Richter marks 50 years as priest

NEW ULM–Msgr. John Richter, rector at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, in New Ulm is celebrating his 50th year as an ordained priest.

Richter was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of New Ulm on Feb. 22, 1964, at the Church of St. Mary in Bird Island, by Bishop Alphonse J. Schladwiler.

Richter says he first felt the call of the priesthood at his First Communion. Richter cited the sisters and priest in his home parish as a major inspiration for him.

Over the years, Richter has witnessed many changes, but remarked one the most significant occurred less than a year after being ordained. “At that time, everything in our sacred liturgy was in the Latin language,” said Richter. “Nine months after that, we began making changes. We began to use English. This was a tremendous change because I was educated from a child to the age of 26 using the Latin language for worship.”

Richter began serving in New Ulm as an associate pastor at Cathedral and religion teacher at Cathedral High School. Richter also served as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sleepy Eye for 16 years. Eleven years ago, Richter returned to New Ulm, and in 2005 he was named chaplain to His Holiness with the title of monsignor.

After 50 years in service of the Catholic Church, Msgr. Richter is eligible to retire, but has continued working, saying, “I feel I can still be a service to the Church, especially since we have a shortage of priests in our diocese and church at large. “

Richter says it is important to help young men to recognize a calling to the priesthood. Richter says he had the good fortune of inspiring two men to become priests, Father Steve Verhelst and Father Aaron Johanneck, both of whom are serving in the diocese of New Ulm.

Because the need for new priests in the Church is important, Richter truly feels it is not time to retire. He joked that he was not sure how he would fill his time in retirement. “I don’t golf and I don’t fish. I love to travel, but you can only travel so much.”

Over the years, Richter has led many pilgrimages, including one to the beatification ceremony of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Rome. At this time, Richter is content, saying, “I love the work that I do. I love celebrating Mass, preaching and celebrating sacraments.”

In his 50 years as a priest, Richter estimates that he has celebrated 30,000 masses and delivered as many homilies. “Homilies really flow from our prayer life,” explained Richter. “They come from reflection and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you.”

In celebration of his 50 years, Bishop John M. LeVoir will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at noon on Sunday, March 23, at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It will be followed by a special reception in Leifeld Hall. The public is invited to attend this special event.

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