People Share Thoughts About Qualities They Admire in Priests

Priests intersect with people’s lives at many times, often those times that are most critical in families, especially as they come to the sacraments: the baptisms of their children; when their children receive first Eucharist, are confirmed; or want to be married in the church. Other times that are difficult can be made more bearable with the counsel of a priest: when a family member is sick, in the hospital, in need of last rites.

These are all emotional times that can be made more meaningful or less difficult when a priest walks alongside a family.

Each year, one Sunday is set aside as Priesthood Sunday, which this year is celebrated Oct. 25th.

To celebrate the ministry of all priests in the diocese, The Messenger invites people to comment on the qualities in their priests that they most admire.

Following are the comments we received this year.

From Dolores Schmitt, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Gallatin County: Father Steven Beatty is the Pastor for St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Gallatin County. He announced today the joy in the number of young men entering the seminary. Hopefully, they will be as happy with their vocation as Father Steven appears to be. I pray they will. Father Steven has not lost his reverence for saying Mass. He is as reverent today as he was when he first came to Gallatin County as his first parish. I am very thankful to be at Mass when the priest is truly joyful and representing Jesus at the altar. With all the work and headaches which come with building a new church for St. Kateri, which by the way will be a very beautiful house of worship for our Lord, he is always ready to help families who have lost a loved one. Father Steven Beatty is truly guided by the Holy Spirit as a spiritual director and confessor and those who do not take advantage of this wisdom are missing one of his many gifts. His homilies, which are spirit filled, continue the readings and Gospel of the day, which make one meditate on what our Lord is saying to us through Holy Scripture. I want to thank Bishop Braxton for sending Father Steven to Gallatin County and pray that Father will always keep his beautiful smile. May God bless each of our priests.

From Mark and Nadine York, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Ridgway: Our parish is blessed to be guided by Father Steven Beatty through the transition from four parishes into one. His gentle wisdom and stalwart faith have been invaluable throughout this process. Blending four distinct peoples into one flock is a traumatic procedure at best, but add to that the stresses of flooding, a tornado and constructing and financing a new church building, and one gets a sense of the need for a shepherd possessing wisdom and leadership skills beyond the norm. That is exactly what we need at this point in our history, and that is exactly what we have been given in the person of Father Steven.

From Kim and Kevin Drone, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Ridgway: As you well know on Feb. 29, 2012 St. Joseph Church in Ridgway was destroyed by a F-4 tornado. Our priest Father Steven Beatty was and still is a level headed beacon of hope for the Catholic community of Gallatin County. Father Beatty who was only 32 years old at the time has led us in a way by someone much wiser than his age.

As if Father Beatty doesn’t have enough to do with operating four parishes, he also takes care of Camp Ondessonk, not to mention building a new church to replace St. Joseph in Ridgway. Our new church is called St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

For fun and relaxation he plays music in a local band called “The Reunion Band” and also rides a motorcycle. In April he rode 1000 miles in less than 24 hours, earning a prestigious acclaim. We are very proud of Father Steven as a priest, more importantly we’re very proud to call him our friend.

From Michael G. Michaud, St. Barbara, Okawville: I am a member of St. Barbara’s parish in Okawville, and our pastor is Father Steven Poole.  One of his best qualities is his homily. He provides insightful and spirited homilies that leave the faithful of St. Barbara’s energized. I appreciate his dedication and the preparation he does in order to keep his homily fresh and worth listening to.

From Melody Hernan, St. Mary the Immaculate Conception, Mt. Vernon: The following are Father John Iffert’s  best qualities: Father John is first and foremost a teacher to the members of his church educating us about church teachings and explaining the pope’s messages and decrees to us. He takes the time to clarify the teachings of the church both old and new. When he speaks he becomes the most wonderful of storytellers inserting glimpses of his own youth and life experiences into the story, making it both realistic and relatable. Father John is always welcoming and kind to everyone.

From Jim and Liz Moore, St. Mary the Immaculate Conception, Mt. Vernon: Father John Iffert is living the “Love is our Mission” (Pope Francis 2015). He conveys compassion, gratitude and inspiration to all of us.

From First Wednesday Prayer Group, St. John the Baptist Red Bud:  Msgr. Dennis Schaefer, our pastor, always has a pleasant smile and joyous laugh. He has a way of bringing sunshine into the lives of others, on sometimes their darkest days. He is a faith-filled friend dedicated to God and his people. With the added responsibility that our priests have today, Father Dennis continues to serve us well by bringing us closer to God, not only by his words but by his example. And no matter how busy he is, he takes the time to listen and guide. May God bless you always, Father Dennis.

From Dolores Grosco, St. John the Baptist, West Frankfort: Father Eusebius Mbidoaka, PhD, STD merits recognition for his priestly ministry. Father Eusebius is a pious and holy man — one chosen by God. He is very learned, energetic and a hard worker. His homilies are thoughtful and well prepared. The Mass is very uplifting. Father is a leader. Our parish is undergoing major renovations to the church and school, and he is our number one cheerleader. Father is kind and compassionate. I experienced his care and concern during my recent illness. He and his sister were there for me. I shall always be grateful. West Frankfort is fortunate to have Father Eusebius Mbidoaka as its priest. Thank you, Father.

From Sister Carol Karnitsky, sscm, Holy Spirit, Carterville:  Father Richard Mohr is a great addition to Church of the Holy Spirit, Carterville. His Sunday homilies are strongly scriptural. He opens his heart and his life to people of our parish. He is an excellent confessor who reflects the mercy of God. Although he has been with us only a few months, his presence is that of an old friend and wise shepherd.

From Sister Laura Reynolds:  The parish partnership of St. Andrew, Christopher, St. Joseph, Benton and St. Mary, Sesser welcomed  Father Urban Osuji, CM as administrator on July 18-19. Thank you Father Urban, for your inspiring and well-delivered homilies that help us to live our Catholic faith. God bless you in your ministry among us!

