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Nine priests celebrate years of service

By Jaclyn Twidwell
The Catholic Voice

     The journeys to and through the priesthood for the nine priests marking jubilees this year are all different, but all contain a common link "“ service.

     With 375 total years in the priesthood, this group of priests has served 48 parishes and 15 schools.

     Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss and brother priests will gather to celebrate these years of service April 25 at St. Patrick Church in Fremont.

     One of the honorees, Msgr. James R. Cain, will be the homilist for the 5 p.m. Mass. A reception and dinner are planned after the Mass.

     Priests observing their 50th anniversaries are Msgrs. James R. Cain and Richard A. Wolbach, Fathers Thomas A. Hoffman, SJ, Hugh F. Schwartz, Rafael B. Librea and Clifford Stevens.

     Those marking 25 years are Fathers Richard J. Gabuzda, Owen W. Korte and Damian Zuerlein.


Msgr. James R. Cain

     Msgr. Cain was born Sept. 25, 1930, in Omaha to Raymond D. and Elizabeth A. (Baum) Cain.

     He graduated from St. Boniface High School in Elgin, earned a bachelor's degree from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., and a master's degree in history from St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Msgr. Cain also received a doctorate in canon law from Lateran University in Rome.

     After ordination, he served as assistant pastor at St. Cecilia Cathedral until 1961, when he left for graduate school in Rome. After graduation in 1967, he became vice chancellor of the archdiocese until 1969, when he was named chancellor, serving until 1981. That year, he was named pastor of St. Wenceslaus in Omaha serving until 1995 when he was transferred to St. Joseph in Springfield until he retired in 2002.

     Msgr. Cain is a member of the Canon Law Society and numerous local organizations. He has received awards from Creighton University and received the title of monsignor in 2003.

     'It is a unique opportunity to serve God's people on the road to the kingdom," said Msgr. Cain. 'We help one another along the way."

     He is an avid golfer and also enjoys basketball. Msgr. Cain is in residence at Westminster Court Priest Retirement Center in Omaha.

Jesuit Father Thomas A. Hoffman

     For Father Hoffman, SJ, the priesthood has meant a life of service to the church through education.

     He has ministered to high school and college students, serving as teacher and professor at many high schools and universities throughout the Midwest.

     Before being ordained, he served Regis High School in Denver and Creighton Prep High School in Omaha.

     As a priest, he taught at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wis. and St. Bonifacius College in St. Bonifacius, Minn., before coming to Creighton University in Omaha in 1970, where he served until 1990.

     'Teaching the faith and ministering it to God's people has been my whole life for fifty years and the source of my identity and joy," said Father Hoffman. 'What could be more fulfilling than bringing his body, his forgiveness and his word to his people, day after day, for fifty years."

     A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Father Hoffman was born May 22, 1925, to Anthony N. and Genevieve (Niland) Hoffman.

     He studied at St. Louis University in St. Louis, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1948 and a bachelor's degree in sacred theology in 1957.

     He continued his studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, earning a master's degree in 1969. Father Hoffman also received a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1976.

     A member of the Catholic Biblical Association, Father Hoffman is active in the American Birding Association, Nebraska Ornithological Union, Audubon Society of Omaha, Alpha Sigma Nu society and Theta Kappa Alpha society.

     He is in residence at Creighton University.

Father Rafael B. Librea

     Born in Manila, Philippines to Rafael S. and Margarita (Bautista) Librea, Father Librea completed his studies in the Philippines prior to receiving a master's degree in international relations from Creighton University in Omaha.

     He earned a degree in philosophy at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Lipa City, a degree in theology at St. Charles Seminary in Makati Maisila. He also received degrees from Luzonian University and Sacred Heart College, both in Lucena City.

     He was ordained Nov. 30, 1956, at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati, Philippines.

     Before coming to the United States, Father Librea served as associate pastor of St. Ferdinand Parish, and chaplain of Carmel of St. Joseph Parish and at Luzonian University, all in Lucena City. He was also a professor at Mt. Carmel Seminary in Sariaya Quezon.

     In the Archdiocese of Omaha, his assignments included assistant pastor of St. Peter in Omaha, associate pastor of St. Patrick in Fremont, St. Patrick in O'Neill and St. Thomas More in Omaha, and senior associate pastor of Holy Cross in Omaha.

