Honoring clergy on special anniversaries
A military chaplain, a former superintendent of Catholic schools and the archbishop emeritus of Omaha will be among the 16 priests honored April 19 at the annual priest jubilee celebration.
Archbishop George J. Lucas will be the principal celebrant and Father Joseph Miksch, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year, will be the homilist for the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church in Fremont.
In addition to Father Miksch, those celebrating golden jubilees are Msgr. James Gilg, former schools’ superintendent, retired Father Charles Swanson and Columban Father Thomas Shaughnessy.
Priests marking their 25th anniversaries are Fathers Rodney Adams, Dennis De Guzman, Michael Eckley, Patrick Harrison, William L’Heureux and Mark Tomasiewicz.
The Catholic Voice each year highlights silver and golden anniversaries, but during the Mass Father Michael Malloy will be honored for celebrating 40 years of priesthood and Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss for marking 40 years as a bishop.
Archbishop Curtiss noted he was ordained bishop of the Helena, Mont., diocese, in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, at age 43.
"I had a lot to learn about episcopal leadership," he said. "The priests of Helena for 17 years, and the priests of Omaha the past 23 years have been my mainstay and the greatest gift for my ministry these past 40 years."
Special mention also goes to retired Msgr. Richard Wolbach and retired Fathers Hugh Schwarz and Clifford Stevens, who are celebrating their 60th anniversaries, and Columban Father Richard Steinhilber, marking 65 years as a priest.
MONSIGNOR JAMES GILG
Education: Then-St. Joseph High School, Atkinson; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Current assignment: Pastor – St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Omaha.
Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor – St. Cecilia, Omaha; St. Boniface, Elgin.
Other assignments: Religion teacher and superintendent – then-Cathedral High School, Omaha. Religion teacher and co-chair of humanities department – Pope John XXIII High School, Elgin. Director and principal – then-Dominican High and Father Flanagan High schools, Omaha; (also helped found Flanagan High). Founding president – V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School, Omaha. Dean – Urban Southeast Deanery. Superintendent – Catholic schools, Archdiocese of Omaha. Executive director – Omaha Catholic Schools Consortium.
Church-related organizations: Member – Archdiocesan Council of Priests. Co-founder and board member – Christian Urban Education Service. Trustee – Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart. Regent – Conception Seminary College.
Church honors or awards received: Numerous, including Chaplain of His Holiness with title of monsignor; Presidential Award, National Catholic Educational Association; Presidential Citation, Creighton University; James D. Power Award for Distinguished Service in Priestly Ministry, Conception Seminary College.
Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Numerous, including chairman, Advisory Council of Eastern Nebraska Office of Mental Health; member, Douglas County Youth Advisory Council; co-founder and member, Missouri Valley Alternative Education Association.
Civic honors or awards: Children’s Award, Nebraska School Psychologists Association; Omahan of the Year, Omaha Sun newspapers; Service to Mankind Award, Southwest Omaha Sertoma Club; Randall C. Biart Award, Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
Thoughts on priesthood: "The priesthood is a tremendous gift and blessing, full of joys and a sprinkling of heartaches, sustained by the enduring grace and hand of God, most often mediated to us through the love and affirmation of generous people who welcome us into their lives as we minister to them in our parishes and schools. It merits one overwhelming response to God and all others: ‘Thank you.’"
FATHER JOSEPH MIKSCH
Education: Conception High School, Conception, Mo; then-St. John Vianney Seminary, Elkhorn; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis; Creighton University, Omaha.
Current assignment: Pastor – St. Isidore Parish, Columbus.
Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor – St. Rose of Lima, Omaha; Holy Trinity, Hartington; St. James, Omaha. Pastor – St. Stanislaus, Duncan; Holy Family, Lindsay; St. Anthony, Columbus.
Other assignments: Teacher – then-Paul VI High School, Omaha; Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Hartington; Scotus Central Junior/Senior High School, Columbus; Holy Family High School, Lindsay.
Church-related organizations: Member, Marriage Encounter, Engaged Encounter; Retrouvaille, Christians Encounter Christ.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Astronomy, aviation, rock climbing and writing.
Thoughts on priesthood: "As a Catholic priest, I am privileged to work with the best of people, with future saints, and I have a vocation in which I can touch the lives of people and really make a difference, not because of who I am, for as St. Paul says: ‘God chooses the weak to shame the wise (I Cor 1:27-28),’ but because of whom I represent. At daily Mass I have the privilege of standing at the altar on which ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ himself. What an incredible vocation!"
COLUMBAN FATHER THOMAS SHAUGHNESSY
Education: Columban minor and major seminaries in Silver Creek, N.Y., and Milton, Mass.; Iona College, N.Y., St. John’s University, N.Y.
Current assignment: Sabbatical at Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas; also administrative work, Columban Mission Office, Bellevue; assist parishes in Archdiocese of Omaha; mission appeals for Columbans in Midwest parishes.
