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. 30th.
To celebrate the ministry of all priests in the diocese, The Messenger invited people to comment on the qualities in their priests that they most admire. Following are the comments we received this year.
From Mary Ann Sexton, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Herrin: I would like to thank Msgr. Kenneth Schaefer, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Herrin, for all he does for so many people.
“Father Ken” maintains such energy and devotion, while constantly keeping up with his busy schedule of Masses, funerals, visiting the sick and as he planned and prepared for the Oct. 9th ground-breaking of the new preK-8th-grade regional Catholic school in Herrin.
Mass is always an enjoyable, uplifting experience for me at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, and I sincerely appreciate Msgr. Ken Schaefer.
From Liz and Carolyn Vogt, Holy Trinity Parish, Fairview Heights: Father Raymond Schultz, like many of our diocesan priests, has an almost impossible “work load.” It might be God’s work — but it is still a heavy load. Trying to balance the needs and wishes of two parishes — Holy Trinity and St. Stephen has to be quite challenging. There are never enough hours in a day! We are concerned that the stress could affect his health.
Father Ray has seen the Vogt girls through many highs and lows as a family and as parishioners at Holy Trinity. He sometimes refers to us as a “high maintenance” family! Father Ray is our very good friend as well as our pastor. Thank you, Father Ray!
From Mr. Michael Oslance, Principal of Holy Trinity Catholic School, Fairview Heights: Father Raymond Schultz, recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest. He is currently the pastor of both Holy Trinity (Fairview Heights) and St. Stephen (Caseyville.)
When one thinks of the “Good Shepherd” — a picture of Father Ray should immediately come to mind! He is the epitome of the gentle, loving and kind person who gathers his flock — nurtures them in spirit and in heart — and calls them to be the best disciple! He has been an inspiration for young and old alike!
Father Ray was presented with the “Light of Christ” award at his anniversary celebration. He was surrounded by parents, students and parishioners who each carried a candle — symbolizing how this humble priest provided the model of holiness that helped each person to be more like Jesus.
The preaching of Father Ray continues to move the hearts of parishioners and students. He encourages us, challenges us, and loves us! Our communities of Holy Trinity (parish and school) and St. Stephen are blessed by his presence and we welcome the opportunity to give THANKS for his priestly ministry.
From Jane Crawford, Immaculate Conception Parish, Columbia: Hands down, Msgr. Carl Scherrer should be recognized. He is a fantastic priest that is very personable, easy to talk to and easy to relate to as well.
He comes to almost every Mass even if he is not celebrating the Mass, just to greet people when they leave with a smiling face (and sometimes a funny hat. I thoroughly enjoy having him as our priest and would not trade him for anything!
From M.S., Immaculate Conception Parish, Columbia: Two years ago my wife learned that her breast cancer had returned. She called me from work after she heard about the lab results and said she wanted to meet me at church. I asked her if she wanted me to call Msgr. Carl Scherrer, and she said she did. We met Father Carl by the font near the back of church. He was very comforting with his words, and then he turned and took a sunflower from a vase near the font. He said to my wife, “Do you know much about sunflowers? They always follow the sun. And so we can think that just as sunflowers follow the sun, we follow the Son.”
My wife liked that very much and soon after our home was filled with sunflowers which strengthened our faith. It would be nice to say that this story has a happy ending, but my wife lost her battle with cancer last year. I am grateful for all of Father Carl’s support and help that he has given to my family and to me. Even though our parish is so large, somehow, by the grace of God, he manages to shepherd us all.
From Glenda Sexauer, Immaculate Conception Parish, Columbia: Want to send a quick note to you about Msgr. Carl Scherrer and Father Christian Reuter, OFM. Father Chris keeps it all simple and real for the people. He takes the Scriptures and brings them to life with his stories from real life experiences. He truly lives the Corporal Works of Mercy by serving the prisoners. He is a down-to-earth, cut-to-the-chase kind of guy that shows how to live our Christian faith.
Father Carl is unbelievable. He has brought joy to so many people from the youngest of babes to our most senior beings. He has an uncanny sense to show up when you need him the most. He will always consider what is best for the overall community and has built a true faith community at Immaculate Conception Church. Our church is really becoming home for so many. The parishioners are our extended family due to his constant reminder of community in all we do. He would never ask more of anyone than he asks from himself. I truly see the face of Jesus through Father Carl. Thank you for giving me a vehicle for appreciating these two amazing men.
