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Eighteen men celebrate gift of the priesthood

Priests from across the archdiocese will honor 18 brother priests who are celebrating milestone anniversaries – two commemorating 60 years of service, three celebrating 50 years, three marking 40 years and 10 celebrating 25 years.

The annual priest jubilee Mass and dinner will be held April 30 at St. Patrick Church in Fremont, with Archbishop George J. Lucas as principal celebrant and retired Father Donald Shane, who is celebrating his golden anniversary, as homilist. 

The gathering will begin at 3:30 p.m. with an hour of eucharistic adoration, followed by 20 minutes of chanted vespers. Mass will be at 5 p.m. 

During the event retired Father Valentine Peter and Msgr. Ralph Steffensmeier will be recognized for 60 years in the priesthood.

In addition to Father Shane, Missionary Benedictine Father Volker Futter and Columban Father James Colm Stanley also are celebrating 50-year anniversaries.

Fathers Michael Grewe and Daniel Kampschneider, and Jesuit Father Andrew Alexander are this year’s 40-year honorees.

Celebrating 25 years of priesthood are Fathers Ross Burkhalter, Anthony Ike, James Rafferty, Leo Rigatuso, Stanley Schmit and Daniel Wittrock, along with religious order priests Benedictine Fathers Paul Kasun, Adam Patras and Stephen Plank, and Jesuit Father Kevin Schneider. 

Each year, the Catholic Voice features profiles of priests celebrating silver and golden anniversaries. 

50 YEARS

Father Donald Shane

Education: Creighton Preparatory School, Creighton University, both Omaha; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri.

Current assignment: Retired

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. James, Christ the King,  St. Cecilia, all Omaha; Holy Trinity, Hartington; Holy Family, Lindsay. Administrator, Immaculate Conception, St. Helena. Pastor, Immaculate Conception, St. Helena; St. Mary, Schuyler; Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Robert Bellarmine, both Omaha.

Other assignments: St. Benedict Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado.

Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus; Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. 

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Golf.

Church honors or awards received: Creighton Prep Hall of Fame; Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan Award; Institute for Priestly Formation’s St. John Paul Award for Priestly Service; National Catholic Education Association’s Distinguished Pastor Award.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Trustee, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart; Foundation Board, St. Robert Bellarmine Parish.

Civic honors or awards: Grand Marshall, St. Patrick’s Day Parade; Omaha mayor’s proclamation, Father Don Shane Day.

Thoughts on priesthood: “In spite of my many shortcomings, it has been the greatest privilege to have represented Jesus and his personal love to those entrusted to me. I am especially grateful for the privilege of representing Jesus’ mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick and dying, and that he would use me to make his Body and Blood present to feed his hungry people.” 

Missionary Benedictine Father Volker Futter

Education: Riemenschneider Gymnasium, Wuerzburg, Germany; Philosophical School in St. Ottilien, Benedictine Archabbey; University of Wuerzburg.

Current assignment: Subprior, Benedictine Mission House/Christ the King Priory, Schuyler.

Previous assignments: Oblate director, Benedictine Mission House/Christ the King Priory, Schuyler; missionary in Inkamana Abbey, South Africa.

Other assignments: Substituting at parishes in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, California, Texas and Michigan.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Conducting pilgrimages to Europe.

Thoughts on priesthood: “The gracious help from a Benedictine monk, to me, a refugee attending the Benedictine boarding school, prepared and nourished in me the call to the priesthood. I am deeply humbled for all the graces I have received from God the last 50 years for my priestly service and I am thankful that I was able to reach out to so many people and hopefully touched their lives a little.”

Columban Father James Colm Stanley 

Current assignment: Office staff and newsletter editor, Missionary Society of St. Columban, Bellevue. Celebrating Mass at St. Mary Parish in Bellevue.

Previous assignments: Missionary, South Korea.

Thoughts on priesthood: “I have been working at the Columban Fathers in Bellevue, enjoying my time working in the office, on the magazine and with mission education.”

