The casket of the Rev. Stephen J. Gutgsell processes through St. Cecilia Cathedral at his funeral Mass Dec. 18, 2023. BOB ERVIN


Father Stephen Gutgsell remembered as a man of faith and hope

Throughout his life, Father Stephen Gutgsell would let nothing separate him from the love of God and Jesus Christ our Lord. 

“Father Gutgsell believed what Saint Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ And he lived with that faith and that hope,” Bishop of Grand Island Joseph G. Hanefeldt told a packed St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha Monday as nearly 1,000 people gathered for the Funeral Mass for Father Gutgsell.  

Bishop Hanefeldt, a seminary classmate of Father Gutgsell, remembered his a friend of nearly 50 years during the homily.

Bishop of Grand Island Joseph G. Hanefeldt delivers his homily.

The Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus of Omaha Elden F. Curtiss, Bishop of Lincoln James D. Conley, and Bishop Hanefeldt. Eighty-five of Father Gutgsell’s fellow priests from the Archdiocese of Omaha, family members, friends, and current and former parishioners attended. 

Father Gutgsell, pastoral administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Calhoun, died Sunday, Dec. 10, of multiple stab wounds following an early morning home invasion at the parish’s rectory, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He was 65.  

A Sioux City, Iowa, man has been arrested in connection with the assault and was charged with first-degree murder, burglary and two weapons charges. Law enforcement investigators believe it was a random attack and do not believe Father Gutgsell was targeted because he was a priest, Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson said.  

Bishop Hanefeldt told the packed cathedral that Father Gutgsell’s academic focus in seminary was biblical theology. He would hold bible studies wherever he was assigned because he enjoyed helping people gain a deeper appreciation for scripture.  

“He understood the power of God’s Holy Word to transform people, and he made that an important part of his priestly ministry,” Bishop Hanefeldt said. 

Above all, Father Gutgsell was dedicated to the pastoral care of souls and their salvation and tirelessly administered the sacraments.

Father Stephen J. Gutgsell

“He offered the Mass reverently and with firm purpose of intention,” Bishop Hanefeldt said. “He believed in the words of our Lord; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”   

“He prayed the Mass. He didn’t just say it or read it.”



Watch Bishop Hanefeldt’s homily.


Father Gutgsell was known for his commitment to pro-life causes and the protection and reverence of life in all circumstances. This reverence for life and his concern with “the readiness of people to meet the Lord” makes the way he died particularly noteworthy, Bishop Hanefeldt said. 

“I understand he always invited people to pray for those who would die unexpectedly, violently or unprepared,” Bishop Hanefelt said. “How noteworthy that he would die unexpectedly and violently. We trust, however, that he was not unprepared.” 

During his 39 years of priesthood, Father Gutgsell served numerous parishes across the archdiocese. In recent years, he also regulated celebrated weekday Masses at Via Christie assisted living community and the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha. 

For the past 12 years, Father Gutgsell served as associate pastor, then as pastoral administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Calhoun. He also assisted at St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair and St. Patrick in Tekamah. Archbishop Lucas concluded Mass by thanking those in attendance, especially parishioners at St. John the Baptist, St. Francis Borgia and St. Patrick.  

“Thanks for being so good to him (Father Gutgsell) and for providing a place where he could minister,” Archbishop Lucas said to parishioners during his funeral remarks. “Where he could do what he loved to do, to be a priest. To preach, to celebrate the sacraments. To teach, to serve you in a variety of ways. I just extend that thanks to all of you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Thanks for your support of our priests and for your goodness to all of us. It’s our delight to respond to the Lord’s call to serve as priests of Jesus Christ.” 


Watch Archbishop Lucas’ remarks.


Watch the entire Funeral Mass here. 

Interment took place at Calvary Cemetery.


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