2019 priest assignments, parish groupings announced

Catholics around the archdiocese will see more changes at the altar than usual this summer as nine priests retire, others take new assignments and numerous rural parishes begin sharing pastors, associate pastors, and other resources and programs.

The new groupings are the result of an ongoing pastoral planning process to address the decline in the number of priests and population decreases in rural northeast Nebraska. The goal is to adequately serve the needs of the faithful without creating excessive workloads for priests.

The process is moving ahead more quickly than expected, said Father Scott Hastings, vicar for clergy and judicial vicar for the archdiocese.

• List of new assignments

• Map of parish groupings

• Deacon Timothy McNeil: ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ when priests leave parishes

Numerous parishes took the initiative to develop their plans for working together, he said. “It’s been a very collaborative and positive process.”

One such collaboration involves St. Peter de Alcántara Parish in Ewing, St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater and St. John the Baptist Parish in Deloit Township, where Father John Norman is currently pastor, along with St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville and St. Boniface Parish in Ewing, where Father Kevin Vogel is pastor. St. John the Baptist Parish in Petersburg, previously served by Father Mark Tomasiewicz, also joins this grouping.

These parishes will now share one pastor, Father Norman, and one associate pastor, Father Vogel.

“Change is always difficult, but parishioners see this as providing a future life of faith in our parish communities,” Father Norman said. “There’s a sense that the Lord is showing us a way forward.”

“If we reduce the time that clergy spend doing administrative tasks, it gives us more time and energy to put into evangelization, to be able to live that mission and call,” he said. “And we’ll have more resources together and be stronger than we are individually.”

Father Vogel said he is looking forward to serving with Father Norman.

“It’s closer to the biblical model that Jesus sets out for his disciples, sending them out two-by-two … serving together rather than in isolation,” he said.

Father Norman also will assume the presidency of St. Boniface School and Pope John XXIII Catholic Junior/Senior High School from Father Vogel, who will continue serving as teacher and chaplain at the Elgin schools.

Other changes include Father Daniel Andrews, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, becoming pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha.

He comes to Omaha after nine years in Norfolk and several years at other urban and rural parishes. He replaces Father Jake Anderson of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who served as parochial administrator after founding director and pastor Father Joseph Taphorn’s Jan. 1 move to become rector of The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Helping young people encounter Christ is the mission of the center, which provides housing and a spiritual home for students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and other Omaha colleges.

“In my past assignments, I’ve had the opportunity to grow as a spiritual father, and that’s at the heart of this new role,” Father Andrews said. “I give credit to the people who I’ve been honored to serve with who have helped me grow in that way.”

Father Andrews said he leaves Sacred Heart with gratitude but also some grieving. “I’ve been really blessed to be able to serve here – it’s a tremendous parish.”

Another change will see Father Ralph O’Donnell returning to the archdiocese next January after serving five years as associate director, then executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. He previously served as vice rector of Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri.

“I’m looking forward to returning home to the archdiocese and to minister again directly in the community,” said Father O’Donnell, who grew up in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Omaha. He also served at several Omaha parishes and as vocations director and director of the urban permanent diaconate for the archdiocese.

“It’s been a privilege to assist the bishops’ conference, as well as  serving in seminary formation work, but I’m very much looking forward to returning to pastoral ministry.”

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