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I felt I did good work in music. But I just felt called to do something else.

October 2012

Lord’s calling leads Branson to new position as University chaplain

Don’t be surprised if beautiful musical notes and chords don’t fill the air when Fr. Keith Branson is around.

After all, music has been a big part of Fr. Branson’s life for much longer than the vocation that recently brought him to Avila University – the priesthood. For more than two decades prior to coming to Avila as the University’s new chaplain, Branson made his living playing organ and singing.

“I was a full-time church musician,” Branson said recently from his office in Foyle Hall, just across the hall from the Orscheln Memorial Chapel. “I write music. I was an organist for church choirs, full groups, bands, orchestras.”

He then grows quiet and pensive.

“I have no regrets,” he said. “I felt I did good work in music. But, I just felt called to do something else.”

So Branson, who has earned no fewer than five degrees of higher education, including master and doctorate degrees from the University of Kansas, left his career in music behind to join the priesthood, even though he didn’t grow up Catholic. He was ordained in 2000 and serves the Society of Precious Blood, an order of priests that does apostolic work for the Catholic Church. It’s one of the Church’s smaller orders, with about 600-650 members worldwide.

“I don’t think I could have become a priest sooner in life,” he said. “I just wasn’t ready.”

Fr. Branson replaces Fr. Ernie Gauthier, who served as Avila’s chaplain for 10 years. Fr. Gauthier continues his ministry to prisons and persons with addictions. Dave Armstrong, director of mission effectiveness and campus ministries at Avila, learned that Fr. Branson was looking to relocate back to the Kansas City area through conversations with Jude Huntz, chancellor of the diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, and Armstrong then got in contact with Fr. Branson’s provincial at the Precious Blood Center in Liberty, Mo., where Branson lives.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in Avila,” Branson said. “I met with Dave, we talked, and here I am.

“I’ve been part of campus life for decades. It seems like a natural fit.”

Branson is on campus Wednesdays and Sundays and leads Mass both days. He’s available to counsel students and, basically, serve in any capacity the University needs.

“I’m here to help in any way I can,” he said. “I’ve always believed you go where the spirit sends you and be where people need you to be.”

With that in mind, Branson said the tenure of his service to Avila is open-ended.

“Every time I’ve tried to plan my future out, God has sent me in another direction,” he said. “I’m here to grow into Avila, and I’m here to be what I’m needed to be.”

And don’t be surprised to if he isn’t playing a little music along the way. AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434