Five priests retire, continue in new ministries
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
June 26, 2008
All five retiring priests in the Diocese of Sioux City are in agreement that
life as a priest was the right fit for them. The five have served the diocese
for a combined 222 years.
Priests retiring from full-time ministry are Father Paul-Louis Arts, Father
Clair L. Boes, Father James C. McAlpin, Father James D. McCormick and Father
Thomas J. Topf.
Father Paul-Louis Arts, rector of the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux
City, will retire after 44 years serving in the diocese.
"I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "It has been a wonderful
life. I am looking forward to new challenges. Just because I am retiring doesn't
mean that I stop being a priest. I am going into a new kind of ministry where I
can do pastoral things when and where I want."
He mentioned that every day as a priest is a surprise. He has been involved
in running a school, teaching, running a parish, being a pastor and spiritual
leader as well as being the director of the St. Joseph Education Society and
serving as a consultor for three bishops.
"I always try to keep the focus on being a priest, pastor and
teacher," said Father Arts.
His main joy is being around people. The first 16 years of his priesthood he
served in schools and enjoyed working with the young people.
"Unfortunately, a priest oftentimes has to spend a lot of time with
things rather than people," said Father Arts. "The day-to-day
operation of a parish is very demanding and requires skills I wasn't trained
for. I was trained to be a priest and for sacramental ministry."
In retirement, he will move to his home in Storm Lake that he built while he
was pastor there. He has also been given permission from Bishop R. Walker
Nickless to do chaplain work on cruise ships. He will minister to the passengers
"Whatever I did in my ministry, which was varied, I always tried to
remember that I was taking the Lord's place and doing his work," said
Father Arts. "I always tried to be priestly and Christ-like in all that I
did whether it was teaching in the classroom, celebrating the sacraments or
running a finance meeting."
Father Clair L. Boes, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Sibley and St. Mary
Parish in Ashton, will retire after 43 years.
"The highlights of my priesthood have been the celebration of the
liturgies. All of the things I have done as a priest have been enjoyable,"
he said. "It has been a good 43 years."
A challenge for him as a priest was adjusting to the different types of
ministry. He spent his first 19 years teaching in junior high and high school.
"That was always a challenge but a very enjoyable challenge," said
the priest. "I think I learned as much as they did."
Ministry with the grieving and funerals has also been a challenge for him.
However, he said that "it is one of the most rewarding ministries after you
finish because people appreciate so much what you do for them. They are very
positive in their feedback to you."
Father Boes said "without a doubt" he would be a priest again.
"I am not retiring from the priesthood. I am retiring from
administration of parishes," he said. "I will continue to be a priest
till my last moment."
His plan is to retire close to a parish where he will be able to offer Mass -
daily and weekends - when needed.
Father James C. McAlpin, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Breda, Our Lady of
Mount Carmel Parish in Mt. Carmel, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Maple
River, will retire after 44 years of service.
He said he has enjoyed the "priestly work" of liturgy and
sacraments as well as becoming involved in the lives of families in different
parishes and watching the families grow.
"The people contacts are the big thing - involvement with them,"
said Father McAlpin.
One of his biggest challenges as a priest has been raising money. He said
that watching the decline of people through the demographics has also been hard.
"In this era of clustering, we are still looking for a definition of
what it is," said the priest. "Everyone has their own idea of what it
is - not necessarily on the same page. There is some frustration on where we are
really trying to go and how to get there."
When asked if he would go back and do it all again, Father McAlpin responded,
"You bet! I haven't found anyone with whom I would want to trade."
In retirement, he hopes to travel and cover weekends for priests wanting to
travel. He will be involved in several parishes in the sacramental ministry.
"The whole experience - one that is not totally over - has been both a
privilege and joy to serve people and make Christ and his church more present to
them," said Father McAlpin.
Father James D. McCormick, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Carroll and St.
Mary Parish in Willey, is also slated for retirement after 46 years.
He has enjoyed the "chance to touch people in the areas of their life
that are most essential - birth, life, death. It is a joy to be a priest with
all the sacramental and other skills we are given through seminary and
ordination to minister to the needs of people."
A challenge for Father McCormick has been money. He said that the priest
tends to be the "point-man" on fundraising.
"Because we can't send bills to anyone, we are totally dependent on the
goodwill and faith response of the faithful. It is a challenge to try to
minister to the people so they realize a return to the Lord is appropriate and
needed in order for the work to continue," he said.
Although there are challenges, Father McCormick pointed out that he would
definitely be a priest again.
"I found out I would be assigned to a lot of things I didn't think I
would be capable of," he said. "Looking back I fairly satisfactorily
fulfilled those functions with the help of all kinds of other people."
Father McCormick will move into the rectory in Auburn. He will continue to be
a liaison for the sisters and priests in the diocese that have come from abroad
- members of the Holy Spirit Community from Africa and India.
"I would also like to travel and visit the people who are important to
me. Not so much touring and looking at buildings, but to be able to visit those
whose lives have touched mine and they live a long way away," said the
Father Thomas J. Topf, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Kingsley, will also
retire after 45 years of service to the diocese.
He has enjoyed being able to serve in a variety of areas. He was a teacher
for 14 years, a hospital chaplain for several years and a pastor for over 20
"I liked all three ministries," said Father Topf. "Offering
Mass has been very important, especially at special occasions - Christmas and
He added that he has also been involved in spiritual direction and counseling
of people that has been rewarding for him.
A challenge for Father Topf has been the administrative duties connected with
parishes such as maintaining the funds necessary. In some parishes, he said, it
wasn't a problem but in others it was a struggle.
His plan for retirement is to move to Marian Hall in Sioux City and be
available to help at weekend Masses. He will also be doing some spiritual
direction with priests and others.
"I certainly would do it again," said Father Topf. "It has
been, as one priest said, a real ride, a good ride. As I look back on it, I
think it was a vocation that was accompanied by the grace that was needed to
carry it out. It has been a good choice on the part of God."