By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
The priest was ordained there on July 1, 1962, so this year is the 50th anniversary of his ordination. This was the first time he had been back since 1970.
“The same day and the same chapel I was ordained in,” said Father Sitzmann. “It was extremely touching. I wanted to say a few words to the assembled English speaking group who was there. I really wasn’t able to. It was extremely powerful. I had such a great experience in Louvain.”
He concelebrated Mass with an English priest and a priest from Nigeria.
Father Sitzmann was assigned to major seminary at the American College at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium by Bishop Joseph Mueller. Founded in 1425, this is the oldest existing Catholic University in the world.
“This was a grateful and especially privileged assignment which has sent positive ripples throughout my 50 years of varied priestly ministries,” said the priest. “Louvain, now known more commonly as Leuven (the Flemish name), is located just a few miles (kilometers) east of Brussels.”
Father Sitzmann said Leuven is a small city of 100,000 residents. Today, of the 100,000 residents, 43,000 are university students.
Leuven, he said, is a city that “has dramatically changed from 50 years ago when I arrived there (1958), when it was still recovering from German conquest and occupation during World War II and Allied bombings of railroads and Nazi communication sources.”
While in Belgium, he was able to visit Ypres, Belgium, a town that was totally demolished during the war.
“That environment is where the war was stuck,” said Father Sitzmann. “They dug into trenches and were stuck in those trenches for four years. Battle after battle was fought trying to break through on either or both sides. All through that are there are small cemeteries. It was a horrific war.”
He also visited the recently completed, state of the art In Flanders Fields Museum. It is located in the renovated Cloth Halls of Ypres, an important symbol of wartime hardship and later recovery.
Father Sitzmann was also in Belgium to attend a reunion put on by the American College Alumni Association. This annual reunion is sponsored on a volunteer basis hosting alum throughout U.S. dioceses in different locations.
“This year it was decided to meet together 'back home' at Leuven and that was a particularly wonderful timing coincidence for me since this is my 50th anniversary of ordination,” said Father Sitzmann.
The reunion was held June 25-28. There was a business meeting and a banquet among other activities for the alums.
He mentioned that several priests of the diocese have attended this seminary. Alums include Father Merle Kollasch, Father Kevin Richter, Father Tim Friedrichsen, Father Ed. Girres, Father Doug Klein and Father Clem Currans. Father Klein was in attendance for the reunion and during the business section of the annual reunion was nominated for and elected the new Secretary of the Alumni Association.
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