The Catholic Leader
Sunday 3 August, 1996
The bike-riding doctor who loved the Mass
Thomas Kiel, an American doctor, loved motor bikes and loved the Mass. Mr. Ron Staines of Australian Motorcycle Adventures contacted the Chinchilla, western Queensland, parish priest, Fr. Terry Hickling, to ask if he had a Sunday evening Mass. Mr. Staines had an American client - Dr. Kiel - who had requested he have the opportunity of attending Sunday Mass while touring from Brisbane to Ayers Rock.
The tour planned to stay Sunday night in Chinchilla. There was no Sunday night Mass, but Fr. Hickling said he would arrange an early Mass on Monday before the tour departed. On the Thursday, Mr. Staines again contacted Fr. Hickling, following further inquiries from Dr. Kiel, to check that plans were as scheduled. They were, but Dr. Kiel never made it.
On the Sunday morning, Fr. Hickling received a call, advising him Dr. Kiel had been killed when his motorcycle ran off the road near Kilcoy. Father was asked to speak to is parents in the US. Just before midnight, Fr. Hickling reached the grieving David and Victoria Kiel of Kensington, Connecticut. David Kiel told Fr. Hickling his son was a distinguished surgeon from the Staten Island University Hospital, New York. In his father's words "Not only was he a good surgeon, but, more importantly, he was a good Catholic."
Victoria Kiel wrote to Fr. Hichkling of her son "Thom was an extremely religious person. He was an altar boy for five years, was a reader at Mass wherever he worshipped... " In his third year of medical school he was allowed to go to Nigeria with a prominent thoracic surgeon to perform surgery at the Nigerian Christian Hospital. He told us recently he wanted to do missionary work again.
"In nigeria he attended a three-hour church service which included baptisms and other ceremonies. " He sacrificed something every Lent and fasted strictly on Good Friday. When the locksmith opened his condo, the first thing I saw on his desk was a checklist of things to take to Australia. Crossed off were prayer book, rosary beads and holy water.
"Then we saw his correspondence to Ron Staines requesting Sunday Mass ... He was a teacher and healer, who touched the lives of so many in so few years on earth. The wound will heal, but the scar will be in my heart forever." Thomas Kiel was 36.
His parents sent Chinchilla parish fine set of white Mass vestments, which had been presented to them by Tom's friends at his funeral. Fr. Hickling's comment: "These vestments will be used regularly in memory of a devout Catholic surgeon from the USA, who even on holidays put sunday Mass and the Things o God first in his life. May the study of his life deepen our love for God and our appreciation of Sunday Mass."