QUINCY -- Monsignor Michael "Father Mike" Kuse says he has no regrets.
And as grateful as Kuse has been for each and every one of the 50 years he has spent in the priesthood, there is an air of excitement that surrounds him and the next phase of his life.
Kuse, 75, will soon be retiring, ending a journey that has covered a half century and has seen him serve as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish - formerly St. Mary's - since 1995.
"The older you get, the more you start to appreciate things," he said.
And Kuse appreciates all that life has provided. In retrospect, he says, one thought quickly comes to mind.
"It goes by in a hurry," he said.
A Quincy native, Kuse will celebrate his milestone in the priesthood at an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at the Gathering Space at Blessed Sacrament, 1119 S. Seventh. There will be a presentation to Kuse at 4:30 p.m.
His final day before retirement will be June 30. He will also celebrate his final Mass that day.
"It's inevitable," Kuse says with an ever-present smile.
Replacing Kuse as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish will be the Rev. Chris Comerford, who is coming from St. Elizabeth Parish in Granite City.
Kuse has served in all seven deaneries in the Diocese of Springfield and has held the title of monsignor since 2002. He served parishes in Springfield, Collinsville, Decatur, Effingham, Villa Grove, Hume, Brockton and Jacksonville before being assigned to Quincy more than 20 years ago.
Kuse has no specific plans involving his retirement.
"I have no desire to move from Quincy," he said.
Kuse still has family in town, and he is looking forward to relaxing, meeting with old friends when he desires, work in some outreach ministries, and do some occasional traveling.
"I don't see retirement as seeing how busy you can become," he said.
Kuse said one of the most positive changes in the Catholic Church during his time as a priest has been the expanded involvement of the faithful in general, particularly women and children.
"It has been a wonderful experience to watch unfold for the last 50 years," he said. "You have to change with the times."
Parish boundaries - or the lack thereof - has also been a major change, Kuse said.
"The boundaries of parishes used to be absolute," he said. "Now, people can go to whichever church they wish, although we do want parents to belong to the same parish where their kids are in school."
Kuse's early years as a child in Quincy saw him baptized at St. Rose of Lima and attend grade school at St. Boniface. He graduated from the old Notre Dame High School at Eighth and Vermont before entering seminary.
He attended seminary one year in Springfield and seven years in Mundelein. He was first assigned to Christ the King Parish in Springfield in 1967.
Kuse's travels across the diocese proved equally spiritual and educational. He developed many friendships that are still strong today and learned much about the people and towns that make up the diocese.
Kuse said the most gratifying part of the last 50 years probably has to do with the people at all of his stops. He loves to talk of all of the families who have affected his own life and the appreciation of his faith.
"I have married many couples and later baptized their children ... and then their grandchildren," he said. "It's all been a wonderful gift."
Kuse loves to reminisce, but at this point he also loves to look ahead. He is eager to see where the coming days will lead.
"Life goes on," he said.