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Pioneering missionary served indigenous people in Ecuador

 
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Father August Langenkamp, 1929-2016

Father August "Gus" Langenkamp SVD, 87, one of the first Divine Word Missionaries to work in Ecuador, passed away on August 23 in Techny, Ill.

In 1962, Father Langenkamp was chosen to work with Most Reverend Cándido Rada Senosiáin SDB, bishop of Guaranda, to help found missions in a mountainous region with dirt roads and treacherous impasses in this South American country that stretches from high in the Andes Mountains to the coast of the Pacific Ocean on the west to the tropical Amazon rainforest on the east.

As one of 14 priests in the Diocese of Guaranda, Father Langenkamp taught English at Collegio San Jose and assisted in providing pastoral care for approximately 130,000 Catholics throughout a 1,200 square mile area. He also served as director of the Divine Word High School and became pastor of Holy Spirit parish in San Bartolo, south of the Ecuadoran capital Quito, in 1970. The following year, he had to return to the United States due to health issues.

Father Langenkamp once wrote that his parents and his ten older siblings made him the man he became.

"My life has been deeply influence by the deep faith and ideals of my parents and brothers and sisters. Their values led me to join the Society of the Divine Word. I have never regretted that decision. It’s been a very happy and fulfilling life," wrote Father Langenkamp, whose siblings included two Divine Word Missionaries (Brother Berchmans Langenkamp who served in Papua New Guinea and Father Arnold Lang, a missionary in Appalachia) and two sisters (Precious Blood Sister Anastasia Laura Langenkamp and Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ Sister Norberta (Angela) Langenkamp).

Born in St. Henry, Ohio, in 1929, Father August Langenkamp was the youngest of Henry and Anna (nee Brackman) Langenkamp’s 11 children. He began his studies with the Divine Word Missionaries at East Troy, Wis., in 1947, professed vows in 1949 and was ordained to the priesthood at Bay St. Louis, Miss., in 1957.

For his first assignment, he stayed in Bay St. Louis as treasurer and teacher at St. Augustine Seminary. He also was assigned as a vocation director before going to Ecuador.

When he returned from Ecuador in 1971, he became associate pastor of St. Peter Claver, a parish in Asbury Park, N.J., with a predominantly African-American and Hispanic congregation. Three years later, he was named pastor.

In addition to his work in the parish, he was appointed to Trenton’s Diocesan Charismatic Council; elected to the Priests Council; and served as a member of the Committee of the Direct Apostolate, a Divine Word group of six priests convened to discuss and organize the congregation’s African-American apostolate in the 1970s.

He also led a campaign to raise funds for a parish youth center, designed to hold social and athletic activities for the entire community regardless of religious affiliation.

After almost 20 years in New Jersey, Father Langenkamp was assigned to Sacred Heart parish in Greenville, Miss., where he was pastor from 1990 to 1999. During his final decade of active ministry, he was assigned to St. James parish in Tupelo, Miss., and worked with Hispanic immigrants in Northeast Mississippi. In 2009, at age 80, he retired and moved to Techny, Ill.

Father Langenkamp is survived by his brother, Father Arnold Lang, and many nieces and nephews.

His wake will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. in the chapel of the Divine Word Residence at Techny. His funeral Mass will be Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 10:30 a.m. in the chapel, followed by burial at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Langenkamp can be made for the care of elderly and infirm missionaries and sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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