Catholic Church Ordains First Married Priest in Nebraska - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Catholic Church Ordains First Married Priest in Nebraska

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After a five year drought where the Grand Island Catholic Diocese did not ordain a single new
priest, Friday they ordained three, including the state's first married priest. 

It was with nervous anticipation, wedding day jitters almost that Father Sidney Bruggeman was ordained as a Catholic priest. 

"When I say it's kind of like getting married, it's from personal experience," he said. "It's the same sense of feeling I had when I got married."

At a time when the Catholic Church struggles to replace aging pastors, Nebraska welcomes three, including the state's first married priest. 

Most Rev. William Dendinger the bishop of Grand Island said, "There's only about 100 in the United States I think this is the first one in Nebraska, but it's a very, very small exception to the policy of mandatory celibacy for all those who are priests."

Bruggeman said he's used to the questions. "It's a difficult question for a lot of Catholics to approach. A married priest is like 'that can't be. There's some mistake here. Somebody's trying to pull a fast one.'

Bruggeman left his position as a protestant minister, became a practicing catholic, and received a special dispensation from the pope himself. 

Bishop Dendinger said, "Father Bruggeman was pretty crystal clear. He'd been Catholic for years and had thought about this a long time so it was not a snap decision it was well thought out."

Bruggeman joins a traditional seminary student and an immigrant from Mexico. The three new priests bring hope to a diocese that had not ordained a single priest in five years. 

Father Jorge Canela-Rodriguez said it was a day of celebration. He said, "Being in seminary for almost ten years finally I came to the day, this is the day the Lord has made and my heart is full of joy and gratitude to the Lord."

Now Bruggeman, a father of four becomes a Catholic father.

"It's a joyful day," he said.

Father Bruggeman is married with four children and several grand children.  He will be pastoring churches in Greeley and St. Libory. 

Reporter's Notes by Steve White:
Bishop Dendinger said, "The ordination of a former Protestant minister, still married, is not new. Since late 1950 Pope Pius XII started the process of granting a dispensation from the required celibacy in this limited situation... It has been a practice for more than 50 years and there are some 100 former Protestant ministers, still married, in the United States presently."

He added, "This event cannot be interpreted that the Catholic Church will relax the requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood. That requirement has more than 1500 year tradition and there is no present movement to change it for the Roman Catholic Rite."

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