Diocesan News

Bishop ‘Swings’ through Western Parishes

(SNR) - When Bishop James D. Conley was installed last November, he made a commitment to visit every single parish in the diocese as soon as he could – quite the challenge, considering the distance between diocesan borders.

During the last weekend in June, Bishop Conley made a “swing” through the points farthest west in the diocese, visiting nine parishes – and hundreds of faithful laity – in just three days.

On Friday, June 28, Bishop Conley arrived at St. Mary Parish in Wallace in the late afternoon. Parishioners gathered with him for prayer, followed by a short talk. He also blessed their marriages and families individually.

From there, Bishop Conley and Father Mark Pfeiffer, pastor of St. Mary Parish as well as Resurrection Parish in Elsie, and Mother of Sorrows Parish in Grant, drove 13 miles to Elsie. As Resurrection is a parish made up predominantly of farmers and ranchers, Bishop Conley joined Father Pfeiffer and the parishioners in praying for rain and for the parish community. Again, the bishop was able to greet people and bless their families and marriages.

A 40-minute journey brought the two clergymen to Mother of Sorrows Parish in Grant.

“We had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Bishop proclaimed the Gospel and made his remarks,” Father Pfeiffer reported. As June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bishop Conley led the parish in praying the Dedication to the Sacred Heart. He closed with Benediction and blessings.

At a social gathering afterward, the bishop was presented with a large greeting card made by a parishioner. The card was emblazoned with the bishop’s Coat of Arms and signed by nearly everyone in the parish. Father Pfeiffer said the people of all three parishes reacted very positively.

“It was meaningful to everyone,” he said. “They found Bishop Conley was very warm and accepting, and they appreciated the personal interaction.”

Bishop Conley headed on to Imperial, 59 miles away, where he had a 6:15 a.m. Saturday appointment with the members of St. Patrick Parish for readings from the breviary and a (nearly) 2-mile fun run/bike ride. Bishop Conley laced up his running shoes and got to know several parishioners as they chatted along the route.

After breakfast, Bishop Conley was given a tour of the current St. Isidore Gift & Thrift at 746 Broadway, as well as its future site a couple blocks away. Imperial Manor Nursing Home is right in the neighborhood, so Bishop Conley and pastor Father Bernard Lorenz walked over so the bishop could greet and bless each Catholic resident.

At 11:30, St. Patrick Parish hosted an open house and lunch for the bishop. The bishop addressed the 20 or so parishioners who gathered to meet him.

“Several of my parishioners remarked that he was so pleasant to visit with, and he was showing he had time to spend with them and get to know them,” Father Lorenz said. “He had a lot of good messages and encouragement for us.”

Refreshed by the food and fellowship (and a short nap), Bishop Conley traveled on about 20 miles to Wauneta. There, during a 4 p.m. Mass, he consecrated the new altar at St. John Church. The altar was a memorial for longtime parishioner DaWayne Fanning, who died last October.

“Bishop Conley consecrated the altar and then we had a Mexican dinner to celebrate his arrival and the great gift he gave us,” said pastor Father Lothar Gilde, noting that the Wauneta parishioners were joined by those from Holy Family Parish in nearby Palisade. Father Gilde accompanied the bishop to Palisade, where they toured the church, including its new hall, which was completed last November.

Then it was on to St. James in Trenton, Father Gilde’s third parish. They were running a little late, but even so, quite a few parishioners lingered after Mass to meet Bishop Conley and enjoy a light reception.

“It does them good when the bishop comes to see them and they can see his love for them,” Father Gilde said.

Sunday morning found Bishop Conley nearly three hours away at St. Joseph Parish in Benkelman.

“We changed the Mass times around,” said Father Thomas Wiedel, pastor of both St. Joseph parishes in Benkelman and Stratton.

Benkelman hosted the 8 a.m. Mass, including a brief meet-and-greet immediately afterward. Then Bishop Conley and Father Wiedel went to St. Joseph in Stratton, where the bishop celebrated Mass and blessed their recent building addition.

“It’s a new entryway and an elevator that we installed, and it’s pretty nice,” Father Wiedel said. “The parishioners wanted to have it blessed, but they weren’t sure when, because the bishop comes out to Benkelman for Confirmation every third year.… They were elated to hear he was coming, just to greet the people.”

Bishop Conley stayed for dinner and an open house beforecontinuing on his journey.

“It was a blessed day!” Father Wiedel exclaimed.

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