Previous assignments: Parish ministry, vocations promotion, college chaplaincy, seminarian formation and counseling as a Columban missionary for 20 years in Philippines; vocations promotion, parish ministry and administrative work for Columbans in United States; studied Spanish in Mexico.
Church-related organizations: Assistant chaplain – Knights of Columbus Columban Council 6192, Bellevue; Faithful Friar – Francis Cardinal Spellman Fourth Degree Assembly 3486, Bellevue.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Enjoys sports, especially Chicago Cubs, Bears and Blackhawks; movies, cooking, golf.
Thoughts on priesthood: "The priesthood has given to me the privilege of mediating God’s love for his people through the sacraments. It is a joy to touch people at every stage of their lives from birth to death and all the significant moments in between. It is such a humbling privilege when people invite you to walk with them through their various trials and tribulations, as well as their joys and celebrations, hopefully bringing them closer to God."
FATHER CHARLES SWANSON
Education: Then-Cathedral High School, Omaha; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Current assignment: Retired.
Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor – St. Philip Neri, St. Margaret Mary, both Omaha. Pastor – St. Patrick, Fremont; Holy Cross, Omaha, St. Joseph, Springfield.
Other assignments: Chaplain – Omaha Fire Department. Chaplain ministry – Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue; Veteran’s Hospital, Omaha; nursing homes, Papillion. Director – archdiocese’s Vocations Office Member – archdiocese’s College of Consultors, board of Catholic Cemeteries Association.
Church-related organizations: Chaplain – Serra Club of Omaha.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Goldsmith, silversmith.
Thoughts on priesthood: "It has been an opportunity to be involved in the lives of people from birth to eternal life. Not to bring my presence, but to help people know they are loved by God and his mercy and compassion are always there for them. It has been an honor to be chosen and to be able to serve so many people over this 50 years."
FATHER RODNEY ADAMS
Education: Roncalli Catholic High School, Omaha; St. Thomas University and St. Paul Seminary, both in St. Paul, Minn.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor – Our Lady of Lourdes, Omaha; associate pastor – St. Margaret Mary, Omaha. Pastor – St. Rose, St. Bridget, both in Omaha. Director – urban diaconate program.
Current assignment: Senior associate pastor, St. Patrick, Elkhorn.
Other assignments: Director nearly eight years – Permanent diaconate.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Cooking, reading, playing with my dog.
Thoughts on priesthood: "In the 25 years I have been ordained I have learned so much about our Lord, the people of God and myself. I have learned that God is a God of Mercy and that the people of God are forgiving, compassionate and intelligent. I have learned that people expect their priests to be holy, and at times I have fallen far short of that expectation; but Christ has always been there to call me back to the core of my vocation through the outreach of the Christian community. I have learned that what is broken can be put back together with clemency, forbearance and reparation. I have learned that preaching is a gift, not just an ability, and that the Spirit’s inspiration requires preparation. And finally, though it has taken me many years to appreciate, I have learned why Christ washed the feet of his disciples, and that in all things I can only lead by example. I cannot thank the church of this archdiocese enough for the past 25 years."
FATHER DENNIS DE GUZMAN
Education: Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School Seminary and St. Francis College Seminary, both in the Philippines; and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Current assignment: U.S. military chaplain – U.S. Air Force.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor – St. Patrick, Fremont. Associate pastor – St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha. Pastor – St. Michael, Coleridge; St. Boniface, Monterey; St. Anthony, St. Charles; St. Aloysious, Aloys; St. Wenceslaus, Dodge; Sacred Heart, Olean. Military chaplain – active duty in Iraq. Senior associate pastor – St. Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha. Chaplain – University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, and Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue.
Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus
Clubs/Organizations/hobbies/special interests: Professional Association of Diving Instructors, scuba diving.
Honors or awards received: Afghanistan and Iraq campaign medals, U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Service Award.
Thoughts on priesthood: "When I talk to our young cadets in the U.S. Air Force Academy, I always share my priesthood vocation as a direct commission for selfless service of God and country, from parish ministry to ministry in a war zone and diverse regions in the world. This year I feel so blessed to be able to celebrate 25 years of my priesthood continuously ministering to the spiritual and sacramental needs of our brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces, serving in stressful and dangerous circumstances."
FATHER MICHAEL ECKLEY
Education: Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School, Bellevue; College of St. Thomas and St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, both in St. Paul, Minn.
Current assignment: Pastor – St. Pius X, Omaha.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor – St. Mary, West Point. Associate pastor – St. Bernadette, Bellevue; St. Patrick, Fremont. Pastor – St. Patrick, Battle Creek; St. Francis de Sales, Schoolcraft; St. Rose of Lima, Hooper; St. Lawrence, Scribner; St. Augustine, Winnebago; St. Cornelius, Homer; St. Joseph, Walthill; Our Lady of Fatima, Macy. Teacher – Norfolk Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Norfolk; Archbishop Bergan Catholic High School, Fremont; Associate director, St. Augustine Indian Mission School, Winnebago.