     'The priesthood is a sacred service of love for God and people," said Father Librea of his years as a priest. 'It is being all things to God and people."

     Father Librea is in residence at St. Joseph in Springfield.

Father Hugh F. Schwartz

     Father Schwartz was born Jan. 17, 1930, to William E. and Frances E. (Phalen) Schwartz in Evanston, Wyo.

     A graduate of Cathedral High School in Omaha, he studied at Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., where he earned his bachelor's degree and at Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C.

     He served many parishes in the archdiocese, including Sacred Heart in Norfolk, St. Mary in Omaha, St. William in Niobrara, St. Mary in Leigh, St. Boniface in Elgin, St. Wenceslaus in Dodge, St. Charles Borromeo in North Bend and St. Francis Borgia in Blair.

     'The priesthood has been a gift to me," said Father Schwartz. 'Not only has it allowed me to offer Mass and administer sacraments, but being a priest has given be the opportunity to be part of the lives of many people in their joys and sorrows. For this I'm grateful."

     A member of the Knights of Columbus, Father Schwartz also enjoys his hobbies, especially golf and photography.

     He lives at the Westminster Court Priest Retirement Center in Omaha.

Father Clifford J. Stevens

     Father Stevens has served many parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha, traveled the world in the Air Force and worked on Catholic publications.

     'I know no vocation or career where your only limitations are your own efforts and where the opportunities for good are endless," said Father Stevens. 'I am still in awe of the power of the priesthood and its creative possibilities."

     Born March 27, 1926, to Clarence F. and Agnes (Murray) Stevens in Brattleboro, Vt., he graduated from Boys Town High School and Creighton University, both in Omaha. His studies then took him to Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.

     After his first two parish assignments, St. Rose and St. Bernard in Omaha, Father Stevens joined the Air Force in 1961 and served as chaplain on bases in California, Alaska, New Mexico and Japan.

     After retiring from the Air Force in 1968, he became executive-editor of 'The Priest" magazine and from 1971 to 1972 he was editor-publisher of 'Schema," a journal for priests in the modern world.

     From 1973 to 1976, he was associate director of Liturgy in Santa Fe, a liturgical institute in New Mexico.

     Father Stevens returned to the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1976 and served St. Stanislaus Parish in Duncan, St. Francis Parish in Neligh and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Tilden.

     In 1984, he was released from parish work to found Tintern Monastery near Oakdale.

     He is the author of 16 books and his articles on religious and theological subjects have appeared in Catholic magazines and journals. Father Stevens also is president of the National Organization for Embryonic Law.

     He is now living in retirement in Wyoming.

Msgr. Richard A. Wolbach

     In his 50 years of ministry, Msgr. Wolbach has served 11 parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha and two hospitals as chaplain.

     'Unworthy as I am, I have been given the grace and power to call the Lord down to the altar, to dispense his graces and presence in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, and to proclaim his word in homilies and instructions," said Msgr. Wolbach.

     Born January 31, 1925, in Omaha, the son of Ben and Mary (Sempeck) Wolbach, Msgr. Wolbach graduated from St. Francis Assisi School and South High School, both in Omaha.

     He enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima, the first native Japanese soil invaded by Americans in World War II.

     After the war, Msgr. Wolbach attended St. Benedict in Atchison, Kan., St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. and St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

     His parish assignments included St. Adalbert, St. Phillip Neri, St. Stanislaus, Holy Cross, Ss. Peter and Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes, all in Omaha; plus Immaculate Conception in Boys Town, St. Peter in Clarks, St. Peter in Fullerton, St. John in Pender and St. Stanislaus in Duncan.

     Msgr. Wolbach also has served as chaplain at Bergan-Mercy Hospital in Omaha.

     He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the National Conference of Catholic VA Chaplains. He belongs to the Fourth Marine Division Association, Greater Omaha Marine Corps League VFW, American Legion and the 40&8 Omaha Hospital Chaplain Association.

     He was awarded the title monsignor in 1997 through the Military Archdiocese, won the Hands and Heart Omaha VA Award and was awarded the VA award for excellence.

     A lover of skiing, golf, fly fishing and tennis, Msgr. Wolbach is currently the chief chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Omaha.


Father Richard J. Gabuzda

     Father Gabuzda was born July 23, 1955, to Lawrence R. and Margaret C. (Ferry) Gabuzda, in Freeland, Pa.