From Earl and Carol Reichert, Immaculate Conception Parish, Columbia: Our priest at Immaculate Conception in Columbia, Msgr. Carl Scherrer in a word is WONDERFUL. He is caring, kind, knows everyone’s name and has a great sense of humor. Our sacramental minister, Father Christian Reuter, OFM sets such a good example for us by his work in prison ministry and is very interesting.
From Avery Herrmann, third-grade student at Immaculate Conception School, Columbia: Msgr. Carl Scherrer: You are very kind and put good thoughts in our mind. You celebrate Mass each day and celebrate all our birthdays, but now it’s our turn to do the same for you. On your special day that celebrates you! There’s no better Father neither old or new! So here we all gather and are all proud to know, you are our Father wherever we go. Happy Priesthood Sunday, Father Carl!
From First Wednesday Night Prayer Group, St. John the Baptist Parish Red Bud: Great is the best word to describe our pastor, Msgr. Dennis Schaefer. He puts on more hats in a normal day than his parishioners realize. When more duties are thrown in, he handles them well. He always takes time to talk with a parishioner no matter how busy he is and doesn’t make one feel rushed. He ministers to all and gives of himself to all — not only his parishioners. His helpful and understanding manner highlights his holiness and this is inspiring for everyone. Thank you, Msgr. Dennis.
From Deena Morris, St. Patrick Church, Enfield: Father Vincent Obi has such a wonderful and happy personality that comes through in his Masses.
From Vince Mitchell, St. Patrick Church, Enfield: To me, Father Vincent Obi is one of the most Spirit- filled priests I have ever known. He is a thought-provoking educator, a motivator, and a spiritual leader of our parish; but most importantly, he is a brother in Christ and I am so thankful God has seen it proper to minister to our parish of St. Patrick’s,Enfield.
From Mary Lee Stephens, St. Patrick Church, Enfield: Father Vincent Obi’s strong qualities are his personal relationship with God and his love for Him & the church. He goes above and beyond scheduling Masses and prayer services for the parishioners. And he has an openness to talk about different races and we love his sense of humor!
From Tom & Diane Mitchell, St. Patrick Church, Enfield: Father Vincent Obi is a wonderful example of what a priest should be. He is kind, caring, energetic, enthusiastic, and has a wonderful sense of humor. But, most importantly is his immeasurable faith and dedication to his church and to his parishioners. We are so grateful to have him not only as our parish priest but as our friend.
From Barbara Boren, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: Father Vincent Obi is always friendly & smiling even though he is challenged with understanding our southern Illinois dialect. He prays before Mass with those of us that are participating in Mass; this is new for our parish. I love it when he starts singing as he is singing from his heart. I pray for Father Obi every day because I want him to be successful.
From the Jackson family, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: Father Vincent Obi is a truly exceptional and inspirational priest. Despite being from a different culture halfway around the world, he shows a desire to learn and be part of our community. He is a good listener and always shows concern for our family as well as non-Catholic members of our family. His healthy self-image is admirable. He shows determination and ability to take risks by sharing his ideas with the parish council, causing us to think outside the box and try new ways of doing things. He has made Mass more spiritually uplifting by adding music and bursting out in song during the homily and he is sincerely thankful for those who participate in Mass and serve the church with their talents. The spirituality of our family has been enriched by his presence.
From Paulette Jackson, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: Father Vincent Obi is a very caring priest. He takes good care of his parishioners, and we are very lucky God has blessed us with him.
From Jan Blankenberger, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: I am grateful to have Father Vincent Obi at our parish. He is a pious, energetic and joyful missionary priest from Nigeria. He offers the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with reverence.
Father Obi has revived the devotion of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and First Friday Holy Hour with Eucharistic Adoration, to help bring parishioners into a closer, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you for your ministry and vocation to the priesthood, Father Vincent!
From Pam Drone, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: I appreciate so very much the compassion, understanding and support that Father Obi provided to my mother and me last spring when my father died. Scheduling of the services were difficult and complicated since it fell on Easter weekend and some official tasks could not be completed. However, Father Obi was there for us and willing to assist us in any way that we needed.
