June 1, 2016 // Local

Area priests celebrate jubilees

Holy Cross Father Robert Nogosek offers 60 years of service

By Jennifer Miller 

“It is not a choice. It is a calling from God.” With these words, Holy Cross Father Robert Nogosek spoke of his vocation. “You really need to know that God called you.” Nogosek answered God’s call 60 years ago, when he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on October 28, 1956.

Originally from North Dakota, Father Nogosek literally grew up “close to the Church.” Raised by his aunt and uncle, he lived right across the street from their parish church and would walk to serve as an altar server. His Catholic family was active and faithful, which offered him a positive, loving example of God.

It was this strong faith foundation that supported him while at the University of Notre Dame in 1948, studying as a lay student through the ROTC program. “The religious atmosphere caught me and I met other students considering too the priesthood,” he said. Also “many excellent priests” told him, “We need you.” Initially he considered first finishing his time in the Navy as an officer. However one summer during ROTC, he was out in the Pacific Ocean on a cruiser, looking up at the thousand of stars in the night sky and wondered what he should do with his life. He prayed for God’s will for an entire year and continued to know God’s call for him, a call that he first felt as a child. He joined the Congregation of Holy Cross that year.

After seminary Father Nogosek was sent to Paris, Jerusalem and Rome for further academic studies in the New Biblical Theology and was ordained in 1956. He taught first (in Latin) as a seminary professor, but in 1962, he was called back to Rome to be the Rector of the Holy Cross House. This was also the year in which the Second Vatican Council began.

“We had followed the debates and issues of the Council. I studied in Paris under the professors of the New Theology, Biblical and Patristics and they were the ones now writing many of the documents of the Council, so I was ready for understanding the change.

Rome was all excited. I was not expecting much. I was involved in the discussion with the Protestant observers because that was easier to join in. Each of the fall sessions, we would follow along daily. Father Heston stayed at our house. He was head of the English press. He would meet the press at 2:30 p.m. and he loved to tell secrets.

After Vatican II concluded, Father Nogosek returned to the United States to a serve in a parish, Sacred Heart in New Orleans. He thought he had been in seminary stuff too long, but he was trying to get people interested in Vatican II and they weren’t very interested in it. So that — Vatican II — was always a part of him. The provincial assigned Nogosek to the faculty at Notre Dame, teaching first for undergraduates and then in the seminary. He then decided that he was best at doing — where his greatest talent lie — was in doing retreats that involved spiritual life and renewal.

Constantly lead by the Holy Spirit, in prayer with Jesus and following God the Father, Father Nogosek found himself leading retreats with the Fatima Renewal Team with the “Better World Movement.” They hosted parish retreats that began in 1973, with a goal of building community through small groups inspired by Vatican II renewal. They started in Indiana, but found themselves asked to speak at parishes around the Midwest region. From Nebraska to Ohio and Kentucky, they reached over 51 parishes, with retreats for hundreds of laity.

Father Nogosek found these programs of renewal blossoming and in 1986 began serving with the Cursillo movement in the Coachella Valley of California. There was a need for the spiritual care of many Spanish-speaking farm laborers, but no official program existed. The retreats were fruitful but needed to be connected to a parish to continue to flourish. He was often “giving advice of how to run parishes, and then the superior said to me, ‘How about being pastor?’ As far as the Spanish goes, I said, ‘God if you want me to do this, you got to teach me Spanish.’ It is a great place and we worked on the development and ministry of lay people for the next 12 years.”

The Bishop of San Bernardino, California then asked Father Nogosek to become the Director of Permanent Deaconate Formation, which was an excellent blending of his many talents and academic work. After seven years, he was called back to South Bend to serve in St. Adalbert and Casmir Parish as associate pastor, continuing to work with Hispanic ministry. All the while, his ministry was very much marked by Vatican II and developing active  Christian communities.

The nature of Father Nogosek’s spiritual life still and always has been shaped by the Eucharist. Jesus in the tabernacle is central in his life. He began the practice of daily meditation on Holy Scripture for an hour each day when he was first ordained, and still continues this 60 years later. The community of Our Lady of Fatima House prays morning and evening prayer together, which Father Nogosek enjoys. “(It is) really wonderful. … Life is simpler and community and prayer creates the shape of things,” he said.

