Six priests marking 60 years in ministry in 2019

DUBUQUE — Six priests of the Archdiocese of Dubuque are marking their 60th anniversary of ordination. These priests celebrated the sacrament of holy orders on Jan. 31,  1959.

 

Father Thomas E. Braak was born Aug. 12, 1933, in Des Moines to Albert and ­Florene (Murphy) Braak.

He graduated from St. Mary High School in Marshalltown in 1951. He graduated from Loras College in Dubuque and completed his theological studies at the former Mount St. Bernard Seminary, also in Dubuque.

He was ordained Jan. 31, 1959, by Archbishop Leo Binz at the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque.

Father Braak served as associate pastor of St. John Parish and chaplain of St. Francis Hospital, both in Waterloo, 1959.

He served as secretary to Auxiliary Bishop George Biskup and associate pastor of Church of the Nativity Parish, Dubuque, 1959-66.

He served as associate pastor of Assumption Parish and as a faculty member of Notre Dame High School, both in Cresco, 1966-71.

He served in team ministry at Immaculate Conception Parish in Charles City and St. Mary Parish in Roseville, 1972-76 and 1977-78.

He was associate pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, Ames, 1976-77.

He served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Hampton and St. Francis Parish in ­Dumont, 1978-82; Sacred Heart Parish in Monticello, 1982-86; St. Henry Parish in Marshalltown, 1986-99.

He was pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in La Porte City, St. Mary Parish in Eagle Center and Immaculate Conception Parish in Blessing, 1999-2003.

He served as dean of the Marshalltown Deanery, 1986-91.

Father Braak retired in 2003.

 

Father Melvin Hemann, son of Bernard and Olive (Halbach) Hemann, was born Oct. 15, 1928, in Stacyville.

He graduated from Loras College in Dubuque and completed his theological studies at Mount St. Bernard Seminary, also in Dubuque.

He was ordained Jan. 31, 1959, by Archbishop Leo Binz at the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque.

He served as associate pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Protivin and Holy Cross Parish in Schley, 1959; St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Rapids, 1959-60; St. Peter Parish in New Haven, 1960; St. Benedict Parish in Decorah, 1960-65; and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and Catholic Student Center in Ames, 1965-72.

He served in team ministry in Mason City, 1972-76, and in Charles City and Roseville, 1976-77.

He served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Chelsea, 1977-81.

He was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Preston, 1981-91, while also serving as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Sabula and Sacred Heart Parish in Green Island, 1987-91. He was dean of the Bellevue Deanery, 1987-91.

He served as director of the Family Life Office, 1991-98, while also serving as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Rickardsville, 1991-98, and SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Sherrill and St. Francis Parish in Balltown, 1993-98. He was executive secretary of the Balltown-Sherrill Consolidated School, 1993-98.

He retired in 1998 in Cedar Falls. For nine years, he volunteered as chaplain at American Martyrs Retreat House and, as most retired priests, assisted as needed in area ­parishes.

In 1998, he also fulfilled a lifelong dream when he completed the construction of an RV 6 airplane.  At the time, he was national chaplain of Marriage Retorno and the 200-mph plane offered him a means of travel to present weekends throughout the United States. In his idle time, he served as a flight instructor and charter pilot at the Waterloo airport.  Three years ago, he moved to Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues to assist local parishes and flight instruction at the local airport.

“The past 60 years have gone by so quickly,” Father Hemann recently said. “I end ­every day thanking God for the many blessings of the day, the wonderful people who have blessed my day, the unexpected surprises that awe and at times frighten me, and the never-ending awareness manifested in the goodness of our God who has chosen one like me to be his servant.  Added to that is the reality that I will never have to worry about my job being terminated as well as the assurance I will always have three square meals a day and a roof over my head.  What more could anyone ask of life!”

Father Hemann’s family plans a reunion in May when they will celebrate his anniversary.

 

Father John Kremer was born May 1, 1932, to John and Susan (Neisen) Kremer of Waterloo.

He graduated from Loras College and completed his theological studies at Mount St. Bernard Seminary, both in Dubuque.

He was ordained Jan. 31, 1959, at the Cathedral of St. Raphael, Dubuque, by Arch­bishop Leo Binz.

His first assignment was as an associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish, Charles City, until being assigned to St. Patrick Parish, Cedar Falls, in 1964.

In 1966, he was appointed to the faculty of Columbus High School, Waterloo. He was executive coordinator and principal of Don Bosco High School, Gilbertville, 1970-73, and from 1973-76 was associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish, New Hampton.

In 1976, he became executive coordinator of the Aquin School System in Cascade and administrator at St. Peter Parish, Temple Hill, and Holy Trinity Parish, Baldwin.

He was assigned to Forest City and Lake Mills in 1986 and was pastor of Holy Family Parish, Mason City, 1991-97, during which time he also served as executive coordinator of the Newman Catholic School System in Mason City.

He became pastor of St. John Parish in Delhi and St. Luke Parish in Hopkinton in 1997; he remains pastor at St. John.

In 2014, Father Kremer began serving as sacramental priest for the Blessed Trinity Cluster of the Manchester area and continues in that role today.

He will celebrate his jubilee on Sunday, July 21 in Delhi.

As he recently looked back on his 60 years of priesthood, Father Kremer said, “Serving as a priest has been a pilgrimage.”

