Honoring clergy on special anniversaries

Two priests celebrating 50 years of service to the church and six marking 25-year anniversaries will be among 16 priests honored April 25 at the annual priest jubilee celebration.

Archbishop George J. Lucas will be the celebrant and Father Craig Loecker will be the homilist for the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church in Fremont.

Father Michael Eckley, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Omaha, will speak at the celebration on "Experiencing and Living God’s Mercy Through the Gift of Our Priesthood."

Priests marking 50 years are Jesuit Fathers William Gerut and Thomas Shanahan. Father Loecker is celebrating 25 years as a priest, as are Fathers Thomas Fangman, David Korth, John Pietramale, Douglas Scheinost and Benedictine Father Thomas Leitner.

The Catholic Voice each year highlights silver and golden anniversaries, but during the Mass eight other priests, including Benedictine Abbott Michael Liebl at Mount Michael Abbey near Elkhorn, will be honored for celebrating 40 years of priesthood.

Others marking 40 years include Fathers Harold Buse, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue; Wayne Pavela, chaplain of St. Francis High School in Humphrey and Holy Family High School in Lindsay; Jerome Dillon, associate pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish; Carl Sodoro, chaplain of Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center; Steven Stillmunks, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish; and Jesuit Fathers Robert Tillman, counselor at Creighton Preparatory School, and Michael Flecky, a professor at Creighton University, all in Omaha.





 Education: St. Louis University, St.

Current assignment: Chaplain at Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha.

Previous assignments: St. Francis Mission, St. Franicis, S.D.; Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha; St. Peter and Paul Parish, Mankato, Minn.; St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Rapid City, S.D.; Holy Rosary Mission, Pine Ridge, S.D.; St. Gabriel Parish and St. John Nepomucene Parish, Prairie du Chiene, Wis.; Creighton University Hospital.

Thoughts on priesthood: "I have especially experienced the power and presence of the Lord in ministering the sacraments and in preaching in parish and hospital settings. The response of people to God’s graces is stimulating to my own prayer and faith."



Education: St. Louis University, St. Louis; Fordham University, New York.

Current assignment: Spiritual director, retreat facilitator, chaplain for men’s and women’s basketball and soccer programs, Creighton University, Omaha; sacramental assistance at St. John Parish, Creighton campus, Notre Dame Sisters and Servants of Mary. Retreat facilitator in St. Paul, Minn., and Oshkosh, Wis.

Previous assignments: Creighton University; Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Xavier University Board of Regents, Cincinnati; Creighton Prep Board of Directors.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Golf, sports fan.

Thoughts on priesthood: "I look to the joy of the sacraments (especially baptism and Eucharist) in the community of saints/sinners we all are. As the Body of Christ, I look to that joy as an incentive for my priestly discipleship."






 Education: Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha; University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.; Creighton University, Omaha; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. Philip Neri, Omaha; Sacred Heart, Norfolk. Pastor, Sacred Heart, Omaha.

Other assignments: President, All Saints School; CEO, Christian Urban Education Service (CUES); executive director, Heart Ministry Center, all in Omaha; teacher, Norfolk Catholic High School, Norfolk; member, archdiocesan Personnel Board, Council of Priests, Omaha.

Church-related organizations: Equestrian Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Catholic Charities advisory council, Ignite the Faith capital campaign steering committee, both Omaha.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Boards of Creighton Prep; Omaha 100 Inc.; Creighton University President’s Community Advisory Board; Inclusive Communities; Mammel Foundation Root to Fruit Initiative, all Omaha.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Snow skiing, biking, reading, playing tennis, exercising, spending time with family and friends.

Church honors or awards received: Creighton Prep’s Sword of St. Ignatius for service to the church; National Catholic Educational Association’s Pastor of the Year; Catholic Charities’ Neighborhood and Family Development Award; Boys Town’s Spirit of Father Flanagan Award; Creighton University’s Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan Service Award; archdiocese’s Stewardship and Development Leadership Award; Norfolk Catholic High School’s Teacher of the Year.

Civic honors or awards: Heartland Family Service Advocacy Award for commitment to Nebraska families; Merrymakers; Aksarben Coronation, Court of Honor for education; Inclusive Communities’ Otto Swanson Spirit of Service Award.

Thoughts on priesthood: "My priesthood has blessed me, beyond what I could ever have imagined. There is nothing I would rather do, as I am fulfilled every single day. What a ‘gift’ to share life and faith with so many, at all of the holy moments of life. I am humbled and blessed in my ministry, by the ways the faithful have invited me into their hearts, lives, and families. I am just so thankful to God, for blessing me so."



 Education: Randolph High School, Randolph; Mount Marty College, Yankton, S.D.; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.

Current assignments: Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish; president/CEO, Christian Urban Education Service (CUES), both Omaha.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. Leo the Great, Omaha; St. Patrick, Fremont. Pastor, St. Stanislaus, Duncan; St. Lawrence, Silver Creek; St. Augustine, Winnebago; St. Joseph, Walthill; Our Lady of Fatima, Macy; St. Cornelius, Homer. Senior associate pastor, St. Augustine, Winnebago; St. Joseph, Walthill; Our Lady of Fatima, Macy; St. Cornelius, Homer.

Other assignments: Religion teacher, Archbishop Bergan Catholic School, Fremont; campus minister, Scotus Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School, Columbus; assistant director and director, St. Augustine Indian Mission, Winnebago.

Church-related organizations: Member, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Order of Foresters, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; active in Christians Encounter Christ, Catholic Engaged Encounter.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Member, archdiocese’s College of Consulters; Board of Regents, Conception Seminary College; dean, archdiocese’s Rural Northeast Deanery; president, archdiocesan Council of Priests and Conception Seminary College Alumni Association; secretary, Board of Directors for EduCare of Winnebago; treasurer, Eastern Thurston County Ministerial Association.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Archery hunting for deer and turkey, playing Native American flute, riding motorcycle across Nebraska.

