Father Whiteing’s service won’t end with retirement
Preaching, hearing confessions, presiding at weddings, serving the elderly.
Those are among the activities Father Richard Whiteing, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Fullerton and St. Peter Parish in Carks, said he will miss in retirement.
But Father Whiteing, 70, said difficulties with his health, including slowly advancing Parkinson’s, helped convince him it’s time to step away from day-to-day duties as a pastor.
Still, serving others will remain at the top of his list, Father Whiteing said. After taking time to rest and recuperate in his Omaha apartment, he will be available to help parishes with Masses, lend a hand at assisted living centers, and prepare meals at a food pantry or kitchen for the needy, he said.
And he likes to cook.
"I wouldn’t say I’m a chef," he said. "I know how to put a meal together."
He’s done it for parishioners, including while pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Jackson, when he prepared and served a Valentine’s Day meal for about 30 couples as a fundraiser and social event. "It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed doing that," Father Whiteing said.
His service as pastor of St. Patrick and St. Mary Parish in Hubbard from 2001 to 2006 were just two of Father Whiteing’s 10 stops as associate pastor or pastor of parishes in Omaha, Fremont, Winnebago, Fullerton, South Sioux City and Clarks. Ordained in 1980, Father Whiteing also served on the archdiocese’s College of Consultors from 1998 to 2003.
Father Whiteing said he first felt a call to the priesthood in early childhood, but it varied in intensity. At the now-closed St. Bridget School in Carroll, Iowa, where his family moved when he was in fifth grade, the religious sisters didn’t receive a positive answer when they asked him about going to the seminary.
"My response was, ‘Why would I want to do that?’" Father Whiteing said.
But the call persisted, even as he graduated from high school and worked one year at a factory’s shipping department in Omaha, four years in the Air Force in Taiwan, the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands, and nearly three years with a finance company.
"I always still said, I want to be a priest," Father Whiteing said. "I think I was afraid to go to college."
Laying aside those concerns, Father Whiteing attended the seminary at now-University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minn.
Fast forward to Clarks and Fullerton, where he has served the last 11 years, getting to know and serving the people. It’s been rewarding, he said.
"It’s a mutual exchange of knowing each other and trusting one another," he said.
One thing he has stressed throughout his priestly service is generosity to the church, including meeting the archdiocese’s needs in efforts such as the Ignite the Faith capital campaign, Father Whiteing said.
"That’s something I learned from my dad," he said of growing up in a family with eight siblings. "We had a big family, and once in a while we struggled. But my dad always made sure we had a quarter to give to the church."