It has been a wonderful life, says golden jubilarian priest

By: By Jennifer Willems

Standing just a few feet from where he had been ordained at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 31, 1964, Msgr. Dale Wellman said, “I can see that it has been a wonderful life.”

“I have found and made friends with many wonderful people in this Diocese of Peoria,” he told Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and priests serving throughout central Illinois during his homily at the annual Mass for Jubilarians and Newly Ordained Priests on June 26.

“My brothers in the priesthood, thanks for your friendship and example. They have meant a great deal to me,” Msgr. Wellman said. “To my newly ordained brothers, you have entered into a great fraternity. Welcome.”

To the Sisters and lay people “who have become part of the fabric of my life,” he promised “a place in my heart and prayers.”

Msgr. Wellman is one of four priests celebrating his golden jubilee as a priest in 2014. He served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Moline until June 11, when he was granted senior priest status.

Also recognized were Brother George Matsuoka, OSB, of St. Bede Abbey in Peru who has been professed for 70 years, and more than 20 priests who are celebrating 65, 60, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20 and 15 years of ordination. Among them was Bishop Jenky, who was ordained on April 6, 1974.

“Bishop, I’d list all your accomplishments, but we want to get to dinner,” quipped Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general. After laughter and closing prayers, the clergy reconvened at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center for a social hour, dinner and fellowship.

Msgr. Wellman said the liturgy has been “one of the great interests of my life in my journey of faith.”

“It began before I even entered the seminary. I was serving Mass and took a great interest in all things surrounding liturgy,” he recalled, crediting
Sister Celestine, a Benedictine Sister at St. Mary in Moline, and his pastor, Father Enos Barnes, with planting and nurturing the seeds of that love.

Msgr. Wellman said one of his seminary professors feared that the changes of Vatican II were coming too fast and that some of the clergy and laity were not sufficiently prepared for it. He discovered how difficult change is when the new translation of the Roman Missal took effect in 2011.

“I’ve had to learn a whole new language and new words, how to pronounce them and how to phrase them to the best of my ability so the people can understand and appreciate them,” he said.

But Msgr. Wellman had promised obedience to Bishop John B. Franz and his successors during his ordination and said, “I believe that I have carried out that promise and with the grace of the Holy Spirit have found peace in my life.”

Noting that Pope Francis had called priests to “be good pastors first, then scholars,” Msgr. Wellman said, “I hope I have been a good pastor and I pray that all of you, too, will be good pastors, knowing too the importance of good scholarship. For it is in loving and caring for each other that we fulfill the Lord’s command and come to share his kingdom of glory.”

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