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Archdiocese's largest parish celebrates 20th anniversary

St. Stephen the Martyr Parish, the largest in the Archdiocese of Omaha, will celebrate its 20th anniversary next month with a Mass, Eucharistic procession and picnic.

Created by Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan on June 15, 1989, St. Stephen the Martyr is home to more than 3,000 Catholic families.

Three priests and six permanent deacons serve the Omaha parish, which offers one Saturday evening Mass and six Masses on Sunday.

"I'm happy to be part of a growing, developing, evolving, maturing Catholic parish," said Father Jim Tiegs, pastor. "In the Easter season, when we read about the growth and development of the early church, it just excites me to see our parish developing a collective memory and a history and some traditions, and still be fully vital of taking on whatever the future holds."

He described the parish as primarily a young, family parish that is very child-oriented.

"We have about 900 kids in the school and 1,400 kids in religious education. We have 250 first Communions and 250 confirmations, so we're still very much a family parish," he said. "The number of older people is growing and the number of funerals and weddings grows with each passing year, but the demographics are still young families, maybe mid-level jobs and executives."

The parish has the largest religious education program in the state, he said, and the level of involvement is well over 900 liturgical ministers.

St. Stephen the Martyr Parish broke ground for the church, located at 16701 S St., on Oct. 28, 1990, with Father Gerry Gonderinger as the founding pastor.

"Since day one, Father Gerry really emphasized welcome and hospitality and I think the parish still prides itself on that," Father Tiegs said. "Despite being so large we make a lot of efforts to have people feel that they are still a vital part of the parish."

The church, which was dedicated Nov. 22, 1991, is attached to St. Stephen the Martyr School, a recipient of the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Award.

"I feel especially honored to have our founding pastor and our succeeding pastor able to join us for our celebration, especially given Father Gerry's battle with cancer this spring and being a classmate of mine and a good friend," Father Tiegs said. "I'm happy to honor him and certainly to honor Bishop Dendinger for his time with us, too. It's about building on what others have done before."

June 14 Celebration

Noon Mass at the church will be celebrated by Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss, Bishop William Dendinger of Grand Island, Father Gerry Gonderinger, Father Andrew Sohm, Father Chi Igboanusi and Father Jim Tiegs.

After Mass a Eucharistic procession will take place in honor of the feast of Corpus Christi.

Following the procession, a parish picnic is planned on the church grounds.

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