The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 29, 2008

MSU grad celebrates first Mass

MANKATO — According to the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome.”

For Father Tom Niehaus, who celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, the old saying is true.

Niehaus’ road began in the Polish enclave of Ivanhoe, population 679, in southwestern Minnesota. He graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a teaching degree and was a student teacher at New Ulm High School.

But before Niehaus left MSU to complete his master’s degree at South Dakota State, his road diverged.

While active in the St. Thomas More Newman Center, located on the MSU campus, Niehaus became drawn to the idea of priesthood. He said a trio of mentors — the Newman Center’s Sydelle McCabe as well as Fathers John Kunz and Rick Colletti — helped open his ears to the calling.

After completing his masters, Niehaus answered by enrolling in the seminary. Within a few short years, his road had, indeed, led to Rome and the very doorstep of the Vatican.

“My studies in Rome will always color my priesthood,” Niehaus said. “People from every country on earth are studying theology or working at the Vatican. I was exposed to all the diverse ways the Catholic Church is visible and alive on this planet.”

On April 8, 2005, Pope John Paul II was carried to his final resting place. More than 4 million pilgrims flooded the city of Rome. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads up to St. Peter’s Square, and even more watched the funeral on large TV screens scattered throughout the city.

Niehaus was there among the mourners, having met John Paul II twice himself.

“I’ll never forget those encounters,” Niehaus said. “He gave me his blessing and I expressed my gratitude for his presence.”

Niehaus was one of four men ordained as priests in the Diocese of Winona on Saturday. During his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. John the Baptist Parish in Mankato, he spoke of his journey.

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