14 northeast Nebraska priests mark milestone anniversaries
April 20, 2023
Congratulations and thank you to 14 priests serving in the archdiocese who have reached special anniversaries this year.
Together they have given 665 years of priestly service.
The anniversaries were celebrated April 18 at St. Patrick Parish in Fremont, with vespers, Mass and dinner. Archbishop George J. Lucas was the main celebrant at the Mass. More than 50 other priests joined in the events.
Commemorating 50 years as priests were gold jubilarians Father Norman Hunke, Father James Kramper and Msgr. Robert Laliberte, who was ordained in the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, and now splits his time between there and the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Jesuit Father Robert Dufford also was honored as a gold jubilarian but could not attend.
Marking 25 years of priesthood were silver jubilarians Father Paul Vasquez and Father Carl Zoucha. Jesuit Father Renzo Rosales also was honored but was unable to attend.
Several other priests marked significant milestones: ruby jubilarians Father Paul Oh and Father William Sanderson, 40 years; Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss and Father William Fitzgerald, 65 years; Columban Father Thomas Cusack, Father Eldon McKamy and Msgr. Robert Nienaber, 60 years.
FATHER NORMAN HUNKE – 50 YEARS
Education: St. John Vianney Seminary in Elkhorn; St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Creighton University.
Current assignment: retired.
Previous assignments: Associate pastor of St. Patrick, Fremont; St. Bernadette, Bellevue; St. Cecilia, Omaha; Holy Cross, Omaha; St. John Vianney, Omaha.
Pastor of St. Mary, Laurel, and St. Anne, Dixon; St. Francis of Assisi, Humphrey; rector of St. Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha; founding pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Gretna; pastor of St. Thomas More, Omaha.
Church-related organizations: Knights of Columbus; Jesu Caritas; Christians Encounter Christ (CEC).
Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Priests’ Council, consultor.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: avid runner for 35 years; avid home and garden owner; avid walker for 10 years.
Thoughts on priesthood: Priesthood has always been and still is God’s gift to me. Jesus Christ has helped me to become the person He wants me to become – or as some would say “the best version of myself.” He has enriched me with so many people, assignments and challenges, and it isn’t over yet.
FATHER JAMES KRAMPER – 50 YEARS
Education: St. John Vianney Minor Seminary in Elkhorn; St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Current assignment: retired; president of Casa de Pas Inc. (“House of Peace.”), Newcastle.
Previous assignments: associate pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, Omaha. Archdiocese vocations director while in residence at St. Bernard and Our Lady of Lourdes, Omaha. Associate pastor of St. Isidore, Columbus.
Pastor of St. Peter, Newcastle; Holy Family, Lindsay; Sacred Heart, Emerson, and St. John the Baptist, Pender; St. Patrick, Tekamah, and Holy Family in Decatur; St. Peter de Alcántara, Ewing, St. Theresa of Avila, Clearwater, and St. John the Baptist, Deloit Township.
Church-related organizations: Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) and Christians Encounter Christ (CEC).
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Serra Club; ping pong, splitting wood, starting thrift stores.
Church honors or awards: Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan Award from Creighton University, Boys Town award for service to youth.
Thoughts on priesthood: Working for God for 50 years has been quite an adventure! I thought my vocation was complete when I was ordained in 1973. That was only the “bud” of the flower. My motto has been “Bloom where you’re planted.” The flower keeps blooming, from parish work to classroom teaching, from fundraising to jail ministry, from home visits to hospital rounds. I tell people that I go with the “God Guarantee: If God asks you to do something and you say OK, He will give you the help to do it!”
JESUIT FATHER ROBERT DUFFORD – 50 YEARS
Current assignment: Creighton University Retreat Center chaplain.
Previous assignments: Musician, composer of liturgical music and member of the St. Louis Jesuits, which included fellow composers Tim Manion and Daniel Schutte and Jesuit Fathers John Foley and Roc O’Connor. Millions would be familiar with one particular song written by Father Dufford: “Be Not Afraid.”
MSGR. ROBERT LALIBERTE – 50 YEARS
Education: St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota; Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; University of St. Thomas, Rome.
Current assignment: Retired, dividing his time between Fargo, North Dakota, and Omaha; board member and teacher at Chesterton Academy of Omaha.