Church honors or awards: Msgr. William Ketcham Service Award, Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions; Distinguished Pastor award, National Catholic Educational Association; Archbishop Sheehan Award, Creighton University; Alum Service to Church Award, Mount Marty College.

Civic honors or awards: Honored by elders of Winnebago Tribe with Winnebago name: Man of Faith. Multiple winner, Non-Native Dance Contest, Winnebago Powwow.

Thoughts on priesthood: "I am truly grateful to God for the calling to priesthood and for getting through my thick skull to embrace it, rather than run from it! It continues to be an amazing grace to journey with people from many different walks of life, cultures and economic situations. While I strive to bring them closer to the God of love and the grace and mercy offered by Jesus Christ, time and again the people have turned the tables on me and witnessed to me the God I strive to serve!"




 Education: University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany; University of Tubingen, Tubingen, Germany; St. Louis University, St. Louis.

Current assignments: Administrator, St. Benedict Center; formation director, Christ the King Priory, both Schuyler.

Previous assignments: Parish and missionary service; assistant formation director, Ndanda Abbey, Tanzania/East Africa.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Swimming, reading, hiking.

Thoughts on priesthood: ‘"You have chosen the most beautiful profession,’ my grandmother wrote into my ordination scrapbook; she was right. I find much of the priesthood’s beauty, often surprisingly, while facilitating retreats and while treading the sacred ground of people’s lives in spiritual direction, listening, and noting God’s presence, God’s gifts, and God’s guidance, even sometimes in the midst of difficult and painful experiences."




 Education: Cedar Catholic Junior-Senior High School, Hartington; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.

Current assignment: Pastor, St. Leo the Great Parish, Omaha.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. Patrick, O’Neill; St. Joseph, Amelia; St. Thomas More, Omaha. Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi, Neligh; St. Theresa of Avila, Clearwater; St. Philip Neri and Blessed Sacrament, both Omaha.

Other assignments: Teacher, St. Mary High School, O’Neill, Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School, Elgin; missionary service, Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

Church-related organizations: Member, Knights of Columbus.

Boards/Foundation memberships/offices: Member, school board of Roncalli Catholic High School; board of directors, New Cassel Retirement Center; archdiocese’s Graces Committee for safe environment, all Omaha.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Camping and movies, following the Nebraska Cornhuskers and playing with his dogs, Jackie and Louis.

Thoughts on priesthood: "The priesthood has been a wonderful gift from God. I had a wonderful pastor growing up who modeled the priesthood to me. (The late) Msgr. Cyril Werner was my pastor during my childhood. I have strived to serve the Lord faithfully as he did for so many years.

"Children ask me what my favorite part is of being a priest and I can never say it is one thing but many. I love celebrating Mass every day. I love the sacraments and I love talking about the Lord and his love for all of us.

"It has been such a joy to get to know the many people in the parishes and schools that I have served. I have enjoyed teaching the children in our schools and in the parish religious education programs. I have experienced the presence of God in the people I have met and they have been Jesus to me. God is good."



 Education: Then-Pope Paul VI High School, Omaha; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill.

Current assignment: Pastor, Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert Parish, Omaha.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. Margaret Mary and Christ the King, both Omaha. Pastor, Holy Trinity, Hartington; St. Michael, Coleridge; St. Pius X, Omaha.

Church-related organizations: Chaplain, Secular Franciscans-Third Order, Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Omaha, Rural North Central Council of Catholic Women, Catholic Daughters of America, Knights of Columbus, Urban Council of Catholic Women, Omaha Catholic Home School Association, World Apostolate of Fatima; dean, Urban South-Central Deanery; member, archdiocesan Council of Priests.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Board member of St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter, Omaha; Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School and Cedar County Schools Development Board, both Hartington; then-Archdiocesan School Board, Christ Child Society, Catholic Charities and Catholic School Consortium, Madonna School Board and Cathedral Arts Project, all Omaha.

Thoughts on priesthood: "To be in the presence of God’s people at significant times in their lives … the birth of children, baptizing, seeing them enter school for a new year of adventure, witnessing marriages, instructing children in first holy Communion and confirmation, supporting parishioners in their faith life and praying with the sick and dying. This is a grace-filled time for me in my priesthood as we celebrate and stand by each other in the faith of Jesus Christ. The joy of priesthood is found in the faith and love of God’s people."




Education: St. Columban Seminary, Silver Creek, N.Y.; St. Columban College, Oconomowoc, Wis.; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; St. John Seminary, Brighton, Mass.; Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.

Current assignment: Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Boyd County.

Previous parish assignments: Associate pastor, St. Francis of Assisi, Humphrey. Pastor, St. Boniface, Stuart; St. Wenceslaus, Verdigre; St. William, Niobrara.

Church-related organizatons: Dean, rural northwest deanery. Active in Catholic Engaged Encounter, Pro-Sanctity Apostolic Sodalis.

Boards/foundation memberships/offices: Treasurer, archdiocesan priests’ jubilee.

Clubs/organizations/hobbies/special interests: Fourth-degree, Knights of Columbus; playing cards; frequent blood donor; visiting brother priests, especially the elderly. Avid recycler.

Church honors or awards: Spirit Catholic Radio’s 2014 Spirit Award.

Thoughts on priesthood: "What an awesome, humbling privilege and 24/7 experience to be an ordained brother priest of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am eternally grateful to God in his infinite patience and mercy in calling me to become and to be one of his chosen few!"

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