New priests reflect on parish life
Experiencing for the first time the many duties of a parish priest – celebrating Mass, making hospital visits, hearing confessions, planning and presiding at funerals, baptizing infants, attending meetings – can be exhausting.
But the first few weeks of ministry for the archdiocese’s two most recently ordained priests also have been fulfilling and memorable.
Fathers Nicholas Mishek, associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, and Scott Schilmoeller, associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, were ordained June 3 in Omaha and began their assignments July 1.
"Even though things have been really busy at the parish, it has been wonderful but tiring," said Father Mishek.
As a new priest, Father Schilmoeller emphasized the need for humility.
"There are so many things I don’t know that I have to ask people for help," he said.
His first Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart presented an opportunity for humility. Already a bit nervous, his homily was interrupted when a man fainted.
"Once everything was under control and the people turned back to me, I drew a blank," he said, laughing. "So I said, ‘why don’t we just pray for that gentleman?’ We said a prayer, and I just tried to chug along. But people were very understanding."
Priestly duties also present many opportunities for sharing Christ’s love and mercy with others.
"An unexpectedly wonderful experience was hearing confessions," Father Mishek said.
"You hear people at their most vulnerable, and you want to bring Christ’s love and mercy into that, while knowing that you have your own limits, and that I need to offer that back to the Lord, so I can be a more patient and more loving confessor."
"It’s a really grounding experience of mercy for me to hear confessions every day," Father Schilmoeller said. "Seeing how the Lord is so merciful and being a minister of mercy in the sacrament of confession – that’s wonderful."
Other intimate moments include sick calls – especially administering last rites to people near death – and working with families to plan funerals.
"Meeting people in these moments has been an honor," Father Mishek said. "However, as a priest you have to stand in two places. Where in one, you enter into the family’s pain to understand their loss, and in the other, you stand as a rock or shoulder for people to cry on.
"To bring the comfort of Christ is all I can really do, and in fact that is all I really need to do in these situations," he said.
Working with grieving families to plan funerals also has had an impact on Father Schilmoeller. "I find it to be a very tender time, and also, the situations create an openness and a different perspective on life and priorities."
"Working with couples, hearing confessions and working with families to prepare funerals – it softens my heart," he said. "There are so many people with painful experiences, and their desire for Jesus is so purified. It’s awe-inspiring to have a seat to watch the Lord work in the most dire and difficult situations."
But the life of a parish priest also presents opportunities to draw close to people through joyful experiences.
For example, Father Schilmoeller said he is working with five engaged couples preparing for marriage.
"Supporting and encouraging them on their journey to their wedding – it’s been a beautiful experience seeing young couples who have big hearts and are more than willing to open their hearts before me and before each other," he said.
Father Schilmoeller, who speaks Spanish, also is involved with the Latino community at Sacred Heart, celebrating the Sunday Spanish Mass, assisting with a Tuesday evening holy hour, attending leadership team meetings, visiting homes and baptizing children.
They "are very warm and welcoming, and they love their priests," he said.
Father Mishek said he also has been made to feel at home at St. Robert’s.
"The parish is wonderful, and the people are very gracious," he said. "I’m really impressed and honored to be working with the people here.
"It’s been wonderful getting to know the talents and the generosity of the people. It’s humbling to see how much they love the church and want to make sure our parish does well and brings Christ to other people.
"What I’m doing is what the Lord has called me to do," Father Mishek said. "I hope I never make people feel they’re a burden. People are free to interrupt me – that’s why I’m here."