Previous assignments: Teaching and formation, Cardinal Muench Seminary, Fargo, North Dakota; pastoral work at St. Anthony of Padua in Fargo; serving priests and forming deacons for the Diocese of Fargo; teacher at University of Dallas; and teaching deacon formation in the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota.
Church-related organizations: Charismatic Renewal and advisor to the Knights of Columbus and Legion of Mary.
Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Priest Council and College of Consultors in the Fargo diocese.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Learning Spanish to serve Hispanic immigrants; revising Douay-Rheims version of the Bible to conform to the New Vulgate; writing a diocesan priest memorial book.
FATHER PAUL VASQUEZ – 25 YEARS
Education: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Current assignment: Sacramental supply for priests while residing in Omaha.
Previous assignments: Parochial vicar of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, West Point; associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Omaha; St. Joseph and Immaculate Conception, Omaha; St. Mary, Omaha; and St. Cecilia Cathedral. In residence at St. John Vianney and Holy Cross in Omaha and St. Bernadette, Bellevue.
Church-related organizations: Fourth-degree Knight of Columbus; founding member of St. Robert Bellarmine Knights of Columbus Council.
Boards/foundation memberships/offices: former state chaplain, Catholic
Thoughts on priesthood: The priesthood is the conformity of the man to the Cross.
FATHER CARL ZOUCHA – 25 YEARS
Education: Southeast Community College, Milford; service in the U.S. Army; University of Nebraska at Omaha; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois.
Current assignment: pastor of Holy Name, Omaha.
Previous assignments: associate pastor of St. Patrick, Fremont; Our Lady of Guadalupe/St. Agnes, Omaha. Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe/St. Agnes, Omaha; Divine Mercy, Schuyler with Hispanic ministry at St. Bonaventure, Columbus; Assumption/Guadalupe, Omaha.
Church-related organizations: member of the Secular Institute of the Apostolic Sodales with the Pro-Sanctity Movement, Omaha; fourth-degree Knight of Columbus.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Pilgrimages to three March for Life events in Washington, D.C., two National Catholic Youth Conferences, three Steubenville youth rallies, six World Youth Day events, two walks on the Camino de Santiago in Spain (65 and 75 miles) and visits to Fatima, Lourdes, Paris, Lisieux, Ars, Medjugorje, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well to Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica and twice with the IXIM mission to Guatemala. Travels to Australia and the Philippines with the Oblate Apostles of the Two Hearts (OATH) Brothers and the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM) Sisters. Interests include science, particularly astronomy and sub-atomic physics, and guitar strumming.
Thoughts on priesthood: To be a priest of the true High Priest, Jesus Christ, is a privilege and blessing which still reveals to me every day God’s glory, Jesus’ closeness, and the grace present in the Roman Catholic Church. I am humbled often when people trust me, and any priest, with their greatest joys and their most heart-wrenching sorrows or struggles so easily and confidently. I pray that I may continue to serve Jesus and His Church until God the Father calls me to my heavenly home, and I trust in His Mercy that I may be united to the Communion of Saints forever in the divine love of the Trinity.
JESUIT FATHER RENZO ROSALES – 25 YEARS
Education: Universidad de Panamá in Panama, Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua, Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in El Salvador, University of Florida in Gainesville.
Current assignment: Program director, cultural anthropology, Creighton University; Mass celebrant for Spanish-language Masses in Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa; leader of silent retreats for lay people as an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Previous assignments: Assistant pastor, Parroquia San Isidoro Labrador, Tocoa, Honduras; Parroquia Buen Pastor, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Coordinator Center for Transcultural Learning, College of Saint Mary, Omaha.
Church-related organizations: Spiritual director of Christian Life Communities in El Salvador; Jesuit Service for Refugees; Laudato Si Action Plan University Committee.
Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Hobbies: cooking, reading, working out, watching movies, hiking. Organizations: Society for Applied Anthropology, American Anthropological Association, Latin American Studies Association.
Thoughts on priesthood: Think of yourself witnessing to the personal value of your vocation to a newly-ordained priest. Being a priest means for me to transmit, through my words and actions, the closeness of God to His people.
Being a priest means also to be aware of and very attentive to the messages that the Lord keeps sending me every day through His people that I have to minister, through prayer, the reading of His Word, the creation, and the events that I see in our world.