By RENEE WEBB
REMSEN – Every three years a missionary priest from the Philippines visits his hometown in northwest Iowa.
Raised on a farm north of Oyens, Father Loyd Fiedler, SVD, noted his family moved to Remsen when he was a teenager. While his roots are in Iowa, his home is now in the Philippines as he has served there for 47 years.
“It is a calling,” he said. “I felt called to go to another culture, another language and to share my faith with them.”
It was when he was in a Chicago seminary where he got to know Filipino seminarians and through them he was drawn to their culture. As a priest for the Society of the Divine Word, the largest missionary congregation in the Catholic Church, he asked for an assignment in the Philippines. The 74-year-old has spent his priesthood in ministry there.
For the second time, while visiting family and friends back in Iowa, Father Fiedler opted to celebrate Mass at St. Mary Church for the Filipino community in the area.
“There are Filipinos scattered all over the area and I like for them to remember their background,” said the priest. “It’s nice for them to get back to their roots and have socialization.”
The Mass was proclaimed in Tagalog as were the songs, which is the national language in the Philippines. The missionary noted there are 73 different languages in the country.
During his homily, which he delivered in the Filipino language with a sentence here and there in English, Father Fiedler focused on the Scripture of the day about Jesus calling and sending the 12.
The priest said it was a very fitting message to tie in to his work as a missionary. Many priests from the United States have gone to serve in the Philippines and many from there have come to the states.
“There is the sharing of the faith on both sides,” said Father Fiedler, who noted there are ups and downs in the missions just as there are in any part of life. In the mission work, he stressed the importance of “respecting the culture” and “relying on divine providence.”
He extended gratitude to Bishop Walker Nickless for allowing him to celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s, as well as thanks to Father Bill McCarthy, who is the pastor.
While the English-speaking Mass-goers outnumbered those with Filipino heritage, Father Fiedler stressed the importance of providing the opportunity to attend this Mass.
Tess Searls, a parishioner at Cathedral Parish in Sioux City, was pleased to be able to attend the Mass and serve as a lector for the liturgy. She met Father Fiedler just three weeks ago at her goddaughter’s birthday party.
“It was amazing; this was a rare opportunity,” she said. “I’ve been here 33 years and this is the first time I’ve heard a Filipino Mass spoken by an American priest.”
Juliet Heeren of Le Mars noted she attended the Filipino Mass celebrated in Remsen three years ago by Father Fiedler. In her 14 years here, those are the only two times she has been able to attend Mass in her native language.
“It’s nice to have a Mass that is like from our home,” she said. “Father (Fiedler) is nice – he’s like a Filipino.”
Following Mass, a potluck featuring various Filipino dishes was held at a local bank a few blocks from church.
Father Fiedler noted he just completed service at Santa Rosa de Lima Mission on the island of Mindoro and upon his return to the Philippines in mid-August, he will have a new assignment at St. Arnold Janssen Mission in the remote area of Inarawan, also located in Mindoro.
“I opened it up 25 years ago and we were flooded out after 15 months,” he said, recalling that 11 people had died in the flooding and river soot was everywhere. “Many people moved out, but now gradually people have gone back. Priests, nuns and lay missionaries were there off and on.”
Father Fiedler will now serve as the first permanent, resident priest there since the flooding. The mission parish does have a small chapel, but part of his tasks will include building a new church and rectory.
“Please pray for the new mission, because we are starting from scratch,” said the missionary, noting that the community here has been supportive of his efforts in the past.
Pondering whether he will eventually retire in the Philippines or the United States, he responded, “I don’t know, the future is a surprise.”