Last Sunday, the parish invited all priests who served at St. Patrick, Maple Grove; St. Mary, Reedsville; and St. Mary and Holy Family parishes in Brillion.
“This is a beautiful celebration and tribute to honor those who willingly said yes to the call to serve,” said Fr. Matt Simonar during his homily. “While this Mass is to thank priests, we can’t do this by ourselves. We depend on that very much and you are just as much part of this celebration as my fellow priests.”
While the need to show priest appreciation is always desired and appreciated, the main purpose behind the “Year for Priests” is to show a greater dedication to prayer for the sanctification and renewal of clergy.
Holy Family parishioners were excited about coming together to honor those who have helped them grow spiritually over the years.
“This was a great way to let them know that we appreciate what they do,” said parishioner Judy Phillip. “When life keeps going, we don’t always get a chance to do that.”
All attendees had their own reasons for coming, but all had the same feelings about its importance.
“I was married at St. Patrick’s in Maple Grove and haven’t been able to make it back here in a while, so it was nice to see all the priests and honor them,” said Marie Young.
Six of the 15 priests who formerly served, along with two priests who are sons of Holy Family Parish, were present and participated in the Mass.
Those present included Fr. Thomas Long, 1997-2005; Fr. James Massart, 1997-1998; Fr. John Neuser, 1971-1974 in Reedsville and 1983-1992 in Brillion; Fr. John O’Brien, 1979-1992; Fr. Willard Van De Loo, 2002; Fr. William Stengel, April-Sept. 1962; and Fr. Matt Simonar, 2005-present.
Sons of the parish present at the Mass included Fr. Tim Coonen, son of Willard and Kathryn Coonen; and Fr. Robert Marsicek, son of Henry and Catherine Marsicek. Also honored at the Mass was Deacon Steve Letourneaux.
Other priests who served at the parishes not present at Sunday’s Mass include Fr. John Becker, Fr. Jason Blahnik, Msgr. John DeWane, Fr. Raymond Dowling, Fr. Norman Krutzik, Fr. William O’Brien, Fr. Dave Pleier, Fr. Ben Semper and Fr. Peter Taylor.
“I was happy to come back and show everyone we’re still alive,” said Fr. John O’Brien with a laugh. “It is important to recognize the priests. We enjoy our time serving and are very appreciative of the recognition.”
“It is also important to pray for more young men to become priests,” Fr. Simonar said. Highlighting his appeal for prayers for future priests, he said there are 109 retired priests and 88 serving priests currently in the Green Bay Diocese.
All honored guests at the Mass, which was offered for deceased priests from Holy Family, were presented with a book about service, along with special thanks for their time – no matter how long – spent serving at the area parishes. Parishioners also extended a hand of blessing to the priests at the conclusion of Mass.
A reception, partially funded by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the social hall.
The “Year for Priests” will conclude next June with an international gathering of priests with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.