When everything was ready he provided us with a beautiful and very intimate service. He understood my mother’s needs and grief. Father Obi gave of himself that day. His inclusion of my cousin in the officiating of the service was done with such ease that it appeared to be planned and rehearsed for days instead of last minute. My cousin stated that he had never worked with any minister that made him feel as comfortable and the Lord’s presence as much as Father Obi. I will always be grateful to Father Obi for sharing his faith with my family and easing our time of grief.
From Cindy Conley, St. Polycarp Church, Carmi: The area where I feel Father Obi and I connect is our devotion to the liturgy. Father Obi likes to keep the Masses he celebrates fresh with alternatives for the penitential rite, such as using holy water and salt to bless the congregation on some weekends. He also involves parishioners by having them read bible passages as part of his sermons, which helps bridge the communication gap. Sometimes extra readings are by Pope Francis or Mother Teresa. He spent several Sundays talking about Dr. Kent Brantly, an American doctor who contracted Ebola while working as a medical missionary in Liberia, and expressed confidence and gratitude to God for his cure. I think Father Vincent connects to that story through his ministry in America, so far from his Nigerian home and family.
Father Obi has brought new vestments and altar linens to our parish, and tries to cultivate a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He celebrates eucharistic adoration at each parish, and does a holy hour service monthly. Divine Mercy Sunday was a special day, and our statue of Mary received a crown of flowers for May. Recently he talked about adding more times for silent prayer and reflection during Mass, to help spread reverence for the Holy Sacrifice.
From Kindergarten/1st grade class, St. Polycarp PSR: They said that Father Obi is very nice and loves us, funny and makes us laugh, nice and helps us pray.
From 5th/6th grade group, St. Polycarp PSR: They enjoy Father Obi’s singing, telling funny stories about how Nigeria is different, makes friends here in the community (which sets an example), helpful to all of the servers in a way that you learn and thanks the servers.
From Carol Menkhaus, St. Cecilia Parish, Bartelso: Thank you Msgr. James Buerster for everything you do for our parish. Many thanks from the students and PSR teachers from St. Cecilia Parish, Bartelso.
From Carol Potter, Principal of St. Joseph Catholic School, Olney: Father Mark Stec’s love of children and commitment to the future makes him an ideal pastor for three parishes that share a school. His quick integration into our school days and true, pastoral support of the staff makes a positive difference in the lives of the faculty and students.
From St. Joseph’s Knights of Columbus Council #13197 and Fourth Degree Assembly #3151, Freeburg: Father Mark Reyling, may God continue to bless your ministry. We thank you for your service and dedication to our parish and organizations.
Name Withheld: Msgr. David Darin is a very kind and gentle man, very responsible and giving of his time. I am forever grateful that he visited my mother in the week or two before she went to Heaven, and anointed her. This was a great gift and consolation to Mom, as well as to her family. She had few sins but believed she had many, and, out of that fear, she had not been to confession in decades.
Father Darin has come to the nursing home in which I live and heard my lengthy confession; he gave me a truly merciful penance, not unlike Jesus’ mercy to sinners.
From Tad Gray, student at St. Teresa Catholic Grade School, Belleville: I think Msgr. David Darin from St. Teresa Parish is the best priest. He is very kind to the servers. I am happy to go to Mass because he brings us closer to God. When he did a funeral for my great grandpa he was very thoughtful about what he said. I can still remember it to this day. My grandpa still tells me about the day Father David married my parents.
From St. Pancratius Parish, Fayetteville: Father Elmar Mauer, OMI exhibits his reverence as he celebrates the Eucharist. He shares his wisdom and knowledge in his homilies. No matter what the weather he travels to share his joy, humor and love with us. Thank you Father Elmar Mauer, OMI for being a blessing to our parish.
From Dolores Grosco, St. John the Baptist, West Frankfort: Brief words cannot express the recognition and appreciation due Father Eusebius C. Mbidoaka, administrator of St. John the Baptist. During the short time Father Eusebius has been in West Frankfort, he has moved our faith community forward. Father Eusebius is the right priest for the right time here. He is very spiritual. His liturgical services are uplifting, and his homilies are well-prepared and thought-provoking. He is kind, considerate and compassionate.