25 YEARS

Father Ross Burkhalter 

Education: Ralston High School; University of Nebraska at Omaha; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. Anthony Parish, Columbus.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, Mary Our Queen, Omaha; St. Michael, South Sioux City; St. Cornelius, Homer. Pastor, Holy Family, Cedar County; St. Thomas More, Omaha; St. Boniface, Elgin; St. Bonaventure, Raeville. Administrator, St. Patrick, Battle Creek, and St. Francis de Sales, Schoolcraft.

Other assignments: President, Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Elgin.

Church-related organizations: Chaplain, Serra Club of Greater Nebraska; spiritual director, Archdiocesan Legion of Mary; dean, Rural North Central, Central and Southwest Deaneries; priest presenter, Catholic Engaged Encounter.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Exercise, walking, softball, tennis, golf, basketball, reading, listening to music.

Thoughts on priesthood: “What an awesome life the priesthood has been for me! To minister all over northeast Nebraska, to go to lands overseas that I only read about, but most importantly, to administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist! I am not worthy, but I am glad that God called me.”

Father Anthony Ike 

Education: St. Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot-Ekpene, Nigeria; Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, Nigeria; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; Graduate Theological Foundation, Mishawaka, Indiana.

Current assignment: Chaplain, Omaha VA Medical Center; in residence, Holy Cross Parish, Omaha.

Previous parish assignments: Pastor, St. Matthew Parish, Akpu, Nigeria. Parochial Vicar, St. Francis Parish, Bend, Oregon; San Juan Del Rio Parish, Jacksonville, Florida; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Palm Coast, Florida.

Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Soccer, tennis, culture, family.

Thoughts on priesthood: “I have come to appreciate the priesthood as a life journey that builds on the fact that we are mere earthenware carrying precious vessels to show that it all belongs to the Lord and we are honored and privileged to be involved. I am what I am in spite of myself. The priesthood is therefore a thing of honor, joy, labor, hope and fulfillment. I cannot ask for anything better.”

Missionary Benedictine Father Paul Kasun 

Education: Elkhorn Public Schools; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis; University of Texas, Austin.

Current assignment: Retreats, academic research, priestly ministry, St. Ottilien Missionary Benedictine Congregation, Colombia.

Previous parish assignments: Assistant pastor, Sacred Heart, Norfolk. Associate pastor, then-Our Lady of Guadalupe-St. Agnes, Omaha. Pastor, St. Leonard, Madison.

Other assignments: Priest in residence, St. Louis King of France Parish, Austin, Texas; immigration advocate, Benedictine Immigration Program, Schuyler; professor, La Universidad del Rosario, Bogota, Colombia.

Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus. 

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Amerindia Colombia (organization dealing with Catholic issues related to indigenous populations); Centro de Estudios Teologicos y de las Religiones (organization dealing with issues related to religion and science).

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Past member, Archdiocese of Omaha Hispanic Rural Advisory Council, Chicano Awareness Center advisory board, both Omaha; past member, Salvation Army advisory board, Norfolk.

Thoughts on priesthood: “Priesthood has meant joy, peace, grace and love. It has meant heartache at seeing evil, but joy at seeing goodness and holiness. It means being open to suffering, contradictions and problems, because there is an underlying happiness to be a part of God’s powerful work in and through the Catholic Church. It has meant the ability to say Mass every day and to be close to the sacraments.”

Missionary Benedictine Father Adam Patras 

Education: Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools; Mount Marty College, Yankton, South Dakota; Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Oregon; Institute St. Anselm, Margate, England.

Current assignment: Treasurer, Benedictine Mission House/Christ the King Priory, Schuyler.

Previous assignments: Guest and refugee ministry, Muensterschwarzach Abbey, Schwarzach am Main, Germany. 

Thoughts on priesthood: “For me, being a priest is being a servant. Whether I am standing at the altar or cooking for my brothers, if hearing a confession or listening to the problems of a refugee, my task is to give flesh to The Servant of God and to give his love and especially his mercy.”

Benedictine Father Stephen Plank 

Education: Mount Michael Benedictine School, Elkhorn; Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas; Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa; Creighton University, Omaha.

Current assignment: Teacher, Mount Michael Benedictine School.

