Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) – Bishop James Conley and the priests of the Diocese of Lincoln will gather Monday, April 15 at 5 p.m. to celebrate the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, 3500 Sheridan Blvd., Lincoln. All are invited to attend.
At the Chrism Mass, Bishop Conley will bless the three sacred oils used in the sacraments throughout the diocese — Chrism, the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens. Chrism, the most important of the three, is unique in that it can only be consecrated by a bishop.
Related item: slideshow from 2018 Chrism Mass
At the Chrism Mass, the priests of the diocese renew the priestly vows made at their ordinations and priests celebrating milestone anniversaries (known as “jubilees”) are given special recognition at a dinner with their brother priests. This year, 12 priests will be recognized.
Msgr. James Dawson - 65 years
Msgr. James Dawson was raised in Fairmont, and entered the seminary when he was 17 years old, after Bishop Louis B. Kucera encouraged him to explore the vocation.
After ordination, he spent his first assignment at Holy Family Parish in Lincoln, which later became the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, where he would be rector decades later. Msgr. Dawson served many parishes through the years as a pastor, teacher, school administrator — including as diocesan superintendent of schools — and vicar general for the diocese.
“All of my assignments are my favorite,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every one.”
As he gets close to celebrating his 90th birthday, Msgr. Dawson said he is grateful for his wonderful relatives, and for time spent with God in prayer.
“One of the most important things in my life has been the Mass,” he said, “and one of my favorite things every day is prayer. I’ve had a wonderful life.”
Msgr. Ivan Vap - 65 years
Msgr. Ivan Vap was born in Hastings, and was assigned to St. Michael Parish in Fairbury for his first assignment. The majority of his time as a priest was spent as a teacher and administrator at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo and Pius X High School in Lincoln.
“I never expected to be a teacher, let alone an administrator, but every one of my assignments was great,” Msgr. Vap said.
In addition to serving as a teacher and administrator, Msgr. Vap spent time as a pastor, as well as the rector at Cathedral of the Risen Christ for 10 years.
Msgr. Vap said that the most important part of his priesthood has been his ability to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. He said he is grateful for his years spent in grade school and high school at St. Cecilia in Hastings, as well as the priests and the nuns who taught him.
Msgr. Adrian Herbek - 60 years
Msgr. Adrian Herbek grew up on a farm near Deweese, and was the third of five children. His youngest sister is Sister Rosaline Herbek of the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln.
While he went to public school growing up, Msgr. Herbek spent all 50 years of his active priesthood in Catholic education. In fact, in 2005 he was given an award for “Outstanding Service to Catholic Schools” from Conception Seminary.
“I never intended to be in Catholic schools, but that was the highlight of my 50 years [as an active priest],” Msgr. Herbek said.
He loved working with high school students and enjoyed the 29 years he spent as a superintendent.
“It was wonderful,” he said.
Fr. William Kalin - 60 years
Father William Kalin was born in Lincoln and attended St. Mary School from first through the 12th grade.
During his active priesthood, Father Kalin spent two terms, totaling 20 years, serving the diocesan mission in Venezuela, 10 years in Oregon with Bishop Robert Vasa, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, and two years in the Diocese of Grand Island.
The highlight of Father Kalin’s time as a priest has been the opportunity to celebrate the Mass.
“I still shudder at the fact that I get to do what Jesus got to do,” he said.
Father Kalin said he would like to thank the bishops he worked with during his time as a priest, Msgr. Riordan who taught him theology in high school, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who taught him growing up, and the sisters who take care of the priests at Bonacum House.
Fr. Philip Rauth - 60 years
Father Rauth grew up on a farm near York. His best friend made the decision to attend seminary in high school and transferred to the Archdiocese of Denver (Father Thomas McCormick).
While Father Rauth had considered other professions, he made the decision to go to seminary as well.
Father Rauth first served at St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln and served as the principal at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo for many years.