Other assignments: Member – Priest Personnel Board and Council of Priests.
Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Board member – Mercy High School and Catholic Charities; Member Omaha Together One Community clergy caucus.
Church honors or awards received: Hibernian Humanitarian of the Year; Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School Alumni Hall of Fame; National Catholic Educational Association Distinguished Graduate from Our Lady of Lourdes School.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Minnesota Twins fan, traveling.
Thoughts on priesthood: "The gift of these last 25 years is more than I could have ever imagined. It is humbling and a great honor to be invited to bring the presence of Christ and the church into the most intimate and important moments in people’s lives. I have been blessed abundantly by the opportunity I have to share my faith on a daily basis and to be encouraged and challenged in my own faith through the witness others have given to me. I look forward with great hope and anticipation to what the Lord has in mind for me for as long as he gives me life to live my vocation."
FATHER PATRICK HARRISON
Education: Roncalli Catholic High School, Omaha; Peru State College, Peru; Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.; and Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
Current assignment: Associate pastor, St. Gerald, Ralston; and additional duties of defender of the Bond of Metropolitan Tribunal.
Previous assignments: Associate pastor, St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha; marriage tribunal, chancery (in residence at St. Stanislaus, Omaha); associate vicar judicial (in residence at St. Wenceslaus, Omaha); temporary administrator, Holy Ghost, Omaha; vicar judicial metropolitan tribunal (in residence at Holy Ghost and St. Joan of Arc, both Omaha).
Boards/memberships/offices: Priests’ Council
Thoughts on priesthood: "In my early 20s, I was invited by Father Dave Reeson to consider priesthood. I was surprised by it and reluctant to even think about it. However, I began talking to family, friends and various parish priests about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. After much prayer and consideration, I felt called to attend the seminary to try it out. Once there, my love for priesthood grew and my vocation became clear. By the grace of God and the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I became a priest. I have loved being a priest and being involved with so many wonderful people at the chancery and the parishes where I have served."
FATHER WILLIAM L’HEUREUX
Education: Campbell Public School, Campbell; University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill.
Current assignment: Pastor – St. Rose of Lima, Genoa; Ss. Peter and Paul, Krakow; St. Lawrence, Silver Creek.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor – St. James, Omaha. Associate pastor – St. Vincent de Paul, Omaha. Pastor – St. Rose of Lima, Hooper; St. Lawrence, Scribner; Our Lady of Lourdes, Omaha.
Church-related organizations: Member, Knights of Columbus, Christians Encounter Christ, Teens Encounter Christ, Marriage Encounter.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Hunting, fishing, restoring old automobiles.
Thoughts on priesthood: "It is amazing that 25 years of priesthood can fly by in just the blink of an eye. I’m quite sure that I can’t refer to the past 25 years as ‘my priesthood.’ Words cannot begin to express my gratitude to literally the thousands who have invited me into the sanctuaries of their hearts, entrusted me to sanctify the most precious and intimate moments of their lives, and believed me when I said that God is good, merciful and loving. Most of all I am thankful to Almighty God for counting me worthy to stand in his presence and serve him."
FATHER MARK TOMASIEWICZ
Education: Humphrey Public School, Humphrey; Conception Seminary, Conception, Mo.; and Mundelien Seminary, Mundelein, Ill.
Current assignment: Pastor – St. Patrick, Tekamah; Holy Family, Decatur.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor – St. Bernadette, Bellevue. Associate pastor – St. Bonaventure, Columbus; St. Columbkille, Papillion. Pastor – Ss. Peter and Paul, Bow Valley; Immaculate Conception, St. Helena; St. Mary, Laurel; St. Anne, Dixon; St. Mary, Wayne; teacher, Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, Hartington; campus ministry chaplain, Wayne State College, Wayne.
Other assignments: Member – Priest Personnel Board, Council of Priests, dean of Rural Southeast Deanery, former reserve Air Force chaplain at Offutt Air Force Base.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Reading, walking, bowling, golfing, grilling, cooking, playing cards.
Church-related organizations: Fourth-degree Knights of Columbus, founding chaplain of council at St. Patrick, Tekamah; former president of local ecumenical church council Tekamah-Herman-Decatur.
Thoughts on priesthood: "The life of priesthood has been a very humbling and graceful vocation, because I journey in faith with God’s people by my prayer, service, preaching and administering the sacraments. It is a wonderful privilege to be welcomed into people’s lives to witness and share in the life of Christ amidst the challenges, sorrow and joy with growth in awareness of God’s love and virtue. My priestly years have been immensely blessed because of the goodness and care of my family and the people whom I serve or have served."