Bishop Nickless celebrates ministry of priests, deacons at Clergy Jubilee Mass

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STORM LAKE – “Today, we join the Lord in taking delight in our deacon and priest jubilarians – 11 deacons and three priests,” said Bishop Walker Nickless during the Clergy Jubilee Mass.

“I know you will all join me in congratulating these men for their many years of service they have given to God and to the people of our diocese in Sioux City,” he said. “My friends, we have been touched by your ministry, by your friendship and most of all by your prayers. Indeed, we are delighted with each of our jubilarians and offer them our continued prayers and support.”

The bishop celebrated the Mass, which celebrated special anniversaries for both diocesan priests and deacons, held May 7 at St. Mary Church in Storm Lake. Father Brent Lingle was the master of ceremonies and Deacons Paul Kestel and Tom Morgan assisted with the Mass.

The priests celebrating anniversaries were Father Paul Eisele and Father Michael Larkin (not present at Mass) – 50 years and Father Tim Johnson – 25 years.

The permanent deacons who were celebrating anniversaries of their ordination include: 35 years – Deacons LeRoy Rupp of Cherokee and Philip Doocy (not present at Mass) of Bancroft; Deacons Michael Hand of Sioux City and Ed Miller of Carroll; 30 years – Deacon Joseph Scurlock (not present at Mass) of Onawa; 25 years – Deacon Jim Sands of Sioux City; 20 years – Deacons Tom Morgan of Sioux City, Tim Murphy of Carroll, Eldon Sullivan of Fonda and Don Seamann of Sioux City; 15 years – Deacon Louis Meiners of Dedham.

Blessings of priesthood        

During his homily, Father Johnson shared a story from the day of his ordination Mass on June 12.

“Father Al McCoy was driving back to Wesley (his hometown) following ordination,” said the jubilarian. “He was taking blacktop roads I had never been on. It was a day filled with a mixture of sunshine and rain.”

Wanting to share a bit of advice about the priesthood with Father Johnson, Father McCoy, mimicking the deep baritone voice of the priest who shared the advice with him, said, “If you can’t hit the target after five minutes, put the gun down.”

“Well, I know, too often, the target has been illusive in the words that I have shared during the Eucharist over the 25 years,” said Father Johnson. “I am sure I have wandered far beyond the attention span of the poor folk in the pews.”

The blessings of his vocation and ministry, he said, have “remained constant in my life.”

“Whatever I have learned in the priesthood has been through the example of those who taught me in the seminary, examples of my brother priests and particular deacons and religious in their ministries,” said Father Johnson. “Likewise, the men and women of faith in the communities I have gratefully been a part of.”


At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Nickless thanked Fathers Tim Friedrichsen and Michael Cronin and the staff at St. Mary’s, especially the choir, for their hospitality.

“I want to thank (Father) Tim for your wonderful words in the homily,” the bishop said. “I appreciate many things about your 25 years of service. I appreciate your gentleness and your kindness. It is what you exude in so many ways.”

Addressing Father Eisele, Bishop Nickless shared a memory of when he first met the jubilarian at St. Cecelia’s and how proud Father Eisele was of the Marian garden outside of the rectory.

“I remember how proud you were to see the flowers and that beautiful spot,” said the bishop. “We are so grateful for your help in continuing education and the work you have done to keep us educated. Thank you for 50 years of service. It is a wonderful gift to us.”

Thinking of Father Larkin, Bishop Nickless recalled their football rivalry between the Cowboys and the Broncos.

“I appreciate him as well,” said the bishop. “I told him this afternoon when I called him, we are all praying for you, Mike, and we ask the Lord to bless you and to keep you.”

Bishop Nickless was struck by one word, prayer, in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which read, “On the sabbath, we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer.”

“They took time to pray and rest by the river,” he said. “It is a great reminder to all of us who preach the Gospel and minister to God’s people to find time, make time, to pray every day and, if possible, a holy hour before the Lord in adoration.”

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