mass, people lined up to congratulate Msgr. Forst, and he took time to speak to each one. Julie Kramper later noted that Msgr. Forst baptized her and taught her at Most Precious Blood School, where he was a retired priest in residence from 1996 to 2003 and was known to draw three "smiley faces" to represent the Trinity. "I grew up with him," she said. "Every time we get Communion, he says our name. He's very personal, a great man, great priest. We're lucky to have him here," she said.

Two sisters, Rissy and Emmy Emanuel, cited the priest's sense of humor as well as his ever-vibrant presence. "He's definitely filled with the Holy Spirit," said Rissy, a freshman at Rosati-Kain High School who noted that it was a joy to be an altar server at his Masses. His outgoing personality has energized the parish, she said. "He wants us to be on fire with our faith and wants us to make our parish as happy a place as it can be."

Emmy, a senior at Truman State University, said Msgr. Forst always asks her family about her when she's away at college. She included him in the people to whom she sent her senior photo, and he reciprocated by sending a photo of himself — an example of his thoughtfulness.

Maryann Kroener, who has known Msgr. Forst since his days at Most Precious Blood, said he's "so loving. He cares about us as a parish and family. He has so much energy."

Kathryn Inabnit has lived in three parishes where Msgr. Forst served. The gentle, generous man brings the presence of Christ wherever he goes, Inabnit said.

"I'm named after him," said Charles J. Forst, the priest's nephew, who said he's joked with the priest, calling him "Charles J. Forst the Greater" and himself "Charles J. Forst the Lesser," as distinguishes two saints named James.

The younger Charles Forst cited fun family times at the priest's property in Foristell where Msgr. Forst has a woodworking shop and garden. The wood craftsman made the cross for the life-size crucifix as well as the chairs for the sanctuary and the ambo at Our Lady of Providence Church in Crestwood while he was pastor there from 1984-96 and led the construction of a new church. He also has made items for other churches where he's served, including at St. Mark. He makes and donates items for the parish homecoming.

Msgr. Forst was one of eight children raised in St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Richmond Heights. The calling for a religious vocation came at an early age. An older brother, the late Marion Forst, was a bishop for Dodge City, Kan., and Kansas City, Kan. A younger brother, the late Father William L. Forst, served in the Jefferson City Diocese.

Besides celebrating Mass and going on some sick calls, Msgr. Forst teaches religion to kindergarten through third-grade students at St. Mark. He organizes the school's annual Catholic Schools Week trivia contest with questions based on the faith. It's seen as a fun way to celebrate the school's Catholic identity.

"I was ordained to do it," Msgr. Forst said of why he stays so active. "I get joy out of teaching kids and feeling productive."

He sees the importance of "spreading the Word" and works hard on his homilies. The community at St. Mark is special to him, he said. "We have a very vibrant Catholic faith here." 

No votes yet