When asked about celebrating the 55th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood five years ago, he described being a priest as, “the biggest blessing there is.”
Msgr. Mark Huber - 25 years
Msgr. Mark Huber was born in Lincoln and said that the biggest reason for his accepting the call to be a priest was receiving the grace to understand that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
Msgr. Huber has served in many capacities within the diocese including judge for the Tribunal, chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln and judicial vicar. He was elevated to the rank of Monsignor in 2007.
Now, he is the vicar general of the Diocese of Lincoln and serves as a board member for other diocesan organizations.
He said, “I am grateful to Our Lord for his faithful love and daily making Himself available to us in the Holy Eucharist as we journey through this life.”
Fr. Bernard Kimminau - 25 years
Father Kimminau is amazed at the vast array of opportunities he’s been given as a priest.
Since his ordination, he has taught at Pius X High School, Bishop Neumann High School, and Falls City Sacred Heart. He has been the pastor at four different parishes, as well as their mission churches.
“To get to know the wide range of people on their journey of faith as I myself take that same journey has been very grace-filled,” Father Kimminau said. “But I believe I have been helped more than I’ve helped others.”
His favorite part of being a priest thus far has been getting to know people on a personal level and helping them on their daily journey to heaven.
Fr. Joel Panzer - 25 years
Raised in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Gordon, Father Panzer spent the first 14 years of his priesthood in the Lincoln Diocese where he was involved in campus ministry at the UNL Newman Center, and worked as a pastor, teacher, and school administrator.
In 2008, Father Panzer entered active duty as an Army chaplain and has since been deployed to Iraq and Qatar. He has also ministered to cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as an Army Catholic chaplain recruiter.
“The entire length of my ministry thus far has been challenging and fulfilling, both personally and spiritually,” he said. “Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t seem like 25 years since our ordination!”
Fr. Michael Stec - 25 years
Father Michael Stec grew up on a farm near Long Pine, and was first appointed to serve as the parochial vicar at St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln and taught at Pius X High School. At the time, he was also appointed to work in the Apostolate for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired.
Since then, Father Stec has served as pastor and teacher in other parishes and schools across the diocese.
When asked about how he felt celebrating his 25th anniversary as a priest he said, “The same as I did on my first anniversary, or 16th, or 24th—grateful, yet still amazed that God would call me to this life.”
Father Stec enjoys teaching and having the opportunity to help people know Jesus better, or experience his love and mercy.
Fr. John Sullivan - 25 years
Father John Sullivan was born in Doniphan and grew up a member of St. Ann Parish there. He said he finds it hard to believe he has been a priest for 25 years already.
“I would have to say that 25 years as a priest has given me an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” Father Sullivan said. “God has been so good to me.”
In his time as a priest, Father Sullivan has served in a number of different roles including pastor, teacher, finance officer of the Diocese of Lincoln and member of the Board of Directors for the Catholic Foundation of Southern Nebraska, to name a few.
Father Sullivan loves the liturgies of Holy Week “and being able to sing God’s praise in those beautiful celebrations,” and he has loved being able to preach and celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.
Fr. Thomas Walsh - 25 years
Father Thomas Walsh was born in Lincoln and was baptized at Sacred Heart Church where Msgr. Huber was also baptized. While he attended high school in Colorado, he returned to the Lincoln Diocese to attend seminary.
Father Walsh’s first assignments included serving as a part-time parochial vicar for St. Mary and North American Martyrs parishes in Lincoln, as well as a teacher at Pius X High School.
After that, he served as a pastor in parishes across the diocese and as chaplain to the St. Vincent de Paul Society before being appointed parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, N.M. in 2016.
Father Walsh said, “In my gratitude, I want to thank Jesus and Mary (and the people they have used) for bringing me to the 25th anniversary of my ordination as a priest.”
Of his favorite part of being a priest, Father Walsh said, “Well, it’s such a joyful thing to believe that you are doing the will of the good Lord.”