His hopes for the future are to continue to live for a purpose, and for peace on earth and among humankind. He thoroughly enjoys his vocation as a priest, saying, “I love people!” and clearly demonstrates God’s love to them. Father Nogosek also looks forward to doing more theological writing.

Father Edward Erpelding observing 50-year Jubilee as priest

By Vince LaBarbera

It’s unusual for a priest to be identified by name, rank and serial number. But for more than half of his 50 years as a priest, that’s how Father Edward E. Erpelding was known. By the time he reached retirement from active military service as a Catholic chaplain in 1996, he had attained the rank of Captain in the United States Navy and earned some 14 awards including a Gold Star and five Bronze Stars.

Born in Fort Wayne, young Erpelding attended McColluch and St. Andrew elementary schools, and Central Catholic High School. He first thought about becoming a Franciscan priest in sixth grade, he said, due to the influence of the Franciscan sisters teaching at St. Andrew and his oldest sister, Sister Cecelia Marie, OSF, with the Mishawaka community. She died last year along with his youngest sister, Marilyn Rose McKee. He has two brothers, Joe, of Craigville, IN and John, living in Fort Wayne.

His next thoughts about a priestly vocation came after high school and were prompted in part by a bet he made with his older brother, John, who said he wouldn’t stay in the seminary. He won the wager when he earned a minor seminary certificate in 1960 from Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Syracuse. He continued his studies at Mt. St. Mary’s of the West Seminary, Norwood, Ohio, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1962 and completing a master’s degree in theology in 1965. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Leo A. Pursley on May 28, 1966, and assigned as associate pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne. The following year he earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Saint Francis. He has pursued postgraduate studies at Xavier, Ball State and Chapman universities, Medical College of Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America.

Before his military career, other associate pastor assignments included SS. Peter & Paul, Huntington, 1970, St. Adalbert, South Bend, 1972 and St. Joseph, Fort Wayne, 1974. Father Erpelding also taught at Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, and served as principal of Huntington Catholic and Marian high schools in Huntington and Mishawaka, respectively, and as director of pastoral care at St. Joseph Hospital, Fort Wayne.

Father Erpelding received an ecclesiastical endorsement and volunteered for service in the Navy Chaplain Corps. He was appointed a Lieutenant and commissioned in 1970. He completed active duty training at Naval Operation Base, Norfolk, VA and Naval Air Station, Memphis, TN. He graduated from Naval Chaplain School in 1972.

Some of Father Erpelding’s numerous assignments during his long military career include: visiting Coast Guard units on the Pacific Coast and serving on Coast Guard cutters; service with the Third Marine Division’s Fleet Marine Force, Okinawa, Japan; writing curriculum modules in leadership and management, and teaching classes at Officer Candidate, Officer Indoctrination and Naval Chaplain schools; deployment to Korea with Fourth Marine Regiment on USS Denver; assignment to USS Guam and  duty on USS Guadalcanal and a couple amphibious units; participating in several operations in the Persian Gulf, Haiti and Adriatic Sea; appointment as Command Chaplain aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and Commander Eisenhower Battle Group.

“It’s a privilege to be endorsed by the bishop as a representative of the diocese to provide religious ministry to our Catholics in the service and provide for the free exercise of religion,” said Father Erpelding.

Pastoral assignments after his military career were St. Martin de Porres, Syracuse, 1996; St. Joseph Hessen Cassel, Fort Wayne, 2002; and St. Mary of the Assumption, Avilla, 2006. In 2012 he requested an assignment as priest chaplain of Parkview Regional Medical Center, Fort Wayne, which was granted by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. He continues in this ministry even though he reached retirement age last July. When Today’s Catholic asked him how long he plans to continue ministering to about 25-50 patients a day, he answered, “We’ll see.”

When he’s not ministering at Parkview, Father Erpelding enjoys drawing and painting. Many works include buildings, scenes and people he experienced during his long and varied priesthood.

Father John Pfister celebrates golden jubilee

By Mark Weber

Although he is celebrating 50 years of priesthood, his intentions of living the religious life go back to when he was nine years old and his hero — his father — was killed in a automobile accident. Father Pfister’s dad was in the plastic business in Huntington and John was frequently in his shadow at the lab, certain that one day he would be working with his dad full-time. The tragic accident literally crashed those plans and John heard himself telling his sister, “I think I’ll be a priest.”

