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Thirty-one parishes to have new pastors

People at 31 parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha will see new pastors at the altar as 22 priests assume their new assignments, most of them effective July 1, according to the official listing of assignments released this month by the archdiocese.

Eight priests will serve as pastor in the archdiocese for the first time and five pastors are getting ready for additional six-year terms at the seven parishes they are serving.

Sixteen priests, including six newly ordained, will take new assignments as associate pastors. And seven priests will retire, with three serving in residence in parishes.

One first-time pastor will be Father Kevin Vogel, currently associate pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion. Beginning next month, he will be pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Elgin and St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville, and president of Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Elgin.

Having grown up in Howells, Father Vogel said, he is looking forward to returning to a rural community, and appreciates the long history and sense of continuity in the parishes.

"With two parishes and a school, it’s a lot for my first time as pastor," he said. "But I’m glad there is a school, because I do a lot of teaching now, and so they’re excited about having me teach there as well."

To prepare for his assignment, Father Vogel has visited the parishes and met with Father Ross Burkhalter, current pastor and school president. Father Tom Greisen, servant minister, also provided a book on navigating the pastoral transition. And Father Vogel will attend the archdiocese’s new pastor workshop in July.

Also becoming pastors for the first time and preparing to serve in rural areas are Fathers Walter Jong-a-Kiem, who will serve three parishes, Kevin Joyce and James Weeder, both with two parishes, and Jeffrey Mollner, who will serve one parish while also serving in campus ministry at Wayne State College.

Father Mark Nolte and Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter Father John Rickert, previously pastors in other dioceses, will be first-time pastors in the archdiocese as they accept assignments in the Omaha area. And Father Joseph Taphorn, moderator of the curia, will take on the additional role of pastor at the St. John Paul II Newman Center near the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO).

Father Taphorn takes on his new role as the Newman Center becomes a quasi-parish effective Aug. 1.

Similar to a parish, a quasi-parish is a structure in canon law that provides full pastoral care to a specific group of the faithful, said Father Taphorn, who also will be the center’s director.

Unlike most parishes that have defined boundaries, the Newman Center is not territorial in nature, and will serve students and staff who live and work at the center, other UNO students, and other young adults who participate in its liturgies and activities.

"Creating a new quasi-parish signifies a big commitment on the part of the archdiocese to provide good pastoral care for the souls of the young people there, and it matches, in a sense, the physical investment the archdiocese has made in the construction of the center," he said.

Although smaller and more focused, the quasi-parish will have all the features of a parish, Father Taphorn said, including a pastoral council made up of students.

Having helped develop the center as its director and having served as chaplain of campus ministry at UNO for the past year, Father Taphorn said he is looking forward to his expanded role as the center prepares to open in August.

"I’m very excited and honored to be named pastor and to serve the young people there," he said. "Christ promises a full and happy life, and that’s the message I want to bring to the campus community."

For more details and the list of all priestly assignments in the archdiocese, click here.

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