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Father James Tiegs prepares his fishing gear. Photo by Mike May/Staff.

Father Tiegs plans to travel, continue serving

Being welcomed into the lives of the people he served, and the many friendships that resulted – those are among the memories that mean the most to Father James Tiegs.

Most recently pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, Father Tiegs retired last month after 43 years of service.

"Being invited into people’s most human moments, and helping them connect their experience, their story, with the divine story. That’s the great privilege of priesthood," he said.

"Some of the greatest joys were first Communions, confirmations – all the sacramental events are highlights for most priests, and certainly for me too."

His most satisfying experiences as a priest include helping couples save faltering marriages, hearing confessions and presiding at funerals. "Those were the experiences that asked most of me, and through God’s grace, I was able to be an instrument of hope and healing for people."

A native of Yankton, S.D., Father Tiegs attended then-St. John Vianney Seminary near Elkhorn, then-College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., St. Thomas Seminary in Denver and Creighton University in Omaha. He was ordained in Omaha in 1974 by the late Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan.

His first assignment in the archdiocese was as assistant pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Omaha. He was associate pastor, administrator or pastor of five other Omaha parishes, including St. Stephen the Martyr, and four rural parishes.

Father Tiegs also served as coordinator, then superintendent of then-Pope Paul VI High School in Omaha, was campus minister at Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus, director of the permanent diaconate for the archdiocese and archdiocesan consultor.

He served as chaplain at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Norfolk and New Cassel Retirement Center in Omaha before being appointed pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in 2004.

Other cherished memories include celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with about 6,000 other priests during the first international priests’ retreat in 1984, and celebrating Mass in the village of Ars, France, at the chapel of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests.

"I look at retirement not as an end of my priestly ministry, but just a continuation of it in a different way," Father Tiegs said.

He plans to live at the St. John Vianney Residence in Omaha, assist at local parishes when needed and be available for spiritual direction and confessions. He also hopes to conduct some days of recollection or retreats.

Leisure time will include "… fishing for anything that will bite," in area lakes or ponds, he said.

Father Tiegs said he has studied and will continue to research his ancestry, including a possible trip to northwestern Poland. He plans to visit European shrines such as Fatima in Portugal, and do some writing based on his more than 40 years of homilies.

Father Tiegs said he is grateful for the faith and generosity of people he has served over the years. "The joy of having made so many friends over my 43 years as a priest, and still maintaining many of those friendships – it’s a real grace," he said.

"I know I made the right decision a long time ago in what I perceived to be God’s call," Father Tiegs said. "It’s been a good ride."

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