By JOANNE FOX
As the first parishes to implement new Mass times in response to Ministry 2025, Father William Vit Jr., rector of Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City, offered this piece of advice for others.
“Let the process work its way through,” he said. “I have seen firsthand how the series of scheduled meetings come together to offer insights into successful, combined ministry.”
Cathedral, St. Joseph and St. Boniface – located less than one mile from each other – have announced new Mass times, days and places, in response to the draft of Ministry 2025, the pastoral plan for the Diocese of Sioux City. The changes took effect Aug. 1. (See breakout box)
Arriving at the “who, when, where” was no easy task and involved the input of many, Father Vit pointed out.
“Representatives from the three parishes, made up of the priests, parish directors, members of parish councils and leaders from parish committees, provided input,” he said.
Of utmost concern was the availability of priests to celebrate Mass. With the assignment of Father Michael Erpelding from St. Joseph and St. Boniface to the towns of Onawa, Salix and Blencoe, Father Vit, Father Michael Cronin and Father Brent Lingle remain as possible celebrants of Mass.
Yet, Father Vit clarified, times had to be scheduled in a way that all Masses could be celebrated by only two priests.
“This accounts for weekends that one priest may not be present,” he said. “Consideration was made for the reality that, on weekends, priests are also celebrating weddings, funerals, baptisms and quinceañeras (a Spanish girl’s 15th birthday).”
The specialized ministry of priests was also taken into account, Father Vit added.
“For example, Father Lingle teaches in the diaconate program on Saturdays and I assist as chaplain of the 185th Air Refueling Wing,” he said.
Available resources based on language skills and rites also affect priest availability, Father Vit noted.
“In other words, there are limited numbers of priests who can celebrate Mass in Spanish and even fewer able to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form Rite (Latin Mass),” he said. “However with these changes, all of the churches are able to remain open and all of the ministries will be able to continue.”
Although the changes may sound straightforward, Father Vit acknowledged there were moments of concern associated with presenting the final outcome.
“The biggest challenge was that all parishes, communities and language groups were asked to sacrifice,” he said.
St. Joseph sacrificed a Saturday Vigil Mass, St. Boniface sacrificed a Sunday morning Mass and the Cathedral sacrificed both a Saturday Vigil and a Sunday Mass.
“In addition, some hours of confession and a Saturday morning Mass are no longer offered at the Cathedral due to the greater number of other sacramental needs the priests will be performing,” Father Vit said.
Father Erpelding, who provided input on the process prior to his reassignment, felt that with letting go of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” great joy can be experienced as well.
“It is particularly gratifying that – previously – we were spending too much time patching holes and making decisions to get things to work at the three parishes,” he said. “This time, we were looking at being pro-active and looking at an all-encompassing plan.”
Father Vit echoed those sentiments.
“The greatest joy is the realization that all three parishes have complementary ministries,” he said. “We have found that one parish’s strength is another parish’s weakness. But, by combining the three communities, we are going to see a very diverse set of ministries available to all parishioners.”
“We are working for Jesus Christ and not working for convenience or happiness and a lot of that involves sacrifice,” Father Erpelding admitted.
Father Vit cautioned that parishioners should not believe that proposals set out originally in Ministry 2025 – presented in February – are necessarily complete or decided entirely by church hierarchy.
“The plan envisions insight and direction from the laity,” he insisted. “For my part, I just offered guiding parameters and allowed the lay leaders to make the decisions.”
Another type of collaboration occurred between all the Sioux City pastors to include a “last chance” Mass. Previously this was celebrated at 5 p.m., Sunday at the Cathedral. Effective Aug. 7, Mass is offered at St. Joseph Church at 5 p.m.
According to Father Steven McLoud, pastor of Nativity Parish, the Sioux City pastors will rotate through the celebration of this liturgy.
“The questions and concerns about a Sunday evening Mass in the Sioux City area were brought to the Sioux City pastors’ meeting by Father Vit following a conversation with Bishop Walker Nickless,” he said. “All of the Sioux City pastors agreed that as the Cathedral would no longer be able to provide a Sunday evening Mass, that we needed to implement a plan whereby we would be able to provide a Mass on Sunday evening for those who had been unable, for various reasons, to attend Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.”
Father McLoud emphasized that all of the Sioux City pastors and Bishop Nickless felt it was a ministry they wanted and needed to provide to the Catholic community of Sioux City.
“This is not a St. Joseph Parish Mass, but is a Mass offered to all of the people of Sioux City,” he clarified.
4 p.m. Saturday St. Boniface
8:30 a.m. Sunday St. Joseph
10 a.m. Sunday Cathedral
5 p.m. Sunday St. Joseph
6 p.m. Saturday Cathedral
10:30 a.m. Sunday St. Boniface
Noon Sunday Cathedral
1:30 p.m. Sunday Cathedral
8:30 a.m. Sunday St. Boniface
11 a.m. Sunday St. Joseph
Noon Cathedral (English)
5:30 Cathedral (Spanish)