By RENEE WEBB
Three diocesan priests who will retire from full-time ministry this summer reflected on the many blessings as well as challenges of their vocation.
Retiring on July 10 are Father Clement W. Currans, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Emmetsburg, Sacred Heart Parish in Ayrshire, Immaculate Conception Parish in Graettinger and Sacred Heart Parish in Ruthven; Father Thomas J. Hart, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in West Bend and St. Mary Parish in Mallard and Father Allan A. Reicks, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Fonda and St. Columbkille Parish in Varina.
A common theme expressed by all three priests was the joy they found in serving the people.
Father Currans liked the opportunity to get to know and serve a variety of people.
“I always enjoyed working with schools and keeping them going. It was an important ministry and I loved doing it,” he noted. “Another satisfying ministry was working with divorce and widow support groups, particularly through the Beginning Experience program that I was very active in for several years.”
Father Currans found it meaningful to help people deal with their loss and work through transitions in life.
Being able to impact people’s lives, especially through the sacraments, was a blessing for Father Hart.
“Whether it was through marriage or through the sacrament of penance to give them relief from their guilt and worries are things that affect a real change in people’s lives,” he said. “Seeing them happy is a real joy for me.”
Father Hart noted he always liked teaching in Catholic high schools and working with the youth.
“Another joy is preaching – sharing the word of God, breaking it open for people so they can better understand it and better understand who God is and what he is like,” he said.
Father Reicks found work with the people in all phases of their lives to be a great blessing.
“It was a privilege and honor in journeying with people in their most vulnerable time such as death and funerals,” said Father Reicks, who identified the Hospice ministry as well as Spanish ministry to be very meaningful for him. “I found God really used me in the Hospice situation and I came to see the great mystery in the whole dying process. It was a beautiful mystery to witness and be a part of.”
With the joys of the vocation, come some challenges.
Trying to remain faithful to his vision of what ministry of Jesus is about – who he serves and why he serves – could be a struggle at times acknowledged Father Reicks. He stressed the importance of serving the people.
Father Currans noted some challenges for him came when changes and adjustments were made in parishes – even years ago – due to a lack of priests.
“Some people were not very accepting of the adjustments we had to make,” he recalled.
For Father Hart, being called to the scene of a suicide was extremely difficult.
“I’ve been called on several of those and sometimes I was the first one there. It is really difficult and leaves you with a sense of hopelessness and despair,” he said. “Then after you have to deal with the scene and a situation like that, it is something you don’t forget and is something you think about for a very long time.”
The clergy also reflected on what they would tell someone who is considering a vocation to the priesthood.
Father Currans would note the priesthood is a worthwhile and satisfying ministry.
“I have found it personally rewarding in terms of serving and helping the people,” he said.
Father Hart suggested they get to know a priest whom they can befriend, ask questions and pray with. If they can spend time with the priest, the individual can get a better idea about the lifestyle, prayer life and ministry of a priest.
“They could see how varied the things are that they would have to handle and work through in a day. Plus, they could also see the tremendous joy that comes from and through prayer with God,” he said.
If someone is considering discerning a call to the priesthood, Father Reicks suggested they check out all the options for priestly service whether it be diocesan or various religious orders.
“Find the one that fits you best – where you can best serve the poor and the kind of people Jesus served,” he said.
Father Hart pointed out that he plans to reside in Humboldt, where he bought a house two blocks from St. Mary Church. He plans to help at St. Mary’s and other parishes.
“I’ve already got some that are calling me,” he quipped.
Through the years, Father Hart has always enjoyed helping farmers in the fall and spring. He plans to continue with farm work and may pick that up a notch if anyone needs help.
“I was born and raised on the farm, so that’s pretty natural to me,” Father Hart said.
Father Reicks also plans to help with Mass coverage on the weekends. He would love to get back to Spanish ministry and working with the poor as he waits “for what the Lord has in mind.”
In retirement, Father Currans plans to live on an acreage located between Emmetsburg and Graettinger.
“I plan to help out where I am needed in the area for weekend coverage,” said Father Currans, who noted he might try to get back into golf, as he hasn’t taken much time for the hobby in recent years. “I might do a little more hunting and fishing, which I haven’t had time to do.”