Father Paul Meismer granted senior status; reception Jan. 2

CHERRY — Father Paul Meismer would have put a lighter headline on his plans to step back after more than four decades of parish priesthood.

“From Pastor to Pasture,” is how the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry and St. Patrick’s Parish, Arlington, is referring to Bishop Daniel R. Jenky’s granting him senior status effective Jan. 5, 2011.

Those who know Father Meismer, 67, would figure the Metamora native’s sense of humor would surface even in his retirement announcement.

“I think it’s important we keep a lively spirit,” said Father Meismer, who begins every Sunday homily with a joke of the week. And what comes next?

“I always preach short,” he told The Catholic Post in an interview from his office at Holy Trinity rectory. “That’s one of the things people were attracted to.”

Stories of humor will blend with memories of effective ministry at a dozen parishes and institutions of the diocese when Father Meismer is guest of honor at a reception and farewell party on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011 in the Holy Trinity Parish Hall. The gathering, hosted by the Trinitarian Club, will run from 11 a.m. to mid-afternoon. All well-wishers are invited.

Father Meismer will move to a home in rural Granville. In addition to “tinkering” with woodworking in his garage, perhaps writing a new book (his first, “Letters to Padre,” is due back from the printers any day) and having more time for hunting and fishing, Father Meismer will also be available to fill in for area priests as needed.

Born in Peoria on June 7, 1943, to Ralph and Mary (Sutcliff) Meismer, Father Meismer attended St. Mary’s Grade School in Metamora. He credits his interest in the priesthood to the urgings of his mother, whose service to the church was known diocese-wide and who for a time headed the National Council of Catholic Women, and those of family friend and longtime diocesan chancellor Msgr. George Carton.

“I really admired the man,” said Father Meismer of Msgr. Carton. “He was a priest’s priest.”

Father Meismer enrolled at St. Bede Academy in Peru and continued his education at St. Bede Junior College. His studies for the priesthood were completed at St. Procopious Seminary in Lisle and at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Ordained by Bishop John B. Franz on his 26th birthday in 1969, Father Meismer served for the next decade as parochial vicar at St. Valentine’s Parish, Peru. From 1976 to 1979, he was also administrator of St. Patrick’s Parish, Arlington, and Sacred Heart, Dimmick.

He was named pastor of St. Mary’s, Delavan, and St. Joseph’s, Hopedale, in 1979, and served those parishes for six years.

During that time, Father Meismer also served as chaplain of Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln. He called his prison ministry experience “enlightening,” but he also says “I wasn’t cut out to be a prison chaplain.”

In 1985, he became pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, Sheffield, where he would serve for 14 years. For a brief time in 1986 he also made the 40-mile trip to cover St. John’s in Cambridge, and for the last 10 years also served St. Margaret’s Parish in Wyanet.

Father Meismer served as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Spring Valley from 1998 until his present appointments to Arlington and Cherry in 2008.

Calling the priesthood “a very, very fulfilling life,” Father Meismer said love of the Lord and servanthood are keys to a priestly vocation. “You have to put yourself in second place a lot more than first place,” he said, especially when others are in a time of need.

Hoping that he’s been “a good confessor,” Father Meismer finds it most rewarding when someone who has been away from the church returns. “I feel like I’m being an instrument, an alter Christi,” he said. “I feel as good as they do.”

Father Meismer met the physical as well as spiritual needs of his flocks. For 26 years he made a weekly trip to a Kroger grocery store, where he knew the manager, to fill a trailer with food to assist area pantries.

Those wishing to send greetings to Father Meismer may write to him after Jan. 5 at 12580 E. 1545th St., Granville, IL 61326.

The farewell reception for Father Paul Meismer at Holy Trinity Parish Hall in Cherry on Sunday, Jan. 2, will also recognize the retirement of Ladyne (Studzinski) Huhn, who has served as secretary and bookkeeper in many of the parishes where Father Meismer was pastor.
A former CCD teacher and coordinator, Huhn has been the “Lady(ne) behind the scenes” keeping parishes running smoothly, said Father Meismer.

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