November 30, 2023 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

A woman reads the back of the program for a Nov. 20, 2023 memorial Mass held for Fr. Joe Mills, who passed away during the COVID-19 shutdown on April 4, 2020. Due to pandemic restrictions at the time, his funeral was closed to the public, so in light of this, the special November Mass was held for all to attend. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

Fr. Joe Mills remembered at memorial Mass


On Nov. 20, 2023, the faithful of the Diocese of Owensboro were invited to attend an extra-special Mass for a priest whose funeral had been tragically limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The liturgy, held at St. Stephen Cathedral, was celebrated in memory of Fr. Joe Mills, who died on April 4, 2020 during the COVID-19 shutdown. Due to pandemic restrictions, his funeral liturgy was closed to the public – which had lain heavy on the heart of Bishop William F. Medley until the November 2023 memorial Mass could be scheduled and celebrated.

Fr. J. Patrick Reynolds, the diocese’s vicar general, gave the homily for the Nov. 20 Mass, as he had done for the small, private April 2020 funeral. Saying many of the same words, but with just as much warmth, Fr. Reynolds said Fr. Mills “loved the ministerial priesthood,” that he “loved and supported his fellow priests,” and that he “always radiated a sense of joy and youthfulness.”

Bishop William F. Medley receives the gifts from Dr. Kendrick Mills and Keith Mills, nephews of Fr. Joe Mills; and Jack Mills, the brother of Fr. Joe Mills. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

At the closing of the memorial liturgy, Bishop Medley said he had long heard Fr. Mills referred to as “the patron saint of the priests of the Diocese of Owensboro.” In fact, the bishop had heard this description upon his arrival as bishop in 2010.

“It’s been three-and-a-half years after his passing and I’m sure you still miss him,” said Bishop Medley to Fr. Mills’ family present. “We still miss him too, the priests who knew him. We, too, should keep alive his memory.”

The original obituary for Fr. Joe Mills, printed in the May 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic, may be accessed online at

Priests of the Diocese of Owensboro fill the sanctuary at St. Stephen Cathedral on Nov. 20, 2023, during a memorial Mass held for Fr. Joe Mills, who passed away during the COVID-19 shutdown on April 4, 2020. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

Originally printed in the December 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
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