Father Eusebius is a leader and a doer. He has boundless energy. Since 2015 he has led in making major improvements to our church, school, rectory and grounds — too numerous to mention. Our church is a beautiful House of God.
In 2016 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of our church, and Father Eusebius and the Centennial Committee led us in a week of spiritual reflections and fun-filled activities concluding with the 100th anniversary Mass with Bishop Edward K. Braxton, principal celebrant, presiding. It was a week of thanksgiving, enjoyment and memories. Thank you Father Eusebius for all you do and may God bless you and your work.
From Marjorie Stadelbacher and Lydia Hazel, St. Joseph Parish, Cobden: St. Mary’s Church in Anna and St. Joseph’s Church in Cobden have been fortunate to have had, and still do, Father Federico Higuera and Father Uriel Salamanca. Both have been willing to go beyond the call of duty for their parish and parishioners. May God bless and protect them in their pastoral work and whatever their future has in store for them.
From Dennis, Christine, Nathan and Clayton Lintker, St. Anthony, Lively Grove: We would like to recognize Father Dennis Voss in observance of Priesthood Sunday. I had the privilege of getting to know Father Voss during his time as pastor at St. Anthony’s Lively Grove and St. Liborius, St. Libory. Father was a true leader for the two parishes, always handling matters in a most fair and impartial way. He was a true “servant leader,” always putting the needs of his parishioners first. Gracious, humble, kind hearted and unselfish are just a few of the many wonderful qualities of Father Voss. He is also a great role model for the young people of our parish, a true shepherd of the flock. Even in his retirement, he still continues to minister to the people of the parishes. It’s not unusual for him to return to say a funeral Mass at the request of a family, to unite a couple in marriage or baptize a baby. We are forever grateful for Father Voss, for his kindness and ministry of the Catholic faith.
From Christine Lintker, St. Anthony, Lively Grove: I would like to recognize Father Christian Reuter, OFM, in observance of Priesthood Sunday. I had the opportunity to meet Father Chris when he was assigned as sacramental minister for the parishes of St. Anthony, Lively Grove and St. Liborius, St. Libory. During Father Chris’s first year with us, my youngest son was to make his First Reconciliation and First Communion. I was a little apprehensive about all of this as my son has autism, so I was fearful how we would do with all of this. Father Chris put any fears I had at ease. He was extremely patient, understanding and kind to my son, just like one would imagine Jesus would have been with the children. It was a joy to attend Mass each weekend with Father Chris presiding. His homilies always carried a great message that was easy for everyone to follow. I will always be grateful for his time at St. Anthony’s.
From Sara Caddell, St. Mary, Mt. Carmel: The parish has been blessed for two years with the presence of Father Robert Zwilling. Father Robert has brought in to our parish a religious education director, Caroline Trimble and the two of them have established a library of books and CDs to enhance our Catholicism. Father Robert has also provided a Monday evening Mass, Holy Hour and Benediction, which we did not have for many years. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin is contagious.
From Catholic Daughters Court #795, Sacred Heart, Du Quoin: Catholic Daughters #795 would like to recognize Father Joseph Oganda for his pastoral leadership of Sacred Heart Church in Du Quoin and Immaculate Conception Church in Tamaroa. We are truly grateful for his ongoing support of our members and court-sponsored activities, as well as his engagement and support of our parish councils and committees, PSR, youth group, RCIA and Knights of Columbus. Father Joseph is a humble, motivating pastor and an inspiration to all — not only through his Mass homilies, but also by his countless hours of visiting the sick at home, in area hospitals and in local nursing facilities, where Masses are held each week. We thank you Father Joseph for all you do — our prayers are always with you!
From Bob and Ruth Fritz, Holy Childhood Parish, Mascoutah: We would like to recognize Father Paul Wienhoff pastor of Holy Childhood Parish for being a great leader of our parish. He’s a wonderful spiritual leader as well as a great leader of our entire parish. His Masses and homilies are always very spiritual and uplifting. He is a great role model and teacher for our school children at school and weekday Mass. We want to thank him for giving so much of himself and working endlessly for our parishioners and the parish. Needless to say, he is very busy with two other parishes and the Office of the Tribunal where he also works three days a week, but he always has time to listen and always has kind words for everyone. We are very blessed to have Father Paul as our pastor.