Faith, sacraments connect priest with family
As they watched two of their daughters get married this year at St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Omaha, Ron and Corene Faltin said events of 30 years ago came to mind.
That’s because the priest officiating the weddings – Father Jim Tiegs – also officiated at their wedding.
"It brought back such vivid memories … and felt so rewarding to witness this full life cycle of Father Jim’s role in our family life," Ron said.
Being the church’s official witness at a couple’s wedding and then later at their children’s weddings is not very common, and it is a privilege, said Father Tiegs, pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr for the last 12 years.
It’s also a privilege for priests to develop such close friendships with their parishioners, he said. Often they become like family, he said, "befriending us and following us in our careers, if you will."
The Faltins, members of St. Stephen the Martyr, met Father Tiegs when they were young singles and he was associate pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha.
Ron and Corene were actively involved in the parish, and often shared meals and laughs with their priest friend.
"He was always so welcoming and left you feeling better," Ron said.
Father Tiegs helped them prepare for marriage during their engagement, and presided at their wedding in 1986 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
As the Faltin family grew, Father Tiegs baptized and administered sacraments to their children – Audrey Gamet, 28, of Kansas City; Elizabeth Viers, 26, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha; Mitchell, 23, of Austin, Texas; Julia, 20, who is in college in Kansas City; and Grace, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Stephen the Martyr School.
Elizabeth said with Father Tiegs’ close ties to her family, it just made sense to have him preside at her and husband Charles’ wedding.
"We felt it was a unique opportunity to have such a wonderful man who has been such an integral part of my life and my family’s lives to begin our journey through married life," Elizabeth said.
And the Faltin’s relationship with Father Tiegs is not the only special connection the family has with clergy.
Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt, of the Diocese of Grand Island, is a close friend and former St. Elizabeth Ann Seton pastor. He concelebrated Audrey’s and Elizabeth’s weddings and gave the final blessing. He also presided at Mitchell’s wedding in July at the Newman Center’s St. Thomas More Church in Lincoln.
For Ron and Corene, developing relationships with their parish priest is a natural outcome of their appreciation for the vocation and importance that priests have in their lives.
Maintaining those relationships has been relatively easy because of their continued involvement in their faith, they said.
Over the past 30 years, the couple has served as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and been involved in various parish offices and activities at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn and St. Stephen the Martyr.
They helped start the youth group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and served on the Youth Ministry board at St. Stephen the Martyr, as well as conducted baptism classes for expecting parents.
Currently, Corene is a Stephen Minister, serves on Project Hope and funeral luncheon committees and is involved with perpetual adoration and numerous home and school and general school activities. Over the years, Ron has served on youth group, school and endowment boards, the parish finance committee and capital campaign initiatives.
"Omaha is so uniquely Catholic, and being quite socially active ourselves, it has been easy to stay in close contact over the decades," Ron said. "We are blessed to enjoy our priests integrated so tightly into the fabric of our lives."