 

Father Lloyd Paul Ouderkirk, who retired in 2003, was born April 19, 1933, to Francis and Dolores (Hilkin) Ouderkirk of Durango.

He graduated from Loras College and completed his theological training at Mount St. Bernard Seminary, both in Dubuque.

He was ordained Jan. 31, 1959, at St. Raphael Cathedral by Archbishop Leo Binz.

His first assignement was as associate pastor at St. John’s, Independence, and All Saints, Rowley. He also served as an associate at St. Mary’s, Guttenburg, 1963-68; St. Joseph’s, Farley, 1968-70; and Immaculate Conception, Lansing, 1970-73. He also served on the faculties of these parish-affiliated high schools.

He was director of St. John’s School of Religion, New Hampton, and administrator at Alta Vista from 1973 until 1980, when he was assigned as director of Holy Family School of Religion at Festina and Calmar. In 1984, he was elected a member of the Priests’ Council from the Ossian Deanery.

In 1985, he was the last priest assigned to San Raphael Parish in Coch­a­bamba, Bolivia. The parish was then turned over to the Cachabamba Diocese. From 1986-88, he worked in Texas with the Glenmary Home Missioners, where he helped found two new parishes — Sacred Heart in Mt. Vernon and Holy Cross in Pittsburg, becoming the first resident administrator.

He served pastorates at St. Joseph’s, Farley, 1988-92; St. Boniface, Garwin, 1992-98, during which time he also established Hispanic ministry for the Marshalltown area, while serving as archdiocesan director of Hispanic ministry.

He was named pastor at St. Theresa and Sylvia Switch in 1998, while working as Hispanic minister for the Dubuque Region at St. Patrick Parish, Dubuque.

In 2008, Father Ouderkirk came out of retirement to work with the parish staff to assist Hispanic workers, following a May 12 raid by immigration officials on the Agriprocessors packing plant in Postville.

He received the 2008 Stand Up for Justice Award from the Korean Coalition on ­Immigration in Flushing, New York. He was also recognized by the Jewish newspaper The Forward, located in New York, as one of the 51 most influential persons in Judaism in 2008. This recognition came as a result of his work with Agriprocessor workers.

He continues to be an advocate for extensive immigration reform.

 

Father Philip F. Recker, retired priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, was born Feb. 20, 1933, in Bancroft to Frank and Mary Celeste (Underkofler) Recker.

He graduated from Loras College and completed his theological training at Mount St. Bernard Seminary, both in Dubuque.

He was ordained Jan. 31, 1959, at St. Raphael Cathedral by Archbishop Leo Binz.

He served temporary as­signments at St. Francis Xavier, Belmond, and St. Michael’s, Nashua, until being named associate pastor at St. Joseph’s, Cresco, in 1959.

In 1964, he was appointed to the faculty at Wahlert High School, Dubuque, where he served for the next 11 years. In 1975, he became chairman of the theater arts department at Viterbo College, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

In 1984, he was named pastor at Fayette and Hawkeye, where he served until being appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s, Cedar Rapids, in 1990. From 1991-97, he served as pastor of St. Mary’s, Williams, and Good Shepherd, Jewell.

Father Recker was named pastor of Sacred Heart, Osage, in 1997, where he served until retiring in 2003.

 

Father Louis Zee was born March 20, 1933, in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China, to Joseph Zee and Mary Hsu. He came to the United States in 1951.

He graduated from Loras College and completed his theological studies at Mount St. Bernard Seminary, both in Dubuque.

He was ordained on Jan. 31, 1959, by Archbishop Leo Binz at St. ­Raphael Cathedral, Dubuque.

He served as associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Cedar Rapids, 1959-63; St. Michael’s, Belle Plaine, 1963-64; St. John’s, Independence, 1964-65; St. Joseph’s, Stone City, and St. Isidore’s, Springville, 1965-67; St. Francis de Sales, Ossian, 1967-72; and Sacred Heart, Dubuque, 1974-77.

He was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s, Parkersburg, Immaculate Conception, Allison, and St. Joseph’s, New Hartford, 1977-82.

He served as pastor of St. Mary’s, Williams, and administrator of Good Shepherd, ­Jewell, 1982-87.

He was pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Mt. Vernon, 1987-94; and St. Paul’s, Newhall, St. John’s, Blairstown, and Immaculate Conception, Van Horne, 1994-2000. From 1990 to 2000, he served as spiritual moderator for the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, Cedar Rapids.

In year 2000, Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, loaned Father Zee to the Archdiocese of Galveston-­Houston to serve a Chinese parish in Houston, Texas. He was the pastor of the Ascension Chinese Mission in Houston for 16 years (2000 to 2016). Father Zee officially retired on Nov. 1, 2016. He now resides at 3315 Country Club Blvd., Stafford, TX 77477.

On Jan. 31, 2019, Father Zee celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Ascension Church for 60 years in the priesthood. About 200 people attended. His sister Theresa Xu and her husband came from China for the occasion. A good friend who attended his ordination 60 years ago in Dubuque, in spite of poor health, made great effort to come from San Francisco to Houston for the 60th anniversary Mass.

“It’s a miracle that God called me to be a priest for 60 years in the United States,” said Father Zee, as he reflected on his ministry.

 

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