I am happy to be with all of you in this assignment. I remember thinking when I was the associate at All Saints that St. Matthew would be a nice parish to have someday. Through Divine Providence, I am here with you.
I know the parish has experienced a great deal of change in the past ten years. I also know from my own experience of frequent assignment changes that constant change is difficult. It is my hope and intention that I will be here for the next 13 years of my life, by that time I will be 70 and eligible for retirement. During these next 13 years, I will work hard to strengthen the parish. There is a lot to do but if we all work together and work toward the common goal of getting to heaven all will be well. I will never ask you to do something that I would not do myself. I try to lead by example and besides when you work with others, a not so pleasant job can be enjoyable! It is my great hope that St. Matthew will be a beacon of hope and mercy in a world filled with so much turmoil, a parish where the love of Christ flows endlessly.
I am the eldest of four boys. My next brother Scott and his with Lisa and their three children live in West Des Moines. My brother Todd and his wife Melanie and their three children live in Urbandale. My youngest brother Chad and his wife Charity live in Manchester with their three children. My parents, David and Deanne are both still living and are retired farmers now living in Manchester.
I grew up on our family farm about three miles west of Ryan, a small Catholic community in the southwest corner of Delaware County. I graduated from West Delaware High School in 1981, Loras College with a degree in history in 1985 and from St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, MD in 1989. I was ordained on June 24, 1989, and my first assignment was associate pastor of All Saints here in town. After four years, I was transferred to the Nativity in Dubiuqge for one year before being assigned as associate pastor of St. Patrick in Cedar Falls to help a priest who had cancer. After three years in Cedar Falls, I became pastor of two small parishes in Grundy County, Sacred Heart, Grundy Center, and Queen of Heaven in Reinbeck. I spent three wonderful years in that assignment before I was sent to the Angelicum in Rome, Italy to study Canon Law. I received my JCL in 2002 and was then assigned to the Metroplpoitain Tribunal and as a sacramental priest for St. Paul, Worthington, and St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville. In 2007, I was assigned as pastor of St. Matthias in Cascade, St. Patrick, Garryowen, Sacred Heart, Fillmore, and St. Peter, Temple Hill. I enjoyed my 13 years in that assignment very much as it was the first time in my priesthood that I was able to be in a parish setting for more than just a few years. So, I do know from my own experience, just how difficult the constant change is for parishioners. That is why I believe and hope the greatest gift I can offer to St. Matthew parishioners is a sense of stability.
Ever since I was in second grade, I felt called to be a priest. I grew up in a devote Catholic family, surrounded not only by the example of my parents but also by my grandparents who lived close by. The Catholic faith is most important to me and to my family. Even though I did not go to a Catholic school until Loras, I believe deeply in the value of Catholic schools as a good way to pass on the faith to young people.
I said at Mass, that I am an “Old Soul.” That means I love old things and old traditions, and try to bring them to the present. But I also live in the modern world. I try to bring a balance of the past to the present. I probably tend to be more on the traditional side of life.
My style is one of consensus. I believe when we can come to a consensus everyone wins something and everyone gives something for the good of the parish and for the good of souls. I try to be a good listener. I also try to be a man of compassion for others. As in my past assignments, I will give my my all to provide the best priestly service I can offer.
Some have asked what I would like to be called. Different priests prefer different references. To be honest, I am not a fan of my first name. I wish my parents would have used my middle name which is John. So, I would kindly ask that you use my last name, Fr. Loecke, which is the traditional way priests have been referenced.
As we begin this journey together I kindly ask that you will be patient with me. It will take a while for me to figure things out and how things are done. I would never do anything to intentionally offend anyone.
The parish has a great staff. I have found the staff to be so very welcoming and gracious. I could not have asked for a better reception. The staff has been so helpful to me already and I am most appreciative of their kindness.
I will close for now. But please know I am happy to be with you and will do my best to serve your needs.