After six years at Our Lady of the Lake seminary on Lake Wawasee and seven years at Catholic University in Washington, D. C., he was ordained a priest by Bishop Leo A. Pursley on May 28, 1966 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

Father Pfister’s first assignment was as an assistant at St. Charles Borromeo in Fort  Wayne and as a faulty member at Bishop Dwenger High School where he taught English and Religion to seniors, the school’s first graduating class.

He was also chaplain of the athletic department and after five years became guidance director at Bishop Dwenger High School.

On July 1, 1969, Father Pfister was appointed diocesan director of religious vocations, a post he would hold for a number of years and a cause he continues to hold close to his heart.

In relation to his work with vocations, on March 29, 1973, Father was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Athenaeum of Ohio which comprised the minor and major seminaries, St. Gregory’s and St. Mary’s, Cincinnati, Ohio.  On July 6, 1978, he was appointed chaplain of the Serra Club of Fort Wayne.

From 1974-76, Father was State Chaplain for the Indiana Knights of Columbus and eventually served as a council chaplain for the Knights of Columbus in South Bend.

Next came Father Pfister’s first pastorate: On July 7, 1980, he was named as pastor of St. Jude parish in Fort Wayne by Bishop William E. McManus, where he served until July 26, 1988 when he was appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in South Bend by Bishop John M. D’Arcy.

It was back to Fort Wayne on January 11, 1994 as Father became pastor of Queen of Angels parish where he stayed until August 10, 2005 when, after nearly 40 years he returned to where he started, his hometown of Huntington and became pastor of St. Mary parish. He served there until June, 2015 when he retired and moved to Saint Anne Home in Fort Wayne.

Declining health has been a serious problem for Father Pfister. He has difficulty walking which has limited his activities to a high degree. His dreaded walker is a cross in disguise. Slowly he makes his way through the halls, his agony masked by a smile and his encouraging words for others. Those who knew him “in the day” remember his hearty thumbs-up victory salute and his “we’re gonna win” personna; it’s still there, in a quiet way. What isn’t there, and never was, is bitterness, self-pity or a litany of sorrows. He forgets rather than regrets.

Father Pfister’s jubilee is golden, but his character, example and determination is unalloyed stainless steel.

Holy Cross Father Charles Lavely celebrating 50 years of Priesthood

By Jennifer Miller

Ordained a Roman Catholic priest on December 18th, 1965 in Rome, Italy, Holy Cross Father Charles Lavely is celebrating 50 years of priesthood this year.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Father Lavely is the eldest of three boys born to Clara and Charles Lavely. He credits his mother especially with encouraging and fostering his education. Both parents were important examples that inspired Father Lavely in his vocation and spiritual life. “They gave us great love and models of service. I find myself today visiting shut-ins on Sunday … why? This is what my parents demonstrated. I recall my father doing the same when I was a boy on Sundays.”

Father Lavely also remembers “the priests of our parish coming over to our home” on a regular basis. His father, Charles Sr., was also a member of a men’s group in their parish and good friends with a Holy Ghost priest who was very kind to the boys growing up. He remembers going to Sunday evening benediction with his whole family and going out for ice cream afterwards if he and his brothers behaved well. These seemingly everyday, small choices and gestures had a strong impact on Father Lavely, impressing upon him the goodness and appeal of the priesthood, as well as the love and faithfulness given to the Church by the lay faithful.

His loving, Catholic upbringing amplified the Holy Spirit’s calling to the priesthood.  The call came early in his life.  At age 13, Lavely answered an ad in his Catholic Boy magazine, for the Congregation of Holy Cross’ vocations at Notre Dame. He soon became a student at Holy Cross College, formerly a high school seminary on Notre Dame’s campus. Later, he continued to the Novitiate and Moreau Seminary. He then continued his studies in Rome, where he was ordained.

