Students answer ‘What Does Your Priest Mean to You?’


More than 250 students in grades four through eight from throughout the Davenport Diocese participated in this year’s Vocation Promotion contest. The contest was a collaborative effort of The Catholic Messenger, Vocations Director Father Marty Goetz and the Serra Club of the diocese.

Judges from each of the sponsoring groups appreciated the thoughtful entries and chose 16 as the best among the many fine contributions.

Here are excerpts from the winning essays, songs, poems and posters for the contest that asked: “What Does Your Priest Mean to You?”

In a letter about Father Joseph Sia, parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction, fourth-grader Joseph Wieskamp of Bishop Hayes Catholic School in Muscatine wrote:


“I remember a couple of weeks ago that you told me that Christ was not Jesus’ last name. That inspired me to want to learn more about God and Jesus. Your homilys always touch me. I hope you stay for a very long time so you can teach me more about God and Jesus.”

Fourth-grader Olivia Peters of Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf wrote a poem about Father Tim Sheedy, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf:

“My priest, Fr. Tim, is important to me. He asks great questions in the homily. He tells us to pray good and well. He doesn’t drag on, yet it’s not Mass in a nutshell.”

Laura Meloy, a fourth-grader at Lourdes Catholic School, also wrote about Fr. Sheedy:

“To me, my priest means that he teaches us about the loving (G)god. He is an awesome priest. He cares for us even though we do sins. He loves us as sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. He’s committed himself to God, to not marry, and to be a holy one.”

In a letter about Father Thomas Spiegel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, fifth-grader John Hirl of Oskaloosa Christian School wrote:

“Father Tom is so many things it’s hard to put it in words. A man who devotes his life to Christ is amazing. When Father Tom turns the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, it’s phenomenal …. I’m thinking about becoming a priest and whenever I have a question, Father Tom explains it clearly and detailed.”

In a poster dedicated to Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired but active diocesan priest, Abbey Heinrichs, a fifth-grader at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport noted:

“aMazing, sOcial justice, faiThful, smarT, Eager, True” (capital letters spell out Mottet).

Caitlin Steimle, a fifth-grader at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport, wrote about Msgr. James Parizek, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, saying:

“I like Msgr. Parizek because he attends, for example, plays, sporting events and other activities …. He celebrates Mass almost every day to preach about God. I also admire how he gave up having a wife and kids just to be with God.”

Jenna Zaiser, a sixth-grader at Notre Dame Catholic School in Burlington, wrote about Father Ron Legerme, a priest from Haiti who served in Burlington from 2007-08:

“I like Father Ron, but also feel sorry for him because he is a Haitian and he might have lost family members in the large earthquake there. I hope that he, and his family, are safe. I will keep that in my thoughts.”

Katie Roling, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt, wrote on priests in general.

“Without priests, how can we hear God’s word? How could we understand? Priests are an important asset within our church. They dedicate their lives to teaching the future generations of the church the Word of God. They love God with all their hearts, which shows what amazing role models they are.”

In his essay on Father Bob Harness, former pastor of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt and current pastor of Holy Family Parish in Davenport, Mitchell Matyasse of St Joseph School, said:

“My favorite priest is Father Bob Harness …. He would always talk to me when I was down. We both had a similarity – we both had pacemakers. I’ve always liked the guy. He always tries to cheer me up when I’m down, and he never gets sick of you. He’s generous and cares about everyone.”

Kate Tarchinski, a seventh-grader at St. Joseph School wrote about Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt, and said:

“The first letter ‘P’ stands for prayful, peaceful and patience… The ‘R’ stands for respect and reasoning…. The ‘I’ stands for important and intelligent …. The ‘E’ stands for enthusiasm and excellent …. The ‘S’ stands for smiley and smart …. The ‘T’ stands for trustworthy and truthful…. That is how I feel about my priest, Father Paul Connolly. He is a great priest even though he hasn’t been here for a whole school year.”

Paige Hansen, a seventh-grader at Holy Trinity Catholic  Junior/Senior High School in Fort Madison, wrote about Father Gary Beckman, pastor of St. John Parish in Houghton and St. James Parish in St. Paul, saying:

“My priest is wonderful, but of course all priests should be. His name is Gary Beckman, but known to all of us parishioners as Father Beckman …. When Father Beckman says Mass, you can tell that he loves what he is doing …. One thing that shows how much he cares for our schools is that he comes every Tuesday and gives Mass and has lunch with all of the kids.”

John F. Kennedy seventh-grader Katie Lemons wrote a four-verse song titled “Amazing!” to the tune of “My Jesus,” regarding priests:

Refrain: “My priests are, amazing. They teach me about my faith. Every day, I see them pray. They profess their faith to God.”

Verse 1: “They’re humble, inspiring. They chose to listen to God. The choice that they made — for every day. Makes me want to jump for joy.” Back to refrain.

Eighth-grader Adam Stewart of Holy Trinity Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Fort Madison wrote about Father Troy Richmond, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison and St. Joseph Parish in Montrose, saying:

“My priest, Father Troy, is important to me because he teaches me to live like God wants me to live … He is confident at Mass and everywhere he goes; this boosts my confidence by knowing that I should be myself and not what others want to see.”

Alisha Saathoff, an eighth-grader at Holy Trinity Catholic Junior/Senior High School wrote about Father Thomas Parlette, former pastor in Fort Madison and current pastor at St. Peter Parish in Buffalo and St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport, saying:

“Father Parlette always has a smile on his face. He could always put a smile on everyone’s face. Whenever you saw him he would always have something clever or funny to say to you …. When he gave his homilies they would always relate to what was happening around you or with you personally.”

In her essay, Abby Jackson, an eighth-grader at Notre Dame Schools in Burlington, wrote about Father David Steinle, pastor of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville; Father Patrick Hilgendorf, pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington; and Father Bruce DeRammelaere, parochial vicar at Ss. John & Paul Parish, saying:

“They are all very, very important to me. … I think of priests as Catholic role models. They are strong in spirit and very knowledgeable about Catholic beliefs and non-beliefs. I look up to priests because they are so courageous to give up a marital life and they live to be with God.”

Rachel Sigwarth, an eighth-grader at John F. Kennedy Catholic School, wrote about Msgr. Parizek, saying:

“A leader can be there, in spirit and in soul, or a leader can be there for someone you can hold. A leader must be strong, compassionate and care, even when they’re not, you feel like they are there. Monsignor Parizek is a great leader to me…. He loves to help and care and he does it all the time. He’s loving and he’s fair.”

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