Area priests to mark 40 years of priestly ministry
By Jean Torkelson
Seven priests of the Denver Archdiocese are marking 40 years of priesthood ordination. Short profiles of the clerics are below.
FATHER ALLAN WEINERT, C.Ss.R
Currently: Treasurer-Secretary of Redemptorist Denver Province
Born: Fond du Lac, Wis.
Ordained: June 22, 1972
Among previous assignments: Dean of students, St. Joseph College, Edgerton, Wis.; Served on Redemptorist mission team, Chicago; Editor-in-chief, Liguorian magazine (1989-2002).
Reflection: “It’s a great grace to be called to the priesthood; my ministry has had some real highlights. I would say being editor of the Liguorian was the richest period of my life. I was able to interview some remarkable people, such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, famous for her work on death and dying. I asked her, ‘You say you want to die and you’re ready—so why are you still here?’ She replied, ‘Because there is something I have not learned yet.’ Which I think is profound. I interviewed Sister Helen Prejean (author of “Dead Man Walking”); I reported, and wrote stories from Bosnia, Africa and Thailand, to name a few places.
“An issue of the Liguorian (unfortunately, not me!) flew on the space shuttle to the Mir space station in May 1997.
“I could never have imagined where the Spirit of God would lead me. There is a richness in (God’s call) you cannot create. God invites you, you cannot create it.”
FATHER JAMES GUYER, S.J.
Currently: Teaches history at Regis University, Denver; Consultor to the provincial of the Missouri Province.
Ordained: May 27, 1972
Reflection: “I’m surprised how fast it’s gone. It feels like 40 days. I remember on ordination day people were carrying orange-colored programs that said, ‘Called to Serve’ and suddenly I realized —‘Whoa! This is the day.’ I was looking forward to saying Mass, preaching and hearing confessions. But actually I did very little of that in the first three years. Almost immediately I left for language school in Japan, but because I didn’t speak the language I wasn’t able to serve the parishes … later, I started graduate studies in New York … so those first three years were spent really without sacramental ministry. But I must have been saving up energy for later, because it’s been nonstop ever since!
“I’ve been at Regis since ’76, and have celebrated a lot of student Masses, gone out to many parishes—I need three more lives there is so much to do. So many people want to talk and need the Lord’s forgiveness and encouragement. We need to respond to them and bring them to God.”
FATHER REGIS SCANLON, O.F.M.Cap.
Currently: In the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver; Spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver; One of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States.
Born: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ordained: Aug. 26, 1972
Among previous assignments: Director of Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver (1999-2010); Chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice Seton House and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women, Denver (1989-2008); Sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (1997).
Reflection: “When I was first ordained and went to the pulpit, I was convinced the salvation of the world was about to begin with my first homily. Now I’ve kind of modified that view! In all seriousness, the past 40 years have been at times difficult and challenging, but always quite joyful in service of the Lord. I was always happy to have the support of the Capuchins and good bishops in my work as a priest and in my prayer life.”
FATHER JOSEPH BONA, S.J.
Born: Omaha, Neb.
Ordained: May 11, 1972
Previous assignments: Parish ministry and accounting work for the Society of Jesus; primarily served as a retreat director.
Reflection: “I’m 86 years old now; I was a late vocation to the Society of Jesus. I would say the greatest thing that happened to me was ordination to the priesthood. It’s meant a whole different life for me. I’ve learned a lot from my fellow Jesuits and from the Church, the people of God. My whole attitude to life has changed for the better.
“I was an accountant previously, getting my first job in high school at a bank in Houston; later I worked in a number of private and governmental organizations as an accountant. My life as a priest has brought a lot of learning and personal healing because of my increased understanding of the religious experiences, needs and outlooks of others. But the greatest thing is that my relationship with the Lord has grown, and that has put all the past and present in a more human perspective. What could be better?”
FATHER REINHOLD WEISSBECK, V.F.
Currently: Pastor at St. John the Baptist, Longmont; Dean of the Boulder Deanery.
Born: Bodenengern, Germany
Ordained: May 27, 1972
Among previous assignments: Vocation director, Archdiocese of Denver; Chaplain, Colorado General Hospital; Dean, Greeley Deanery; Pastoral posts in Denver, Fort Collins, Brighton, Greeley, Roggen, Keensburg and Wiggins. Pastor of archdiocesan team in Monteria, Colombia.
Reflection: “A highlight for me was my mission experience in Monteria, Colombia, where, by the time I arrived in 1990, the archdiocese had established two mission parishes. Being with the poor taught me the importance of not being in control. To be in a situation with no water, rationed electricity and violence—and to open my mouth and nothing comes out! It was the experience of being in extreme poverty, of being dependent. We followed the spirituality of simple living, Gospel reflection and eucharistic adoration every day; it left with me a deep desire to work in multicultural settings, for example, with Mexican families and the Volga Germans in Kansas. Today I’m in a great parish, with 5,000 families, so I can use my mission and language background there as well.”
FATHER KENNETH KOEHLER, V.F.
Currently: Pastor at St. Mark, Westminster; Dean of the North Denver Deanery.
Born: Sterling, Colo.
Ordained: May 27, 1972
Among previous assignments: Founding pastor, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Collins; Pastor, Sacred Heart, Peetz; St. Catherine, Iliff; Most Precious Blood, Denver; Dean, Fort Collins Deanery.
Reflection: “The big surprise of my past 40 years happened right after I entered the seminary, when the Second Vatican Council convened. It led to a wonderful new life in the Church but as it was happening, it was confusion, and a challenge, to understand all the changes. Ultimately it did open up many doors and possibilities about what it means to be a priest. It moved us from clericalism to the idea of real service, which was one of my mottos at ordination, ‘I come to serve, not to be served.’
“A major joy for me was serving in parishes, especially as founding pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins. It was more than just building a building, it was building a community of worshipers. That experience taught me that you can do anything with the help, support and prayers of the people.”
MSGR. EDWARD HOFFMAN
Currently: Monk in the Order of Cistericans of the Strict Observance (Trappist order), St. Benedict Monastery, Snowmass.
Born: White Plains, N.Y.
Ordained: Jan. 7, 1972
Among previous assignments: Pastoral posts: Risen Christ, Spirit of Christ, Nativity of Our Lord parishes. Archdiocesan posts: Chancellor, Vicar General, Moderator of Curia; Archdiocesan College of Consultors, Metropolitan Tribunal, Dean, Southwest Denver Deanery
Reflection: I'm grateful to the Lord for the many blessings I've received while serving the Church in pastoral life, in archdiocesan administration, and now in the monastic life. What has surprised me most since my ordination is that the Lord called me to the monastic life after so many happy years in pastoral ministry! But I believe it was his grace leading me through the cumulative experience of my life to accept a choice he had already made for me: to live a simple life of prayer and work enveloped in his solitude and silence.