Willey native ordained Marian priest at home parish



WILLEY – At the recent ordination of a religious order priest, Bishop Walker Nickless shared a portion of an interview from The Catholic Globe in which Father Joseph Lappe stated he wanted his ordination in his home parish because “there might be some young person out there right now who the Lord is also calling to the priesthood.”

“Maybe they’ve never seen an ordination, and he said maybe this could spark a vocation for them,” the bishop continued from Father Lappe’s interview.

Father Joseph Leo Lappe, MIC, was ordained to the priesthood on July 28 by Bishop Nickless in his home parish, St. Mary’s in Wiley. Members of Father Lappe’s family and his brother priests from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception were present for the Mass.

Presentation of the Candidate

Before the bishop’s homily, Father Jim McCormack, MIC, called Deacon Joseph Lappe forward.

“Most Reverend Father, holy mother church asks you to ordain Joseph, our brother, to the responsibility of priesthood,” said Father McCormack.

“Do you know him to be worthy?” asked Bishop Nickless.

“After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that he has been found worthy,” answered Father McCormack.

“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose Joseph, our brother, for the Order of the Priesthood,” said Bishop Nickless.

Chosen by God

In his homily, Bishop Nickless reminded those gather that each priest “is chosen and appointed by God to teach, to sanctify and to guide.”

“Today we gather to give thanks and gratitude to God for his choice of Joseph Leo Lappe to be priest of Jesus Christ as a member of the congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said the bishop. “We do so at a church that is named in honor of Mary in Willey, Iowa.”

As bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, he acknowledged it was a privilege to ordain a native son of the diocese.

“My only regret is we can’t keep him here,” said Bishop Nickless. “Our loss is your gain.”

The bishop pointed out the reading from the first letter of St. Peter “reminds us of the work and ministry of the priest. It is tending the flock willingly and eagerly.”

“As you know and have learned from your years of formation, Joe, your service as a priest will be as faithful as it can be because of the foundation of your spiritual life,” said Bishop Nickless. “Your relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ is the most important thing you can base your priesthood on.”

Moved to tears

Before the conclusion of the ordination, Bishop Nickless invited Father Kazimierz (Kaz) Chwalek, MIC, the Provincial Superior of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, to offer a few comments.

“I did not think that this wonderful priest, Father Joe, would be so moved at his ordination,” said Father Chwalek. “I saw the tears in his eyes. I thought of Joe being kind of tough. There was a soft spot in his heart when he received the gift of priesthood.”

The provincial superior commented he had never seen so many children at an ordination Mass.

“They were participating throughout the whole celebration,” said Father Chwalek. “I know 25 or 30 years from now, there will be ordinations in this parish.”

With tears in his eyes once again, Father Lappe extended an invitation to everyone to attend a reception held at the American Legion in Dedham. More than 400 people, mostly family, St. Mary parishioners and others from the area, gathered for the reception.

Memorable moments

The most memorable moment during the ordination for Father Lappe was when Bishop Nickless consecrated his hands with chrism oil.

“They forewarned me that the bishop was liberal with the chrism and he was,” chuckled the new priest. “The hands are what will be consecrating, blessing, touching and doing things for the work of God.”

Father Lappe noted the bishop’s homily also stood out for him during the ordination.

“I was quite impressed with that,” he said. “Everything he was speaking to in his homily were things I needed to hear. He hit some spots that I had questions about. I gained some peace of mind from it.”

Those from his immediate family in attendance were his parents, Leo and Janice Lappe, along with his brother, Patrick, and sisters Rosie, Becky and Laura and their spouses and children.

Janice Lappe said having her son’s ordination at St. Mary’s was like “having the whole family together. Our parish is a family and they all saw grow up. They wouldn’t have been able to participate if it was out in Stockbridge (Mass.).”

Rosie Heflin, Father Lappe’s sister, equated the ordination to being part of any great family function, like a wedding.

“It is really important to have our (three) kids here, too, to be exposed to that kind of experience,” said Rosie Heflin.

Her husband Jacob Heflin said the example of “a good, holy priest is a powerful thing.”

The Heflins helped move Father Lappe from Council Bluffs to Massachusetts, where the Marians are located. Jacob Heflin said since then it has been “a slow build to this day. We have grown in our own faith during that time, largely in part to the witness of Joe going through his priestly formation.”

First Mass

Father Lappe celebrated his first Mass at St. Mary in Willey the next morning. A reception followed in the parish hall.

“It was a really cool experience to be able to do that,” said the priest, who was also able to celebrate the 8 a.m. weekday Masses at St. Mary’s during the week after his ordination. “It was probably the calmest I have been in a long time.”

Father Lappe’s first assignment as a priest will be in Kenosha, Wis., where he will work in two parishes run by the Marians – St. Peter’s Parish and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii Parish.


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