Biblical archeology hobby awaits retiring priest
Editors note: Seven archdiocesan priests retired this year, each after decades of service. Links to each story are at the bottom of the webpage.
He has been a parish pastor, a member of the archdiocesan leadership, an Air Force chaplain, director of Catholic Cemeteries and a frequent visitor of the Holy Land.
"I have had a very happy and fulfilling life as a priest," said Father R. Michael Fitzpatrick, who recently retired as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Omaha after 45 years of priesthood.
The 70-year-old priest was finance director and the first moderator of the curia for the archdiocese before becoming a chaplain for the Air Force reserves. He did that almost 23 years, with four months of active duty during Operation Desert Storm, and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He went on to head Catholic Cemeteries for about 10 years while serving as pastor of his one and only pastorate, St. Stanislaus, where he arrived 16 years ago.
And for about 42 years, Father Fitzpatrick has been involved with marriage cases, including 25 years as a judge on the archdiocese’s Marriage Tribunal.
"I found out over the years that the thousands of decisions I made as judge in the tribunal touched thousands of peoples’ lives and often resulted in them remaining Catholic or returning to the practice of the faith, and that these decisions would affect generations," he said.
Father Fitzpatrick said he knew he wanted to be a priest when he was a student at Holy Cross School in Omaha. He attended St. John Seminary – now Mount Michael Benedictine School – near Elkhorn, Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., and North American College in Rome. He was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1971.
On the day of his 25th anniversary, he concelebrated Mass with St. John Paul II in the pope’s private chapel in Rome. He calls it one of the greatest experiences of his life.
Other highlights include leading several pilgrimages to Rome and traveling to the Holy Land 12 times. Three times in the 1990s he excavated on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee at Bethsaida with the University of Nebraska Omaha.
In retirement, Father Fitzpatrick, who lives at St. John Vianney Residence in Omaha, said he hopes to continue his hobbies of biblical archeology, reading and traveling, as well as assist parishes when needed.
"I never imagined such a diverse life filled with so many wonderful opportunities," Father Fitzpatrick said.
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