     He studied at St. Pius X Seminary/University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa., where he received a bachelor of arts. He also received degrees from the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm in Rome and Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

     Since his ordination, Father Gabuzda has held many positions, including faculty member of St. Pius X Seminary, adjunct professor of theology at the University of Scranton and assistant pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Williamsport, Pa.

     Currently, Father Gabuzda is director of The Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha.

     'Priesthood is life lived on a deep level in relationship with others, all in relationship to God," said Father Gabuzda. 'This is a daily gift and a taste of eternity for which I am deeply grateful."

     Father Gabuzda is a member of the Federation of Seminary Spiritual Directors and a music lover.

Father Owen W. Korte

     Pastor at St. Patrick Parish and president of Archbishop Bergan Catholic School in Fremont since 1998, Father Korte said the way he looks at the priesthood has changed over the years.

     'When I began in 1981, I thought priesthood was something I did and that I chose," he said. 'Over the years I have experienced a conversion. I see clearly that it is something God is doing through me and that it is he who has chosen me.

     'And I am unworthy to be his priest. Chosen through sheer grace, I am dependent on him for my strength and direction. I am still learning, growing and open to wherever he leads."

     Father Korte was born July 28, 1954, in Clarkson, the son of William and Marie Ann (Krajicek) Korte. He graduated from Bishop Newman Grade School in Clarkson and Mount Michael Benedictine High School in Elkhorn.

     He studied at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minn., earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1976. Father Korte earned a master's degree in theology in 1978 from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and earned another in pastoral counseling from Loyola College in 1981. He received his secondary school administration endorsement from Creighton University in 1988.

     Father Korte's first assignment as an archdiocesan priest was as assistant pastor of Mary Our Queen in Omaha. In 1984, he was named associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish and superintendent of St. Mary School in Omaha.

     In 1990, he was named pastor of Sacred Heart/Ss. Phillip and James parishes in Wynot, and teacher at Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Hartington.

     He then was named pastor of St. Boniface in Elgin and teacher, counselor and head priest at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin, serving there until 1998.

     Father Korte is the current vice president and age group representative of the Presbyteral Council, and a former dean and president of the council. He is currently serving on the Archdiocesan School and Parish Foundation Board, and the Review Board. He is a former member of the Deposit and Loan Board and the Archdiocesan School Board.

     Currently on the board of directors for the Fremont Care Corp Homeless Shelter, Father Korte is also the jubilee committee chairman for the Priests' Council.

     Father Korte has been a member of Rotary International for seven years and won the Outstanding Pastor Award in 1997 from the Archdiocesan Religious Formation Office.

Father Damian Zuerlein

     Father Zuerlein sees being a priest for the past 25 years as a wonderful adventure.

     'The priesthood has been a grand adventure for me," he said. 'I enjoy the wonder of working with others in building up the reign of God in our midst. It has never been boring. I thank the people of God for their willingness to share their lives with me."

     Father Zuerlein was born in 1955 to Victor D. and Betty (Wegener) Zuerlein in Norfolk.

     A graduate of Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus, he attended the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., where he received a bachelor of arts in philosophy. Father Zuerlein earned a master's degree in divinity in 1981 from St. Paul Seminary before being ordained for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

     Father Zuerlein's first assignment was as assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk. In 1985, he was transferred to Omaha where he served as associate pastor of St. Pius X until 1988, when he became associate pastor at Mary Our Queen. In 1990, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and served there until 2003.

     In September 2003, he was made administrator of St. Peter and St. Ann parishes in Omaha until beginning his present assignment at St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion in 2004.

     He is president of the Priests' Council, spiritual director of Urban Christians Encounter Christ, chairman of the Archdiocesan Stewardship Board, member of the Lay Ministry Formation Board and a member of the Latino Scholarship Board.

     Father Zuerlein is also a member of the Food Bank Board, Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Institute for Public Life Board, and University of Nebraska at Omaha Latino Advisory Committee.

     Father Zuerlein has been honored with the Religious Formation Office Outstanding Pastor Award in 1988, St. Paul Seminary 1999 Distinguished Alumni Award and the Spirit of St. Vincent de Paul Award in 2003.

     He has received a number of civic awards, including the City of Omaha Living the Dream: Martin Luther King Award in 2002 and the Sertoma Club River City District Service to Mankind Award in 2003.

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