NEENAH — Fr. Larry Seidl talks about retirement with both happiness and a twinge of sadness in his voice. He is excited about the new possibilities it will bring when he leaves his post as pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel at the end of the month.
But, he admits, there are things he will miss, such as the “people-to-people contact.” Pastors share very important moments in people’s lives, he said. This includes funerals, weddings, baptisms, first Communions and more.
“These are special and important times for people. It is at occasions like these that we have the opportunity to touch people’s lives,” he said. “I met people I wouldn’t otherwise meet or know. In some cases, they are people who are not connected with church and maybe this brings them closer.
“I have had the opportunity to bond with specific faith communities in each assignment I’ve had,” said Fr. Seidl, who was ordained on June 22, 1975, by Bishop Mark Schmitt at Holy Rosary Church in his hometown of Kewaunee.
Fr. Seidl’s first assignment was associate pastor at St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay. In 1979, he joined the faculty at Lourdes High School, Oshkosh. In 1983, temporary administrator at St. John Parish, Oshkosh, was added to his duties. On July 1, 1986, he became temporary administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Crandon, St. Mary Parish in Argonne and St. Michael in Hiles. Later that year, St. Joseph Parish, Marinette, was added to his list.
He returned to Oshkosh in 1988 as pastor of St. Mary Parish. In 1995, Fr. Seidl became administrator of St. Luke and St. Mark parishes in Two Rivers and was named pastor for the two parishes in 1997. In 2002, he moved to Green Bay and became pastor of St. Matthew Parish. On July 1, 2011, Bishop David Ricken named him pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Neenah.
His education included high school and junior college at Sacred Heart Seminary, Oneida, and college at St. Francis de Sales College, Milwaukee, while at St. Francis Seminary. He also completed studies in education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1981.
Working with students gave him an appreciation for the Global Outreach Catholic Exchange Program. For the past 15 years, he has been involved with this program that provides a U.S. Catholic high school education for students from five central/eastern and northern Europe countries.
Global Outreach partners with schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska to host students for their junior year.
Diocesan high schools involved in the program are St. Mary Catholic in Neenah, Roncalli in Manitowoc, Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, St. Francis Xavier in Appleton and Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh.
Fr. Seidl serves as its spiritual director, becoming involved after going on one of the group’s summer trips.
“I was invited and I thought it would be an opportunity to make a return trip to East Central Europe,” he said. His own heritage is Czech and he had spent a sabbatical year in Prague in 1997. “It was a dream of mine to spend time in that country and this gave me the opportunity to learn more about the other Eastern Bloc countries, too. I experienced the summer camp and met wonderful young people. There was a voice inside of me that said this is something you need to be involved in.”
In 2004, he joined the Global Outreach Program.
“It has been such a wonderful chance to connect with Catholics in a different part of the world. At the same time, it is a chance to be part of their lives. Global Outreach has a mission to build a civilization of love by forming young, dynamic Catholic servant leaders,” he said. “We do this by welcoming students from five countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia – to study in the United States.
“This is something I will continue to do in my retirement,” he added. “It is important, I believe, that senior priests stay active as long as we are able to do so and as long as God grants us good health. It is the opportunity to do some of the aspects of priestly ministry that we found particularly satisfying and at the same time make a contribution to the Diocese of Green Bay.
“As we experience more of the priest shortage, it is harder for active priests to get away for vacations or to keep family commitments. Senior priests are available to help out.” Fr. Seidl will be making his home at St. Thomas More Parish in Appleton and helping out at parishes as needed.
As he reflects on his years of priesthood, Fr. Seidl said he is concerned about the future of priestly ministry. When he was ordained, a “priest shortage was just beginning to be something people were foreseeing.”
“Many people were saying in the future priests would have to concentrate more on the sacramental and pastoral dimension and leave the administrative duties to others with expertise,” he said. “Over my 44 years, I have not seen much progress in that area. As priests, we are still involved in an awful lot of administration. I think we have to look at priorities and what is important in the work of priests: Bringing the sacraments to people and meeting their pastoral needs.”