Father Lavely was a student at the Gregorian University in Rome, studying moral theology, at the time of Vatican II. World-famous theologians would visit and stay at the Holy Cross house and discuss the exciting events and topics of the day. He clearly remembers the day when Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray spoke to them. In the middle of his talk the rector of the seminary, Holy Cross Father Bob Nogosek, politely interrupted him and announced that President Kennedy had just been shot. Father John Courtney Murray immediately asked everyone to kneel and pray for Kennedy. He then left, never finishing his talk.

For the start of Father Lavely’s active ministry, he served as chaplain at the Congregation’s international school in Rome. He then spent 12 years at Notre Dame High School in Chicago, teaching theology.

His next ministries were at various parishes in South Bend, including St. Therese Little Flower, St. Patrick, St. Joseph, Holy Cross and St. Augustine. When he first began parish ministry, Father Lavely recalls, “I was scared to death,” but remembers hearing interiorly God’s voice speaking to him, “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”

This is one of two themes that Father Lavely has discerned during his priesthood, “I will be with you.” The other is “The road not taken.” (from the Robert Frost poem) “As I look back, those themes have been present in my life.”

Today, Father Lavely is officially retired. He feels that “the secret to retirement is to volunteer.” He divides his time between life at Our Lady of Fatima House and service with the archives of the community, St. Augustine soup kitchen and visiting Hospice clients. Father Lavely also enjoys his community at Our Lady of Fatima House, with their morning prayer and daily Mass.

“The Spirit is very active in my life. I know of the concern of the Father and see the person of Jesus in interacting with folks,” he said.

He hopes for the future “that I keep doing God’s will, that I see and hear what God calls me to do and to go this way (hand pointing to the side) that I follow.”

Father James Stoyle to observe 25-year jubilee as priest

By Vince LaBarbera

Like Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel who decided to listen to Jesus speak rather than help her sister, Martha, serve, Father James F. Stoyle eventually followed his heart and chose the priesthood over a promising secular career.

“I am definitely happy about the decision I made,” said Father Stoyle in anticipation of his 25-year jubilee of priesthood this coming November.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1944, he was the youngest child of David and Catherine Stoyle. A sister, Anne Doyle, 85 — who Father Stoyle lovingly calls “Stoyle Doyle” — and a brother, Lawrence, 73, still reside in the Pittsburgh area. A brother and two sisters have died.

Father Stoyle attributes the fact that his parents were both daily communicants, along with the teachings of the Sisters of Charity at Resurrection School and the presence of four priests at the Pittsburgh parish, all as influential in his desire to become a priest as early as second grade. His high school and college studies were at St. Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology in Indiana, then a minor seminary. He studied theology and philosophy, minoring in English, history, social studies, French, classic languages and education. Prior to being ordained, however, he had some doubts about committing to the priesthood and he asked to take two years off. But, the decision demanded an immediate “yes” or “no” answer, so he chose the negative.

He taught English and history, served as a training director and an operational manager, all in the Pittsburgh area. Later, he began working in Chicago as an executive assistant to a corporate president and as a general manager. He then started his own consulting business and sought out a smaller town near an airport. He chose South Bend and began attending Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral. That’s where he met Bishop Joseph R. Crowley, auxiliary bishop and rector of St. Matthew Cathedral, who became his spiritual advisor and asked him if he was still considering the priesthood.

The two-year absence from pursuing his ordination had grown to 21 years, but he felt the call was still there. So, at age 42, he enrolled in Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary near Boston, again studying philosophy even though he had earned a master’s degree in the subject from Duquesne University. He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Crowley and a week later to the priesthood by Bishop John M. D’Arcy on Nov. 16, 1991, in St. Matthew Cathedral.

Father Stoyle’s initial assignment as associate pastor was at St. Thomas the Apostle, Elkhart. Eighteen months later he was appointed pastor at St. Jude, South Bend, and also served at Sacred Heart of Jesus, Lakeville. During his stay, he oversaw major repairs to the church and school, and the school reached its capacity of 254 children.  In 2001, he was named pastor of St. Monica, Mishawaka, where he was instrumental in obtaining a gift to add air conditioning to both the church and school. He began serving as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, in 2005, where he taught a weekly adult Scripture class during the day and an evening theology class.

Since 2010, Father Stoyle has served as pastor of Immaculate Conception, Kendallville. Again, he arranged for needed repairs to the church and basement, repainted walls, redecorated the Stations of the Cross, raised-up the main altar and erected reredos behind it, and many other improvements for just $75,000. And, he has a few other liturgical ideas in mind to enhance the beauty of the 149-year-old worship space.