Previous assignments: Guidance counselor, dean, Mount Michael Benedictine School. 

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Travel, especially to France; tennis, reading and boules (French version of bocce ball).

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Omaha Alliance Francaise; American Association of Teachers of French; National Association for College Admission Counseling. 

Honors or awards: 2007 Nebraska French Teacher of the Year; 2009 Outstanding World Language Teacher from the Nebraska International Languages Association; Nebraska Department of Education STAR Award for World Languages.

Father James Rafferty 

Education: Scranton Preparatory School, University of Scranton, both Scranton, Pennsylvania; Gregorian University, Alphonsian Academy, both Rome.

Current assignment: Director of Mission and Communications, Institute for Priestly Formation, Omaha.

Previous assignments: Vocation director, Diocese of Scranton; faculty member, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia; chaplain, Marywood University, Scranton; faculty member, St. Pius X College Seminary, Scranton; director of religious formation, Sacred Heart Junior/Senior High School, Carbondale, Pennsylvania; assistant pastor, St. Patrick Parish, Scranton.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Running, reading.

Thoughts on priesthood: “I have often observed that I live a priesthood greater than I deserve. It is a profound privilege to serve people in the name of Jesus and to bring the truth and beauty of the Gospel into the varied, sometimes intense, circumstances of people’s lives. It is especially humbling to accompany brother priests in their interior lives. I marvel at what the Lord accomplishes in his faithfulness to his children. Priesthood is a front-row seat to the miracles of healing and transformation that the Father shares with his people.” 

Father Leo Rigatuso 

Education: Central High School, Omaha; University of Nebraska at Omaha; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. Matthew the Evangelist, Bellevue.

Previous parish assignments: Assistant pastor, St. Wenceslaus, Omaha. Associate pastor, St. Columbkille, Papillion. Pastor, St. Joseph, Lyons; Holy Cross, Bancroft; St. John Nepomucene and Ss. Peter and Paul, both Howells; Holy Trinity, Heun.

Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus.

Thoughts on priesthood: “Following in the footsteps of Christ and experiencing his life-giving actions through the sacramental life of the church has been a vocational gift beyond measure.”

Father Stanley Schmit 

Education: Norfolk Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Norfolk; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri.; Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. John Nepomucene, Ss. Peter and Paul, both Howells; Holy Trinity, Heun.

Previous parish assignments: Assistant pastor, then-Our Lady of Lourdes, Omaha. Associate pastor, Holy Trinity, Hartington; St. Michael, Coleridge. Pastor, St. Andrew, Bloomfield; St. Mary of the Seven Dolors, Osmond; St. Paul, Plainview; St. Michael, Albion, St. John the Baptist, Petersburg.

Other assignments: Teacher, Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Hartington.

Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Collecting rare books and coins; sports; helping coach basketball at my parishes.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Rural-central priest adviser for Omaha Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.

Thoughts on priesthood: “Being able to help others see Christ in their lives at times when God has seemed lost to them – especially times of death. Keep Christ always in the center of ministry.” 

Jesuit Father Kevin Schneider 

Education: Creighton University, Omaha; Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Current assignment: Director of Adult Spirituality Programs, Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha.

Previous assignments: Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Member of Jesuit Academy Board, Ignatian Volunteer Corps Board and Mercy High School Board.

Thoughts on priesthood: “I love the joy of being with people at the most important moments of their lives as a presence of hope. God’s gift of priesthood invites me to those moments.”

Father Daniel Wittrock 

Education: Harry A. Burke High School, Omaha; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri; Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. Bernard Parish, Omaha.

Previous parish assignments: Assistant pastor, St. Mary, Bellevue. Associate pastor, St. Pius X, Omaha. Pastor, St. Wenceslaus, Dodge; Sacred Heart, Olean; St. Michael, South Sioux City; St. Cornelius, Homer; St. Augustine, Winnebago; St. Joseph, Walthill. 

Other assignments: Associate director, St. Augustine School, Winnebago; chaplain, Catholic Scouting, Archdiocese of Omaha.

Thoughts on priesthood: “Very thankful for the gift of priesthood.”

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