From Cindy Wisniewski:  I moved from a big Catholic town and Diocese of Joliet, Ill., to Jonesboro, Ill., but my Catholic parish is St. Mary’s in Anna. On June 23, 2015 I was at my Catholic church St. Mary’s Church, in Anna in the Blessed Mary Chapel. At 3 p.m. I couldn’t breathe and it was hot that day. I drove myself to the emergency room; the doctor gave me a shot of morphine and conducted some other tests. They said I had blood clots, and I was pretty scared. They called my pastor Father Federico Higuera, who came as fast as he could even though the priest is sick himself. He gave me anointing of the sick and Holy Communion. I would like to recognize my pastor, Father Federico Higuera, for being there with me that day. He was like a father from heaven and I felt secure. He is a spiritual leader and father in the church. He is an extension of God’s love and care for me and others. He stood with me for four hours in the emergency room. He always puts himself last and others first. He is a good priest, and good priests are real hard to find.

I would also like to recognize Father Peter Hsu. On Sept. 16, 2015 I had to have surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Murphysboro. I was real scared again. My cousin Susan, an RN and Father Peter Hsu who is 86 years old came along. We waited in the waiting room, and we talked to one of the patients in the waiting room. We wished each other good luck. My surgery was at 10:15 a.m. Well I did not get into surgery because a patient died on the operating table. I got in at 12:30 p.m. Everybody was upset and crying. Father Hsu reassured everybody and blessed them. He gave me reassurance and Holy Communion, and anointing of the sick because my priest was in St. Louis, at the priest retreat. I would like to recognize Father Peter Hsu, how he handled the emergency situation with the hospital staff and myself. He is an excellent priest. In two years he will celebrate his 60-year anniversary on June 9, 2017. Good priests are hard to find nowadays, and we are really short of priests. God Bless our Father Peter Hsu. He keeps himself busy.

From Jo Torbeck, St. Theresa of Avila, Salem:  Our pastor, Father Larry Lemay normally starts his homilies with a story about George and Martha and while we snicker at the story it always comes around to a great message about the Gospel for that Sunday that we can relate to. While George and Martha are fictitious characters, the humor makes us relax and really hear the word of God!

From Brenda Sims, Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court 795, Du Quoin: I would like to recognize and thank Father Joseph Oganda for his pastoral leadership at Sacred Heart Church, Du Quoin and Immaculate Conception, Tamaroa. His continued support of our multiple parish councils, organizations and PSR classes and youth groups has truly been a blessing for all of us. All of Father Joseph’s Mass homilies are passionate, thought-provoking and inspiring, and he works tirelessly to provide care and comfort to our homebound parishioners as well as those in hospitals and/or nursing homes. For these reasons, and many more, we offer our utmost respect and sincere gratitude to Father Joseph.

From Chris Kelley, Sacred Heart, Du Quoin:  I want to sing the praises of our priest, Father Joseph Oganda, at Sacred Heart Church in Du Quoin. Since he has blessed us with his presence in our parish, I feel my personal faith has grown by leaps and bounds. I can think of three main reasons. First, and most importantly, he celebrates Mass every single day, even if he is the only one present. I love the opportunity to go to daily Mass as often as I can. Secondly, Father has stayed faithful to the commitment to have Eucharistic Adoration at least twice monthly. I have wanted to have this great gift in our parish ever since I read Matthew Kelley’s book. Finally, (well not really because I could go on and on) Father literally breaks open the Word for us. His homilies and explanations of the Liturgy of the Word are life-giving. I wait each time I am at Mass to feast on his message. Father Joseph is a man of deep spirituality, and I want what he has. We at Sacred Heart are so blessed to call him our priest.

From Robert J. Wojcik, Choir Director, St. Henry Church, Belleville: The people of St. Henry Catholic Church and the Diocese of Belleville are blessed to have Father Kenneth York as their shepherd. Over the last few years, it has been a privilege to witness his wonderful qualities as a pastor. I see a man that has a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, and respect for the church and her teachings. He has a generous heart for the love of service to God, his people and makes sacrifices for the good of others. He is a man that can collaboratively function in the Church. He is truly a gentle shepherd and friend!

From an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion of  St. Henry Church, Belleville: I have the opportunity to assist Father Ken York in the distribution of the Eucharist to the homebound residences of St. Henry’s Parish. So I know first-hand the kind and loving care he gives to those in our parish who can no longer travel to Mass. No matter the reason, whether it be temporary/terminal illness or the patient process of aging, Father brings Our Lord to their door in his physical presence but also for a visit between two long-time friends. It is a beautiful testament to God’s love in the world by a faithful servant.

From Ron and Sandy Becherer, St. Teresa, Belleville:  Msgr. David Darin is a wonderful homilist and presents the Gospel with passion and humility. His actions at the altar show profound love of the Holy Eucharist.

As a confessor, he brings a peaceful human touch to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His humble and encouraging words are shining examples of holy orders.

Father Anthony Onyango, has great reverence when consecrating the host. He adores the Body and Blood of Christ in a beautiful and wonderful way. His homilies are engaging as he asks the congregation questions and receives responses from them.

From Bob and Ruth Fritz, Holy Childhood, Mascoutah: We would like The Messenger to recognize  Father Paul Wienhoff for his service to Holy Childhood Church. He is a great leader of our parish. Attendance at all weekend and weekday Masses has greatly increased as well as weddings and baptisms. Many Saturdays he will have two weddings and Sunday two baptisms. His homilies are very spiritual and inspiring. He’s been our pastor for 15 months and most everyone will agree that we are blessed to have Father Paul as our pastor.