He also had a new Allen organ installed equipped with a synthesizer-like device that enables him, as the church organist, to record/play the organ music for weekend Masses. He began playing an organ in church when he was 13 and studied piano at the Chicago Musical College which later merged with Roosevelt University’s School of Music.

Father Stoyle does have some health concerns, but when his feet hit the floor every morning he immediately says, “Deo Gratias” (“Thanks be to God”) for another day, whatever happens. “As St. Paul said, ‘In all circumstances give thanks’” (1Th 5:18), he concluded.

Nigerian priest has special devotion to Our Lady

By Bonnie Elberson

Father Daniel Chukwuleta, who is celebrating his 25th Jubilee Year, says that he has a personal devotion to Our Lady and the rosary.

This devotion, along with celebration of the Holy Eucharist, are the things he enjoys most about being a priest.

Father Daniel is a native of Ihiala, Anambra State, Nigeria. He grew up as one of 10 children and the only one of his siblings to enter religious life. He says his “life changing moment” came when he was a 12-year-old altar server at St., Martin’s Church, Odoata, Ihiala, and realized he had a vocation to the priesthood. When he told his parents of his desire to be a priest, they were very supportive.

His beloved mother, especially, encouraged him and prayed for his success. Father Daniel calls her his mentor, along with the late Father George Akanigwo, CS, Sp, who inspired him through his own spiritual life and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

During his seminary formation Father Daniel studied philosophy and theology at Bigard Memorial Seminary in Nigeria and taught as a senior seminarian at All Hallows Minor Seminary. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theology at Pontifical Urban University, Rome, a master’s degree from Indiana University, and his doctoral degree in pastoral counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka.

He was ordained on July 13, 1991, at Holy Trinity Cathedral Onitsha by the late Archbishop Stephen Ezeanya, and belongs to the Onitsha Archiocesan Presbyterium.

Father Daniel is considered to be in this country on a “mission,” so “they expect you back,” he says. After early pastoral assignments in Nigeria, he was sent to this country in 1998 to serve as chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in downtown Fort Wayne, then was assigned as pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Avilla, where he remains today in his fourth year. He also serves as chaplain of the Fort Wayne Catholic Medical Guild.

Father Daniel speaks highly of St. Mary Parish. “This is a lovely community — small but nice. I love the school,” says the friendly, affable pastor. “And I am very grateful to Bishop Rhoades.” He and Msgr. Robert Schulte have been “very, very supportive,” he adds.

He says he thinks often of his mother’s advice to him as a young man. She said, “No matter how successful you may be in life, do not claim the world to be your own. So be humble, honest, kind to your fellow human beings.” Father Daniel tries to follow that advice, as always, as he enters his next quarter-century of service to God and his fellow man.

Capuchin Friars mark 60 year jubilees

Mount Calvary, Wisconsin — Capuchin Friars Ronald Rieder and Bede Louzon are marking their 60 year jubilees as Capuchin Friars. They will be joined by 16 other jubilarians on July 15 at St. Lawrence Seminary High School, the founding site of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph, Mount Calvary.

Father Ronald has served Ss. Peter and Paul Parish since 1984. “I have served as pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul, Huntington, for thirty two years,” Father Ronald explains. “I love being a Capuchin, I love Huntington with all my heart, and I love my beloved St. Felix. It’s been a wonderful experience!”

Father Bede served Ss. Peter and Paul Parish from 1986-1992. “One of the most rewarding experiences in my vocation has become the ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we witness to the profound repentance and the ministry of the Mercy of God among his people,” Father Bede explains. “As our anniversary of religious life approaches, the greatest experiences and joys of religious life are the experiences and memories of past ministries, people and places of service among his people, but especially the witness and love of our fraternity. I am so proud of my Capuchin vocation. God is good indeed.”


Msgr. Owen Campion
celebrates 50 year jubilee as retirement nears

HUNTINGTON — Msgr. Owen Campion will celebrate 50 years as a priest this year and is preparing to retire at a later date this summer. A larger story on Msgr. Campion will be featured here in an upcoming issue.



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