Together, they have combined to serve nearly 50 years at St. Patrick Church in Kankakee, and 100 years overall in their priestly ministry. On Sunday, parishioners celebrated their long service to the church — and to parish families.
The church was filled for the jubilarian Mass recognizing Fr. John Peeters, CSV, and his 40 years of priesthood, and Fr. Donald Wehnert, CSV, and his 60 years of priesthood. Fr. Peeters has led the parish as pastor since 2007, while Fr. Wehnert served 12 years as parochial vicar (from 1982-1989 and again from 1997-2002), and has lived in residence at the parish since his retirement in 2002.
The special occasion drew many Viatorians from the area, including Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, Superior General of the Viatorians, as well as Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, Provincial, and Bishop Christopher Glancy, CSV, all to concelebrate. They were joined on the altar by Fr. Matthew Pratscher, Pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Kankakee and Fr. Vern Arseneau, chaplain of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Kankakee and Bradley, IL native.
The celebration took place on the 4th Sunday of Easter, or Good Shepherd Sunday, which Fr. Mark Francis found fitting as he shared his homily.
“It is appropriate today having read about Jesus, the good shepherd in the Gospel of John, that we celebrate the ministry of two other shepherds who have faithfully followed the path set by Jesus for a combined total of 100 years,” Fr. Francis said.
“Through Fr Don’s 60 years of teaching and then parish ministry—his gentle, pastoral sense toward those entrusted to his care— has emulated the Good Shepherd by inspiring people to pay attention to Jesus’ voice in their lives,” Fr. Francis said. “Fr John’s serving in parishes and the Viatorian Community since his ordination 40 years ago, his generosity and patience in ministering as pastoral associate, novice director and pastor, has made real and effective the care that God extends to God’s people through the priesthood.”
After Mass, parishioners hosted a reception for the two Viatorians and their well-wishers, at the nearby Knights of Columbus Hall. That same night, members of the wider Viatorian Community celebrated together at a dinner reception at Rigo’s Place in Kankakee.
“I never dreamt, when I was ordained on April 30, 1983, that my Viatorian priestly service would lead me to minister to the People of God, in English and in Spanish,” Fr. Peeters said, “in such disparate places as Springfield (IL), Bogota (Colombia), Bourbonnais, Corozal Town (Belize), and Kankakee. I give thanks today to the Lord for all those wonderful experiences.”