Parishioners, others mourn the death of Father David Reeson

Parishioners at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha are grieving the loss of their pastor after his sudden death over the weekend.

Father David Reeson, 71, died of a heart attack on June 15, while away on vacation, Father Mark McKercher, associate pastor, announced at weekend Masses at St. Robert. He acknowledged that many had likely learned of the death as word spread quickly over social media.

“Fr. Dave loved being our pastor and he will be forever missed,” the parish said, breaking the news to many on social media on the day of his death. “Please pray for Fr. Dave and for the staff and parishioners at St. Robert’s.”

Father Reeson had been on a cruise ship in the Pacific Northwest, ministering to passengers on the trip.

A funeral Mass will be 10 a.m. Thursday, June 27, at his home parish, St. Patrick in Fremont.

Visitation will be Wednesday, June 26, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the church, with a Knights of Columbus walking rosary at 7 p.m. and a 7:30 p.m. vigil service. Visitation also will precede the funeral Mass on Thursday, starting about 9 a.m.
Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Omaha.

Archbishop George J. Lucas was one of many to convey condolences.

“I have been shocked by the sudden death of Father David Reeson,” the archbishop said,  “and I join many others in the community in mourning his loss.

“During the years of his ministry, he shared the joy of the Gospel as a parish priest and military chaplain. I am praying for his family and for the parishioners of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, where his good humor and fatherly care will be missed.

“We entrust him to the Lord Whom he has served so faithfully.” 


Father Reeson’s vocation was prompted by another tragic, unexpected death more than 50 years earlier, that of his brother, Steve, at age 17.

Steve died during what was supposed to be an uncomplicated surgery. 

In a 2019 Catholic Voice article, Father Reeson talked about how his brother’s death helped lead him to the priesthood.

The nuns and priests who visited the Reeson family at the time, many from St. Patrick Parish, helped the family “make sense of the senseless,” Father Reeson said. They conveyed that “there’s a better life after this one.”

“Through the statements of our faith, the things that we believe, they were able to help me and my family,” he said.

“And I don’t remember that they said anything brilliant, but they made a difference,” he said. “They showed compassion. They showed they cared. They helped us through a difficult time.”

“And I thought that maybe, just maybe, by being a priest I could make a difference in someone’s life.”


Father Reeson said in the article that he didn’t rush off to the seminary right away, but he did get more involved in the church by becoming a lector, learning more about his faith and visiting nursing home residents.

Father Reeson eventually attended St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota,  for a year and a half. But he said he was still unsure if he had a vocation to the priesthood. He finished his bachelor’s degree in speech and theater at St. Thomas.

He went back to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he had been a student when his brother died, for a master’s degree in speech communication. But he said he still felt that something was missing.

So he decided to return to the seminary, this time at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. Father Reeson said that at that time, he thought, “If it’s for me, I think God will tell me.”

“After the first year, well, I wasn’t sure. But I thought maybe I was called to the priesthood. And ultimately, every year it felt stronger and stronger, until four years later I was ordained.”

Following ordination in 1980, Father Reeson served at several Omaha parishes, including St. Bernard, Christ the King and St. Pius X. He was vocations director for the archdiocese from 1987 to 1995.


He became an Air Force chaplain, a ministry that took him to Germany, Japan, Turkey, Greenland, the Middle East, as well as Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

Father Reeson retired from the military in 2012 with the rank of a colonel. After returning to Omaha, he served at the Omaha VA Medical Center before being assigned to St. Columbkille in 2015. 

In 2021, he became pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine.

Father Reeson was one of six sons born to the late Denis and Darlene Reeson, who were members of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont. Father Reeson graduated from St. Patrick School and attended Archbishop Bergan Catholic High School in Fremont before graduating from Fremont High School.

His survivors include his brothers Scott, Greg, Chuck and Mark Reeson.


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