Two priests celebrate 25th anniversary

The Register

Two priests for the Salina Diocese will celebrate silver anniversaries: Father Fred Gatschet and Father Mark Wesley.  Father Gatschet, 56, attended Kansas State University, earning degrees in Spanish and Milling Science. He then attended at St. Meinrad Seminary in Meinrad, Ind., and was ordained May 22, 1993, at Seven Dolors Church in Manhattan by Bishop George Fitzsimons.  Because he’s fluent in Spanish, Father Gatschet said he often assisted with translation during his seven-year tenure at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.  “There would be days when I’d say 6:30 a.m. Mass (in English), and then the phone and doorbell would ring and I would got o bed at night and think ‘I don’t think I spoke English all day,’ ” he said, adding he spent much of his time working with the Hispanic community.

The connection with the Hispanic community is something he strives to maintain as the parochial administrator of St. Joseph in Hays. He said he works to find Bible studies and other ways to catechize the Spanish-speaking population, in addition to those who speak English.  One of his primary — and unexpected — roles was that of a teacher at Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr./Sr. High School. He describes the 12 years he spent in the classroom as “a blessing.”  “Due to the breakdown of catechesis over the last 50 years, people know nothing about their faith,” he said. “Being able to go in and provide classes and instruction … watching people have that ‘aha’ experience is very satisfying.”

As a child, his family often invited the clergy over for meals, and he would help around Seven Dolors parish where he grew up in Manhattan. So not much of the daily life of the priest was a surprise to Father Gatschet. He said Father Damian Richards summarized the most surprising aspect of the priesthood the best.  At the priest gathering to commemorate his 25th anniversary in 2017, he said: “ ‘When I look at my life as a priest, how interesting and rewarding it is, I cannot understand why we don’t have guys banging down the door to become a priest.’ ” Father Gatschet quoted.

He then expanded on Father Richards’ statement.  “People complain about their jobs, that it’s a dead end or not rewarding,” he said. “The priesthood, when you talk to any of us, is the antithesis of all that. It’s a career with never the same thing twice. When i get up every morning, I never know what I’m going to encounter. You have to learn how to think on your feet and be creative. It’s not boring or the same old, same old.”  Father Gatschet said he doesn’t have any formal plans for his anniversary.

His assignments have been:

  • June 1993: Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.
  • June 1999: Comeau Catholic Campus Center in Hays.
  • 2001 - 2012: Add reaching religion class at Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr./Sr. High School.
  • July 2013: add Parochial administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Hays, while continuing at CCCC.

Father Wesley, 63, grew up in Abilene. After a few years in college, he began working in a warehouse, then worked part time for the post office before entering the seminary in his 30s. He was ordained June 5, 1993, in St. Andrew Church in Abilene by Bishop George Fitzsimons.  “Gratitude drew me to the seminary,” he said. “Gratitude to God, neighbor, parents, grandparents and family. I had a good job and friends, my entering the seminary was an expression of my gratitude.”

Father Wesley said he enjoyed his fellow classmates, and continues to enjoy the fraternity of the priesthood to this day.  “We have quite a few characters,” he said with a laugh. “The men I entered seminary with were beneficial. In the summers we could encourage one another.”

Looking back at more than two decades, Father Wesley said both the people and the parishes are memorable.  “I enjoy the celebration of the sacraments and events in peoples lives that God wishes to bless them with — baptisms, weddings and even funerals,” he said. “One event does not stand out. Just being with the people.”

Father Wesley said he enjoys helping those around him see God in everyday life.  “In everything we do, God’s grace and life and love is present. That’s an amazing thing to live with,” he said. “I try to help people to recognize that in their daily lives.”  In addition to regular interaction with parishioners, Father Wesley said the fraternity of the priesthood is vital to his vocation.  “It’s a good fraternity when we get together,” he said.

During his priesthood, he said he’s been surprised by those in each parish where he has been assigned.  “There are always people who have a divine spark that is expressed in their daily life,” he said. “That’s an amazing and wonderful thing to see. Also, children at Mass is such a gift. it’s a sign people are open to the new gift of life. I also appreciate the people that truly live their faith and are active in a variety of ways …. it’s all wonderful.”  No formal celebration or gathering is planned for his June 5 anniversary.  “Hopefully I will have a quiet day,” he said.

His assignments have been:

  • 1993: Parochial Vicar at St. Mary, Queen of the Universe Parish in Salina
  • 1994: Parochial Vicar at Seven Dolors Parish in Manhattan 
  • 1997: Pastor of St. Francis Parish in Bird City and St. John Nepomucene Parish Beardsley.
  • 1999: Pastor of St. John Parish in Herington, St. Philip Parish in Hope and St. Columba Parish in Elmo
  • 2014: Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Minneapolis and St. Patrick Parish in Lincoln­