Tom Neitzke was like a lot of other children when he made a bold prediction about his future, but he was far different than most young people when he chose a path in life that has led him from the quiet confines of Port Washington to the mean streets of Milwaukee, the leper colonies of China, the barrios of Central America and the schools of Africa to a calling few men are willing to answer.
“When I was in kindergarten, I told my mom I wanted to either be the milkman or the pope,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t look like I’m going to be a milkman.” On Friday, June 11, Neitzke, a graduate of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Port Washington and Port Washington High School, will be ordained a Jesuit priest during a ceremony at Gesu Church in Milwaukee.
The following day he will celebrate his first Mass in the familiar surroundings of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Washington, where decades ago he was an altar boy. Neitzke’s journey, a challenging 11-year immersion in the Catholic faith and Jesuit teachings that has literally taken him to the far ends of the earth and put him in the company of people ranging from Pope John Paul II to destitute outcasts, has led him down the road less traveled.
At the June 11 ceremony, he will be one of only six Jesuits from the Midwest and the only one from Wisconsin ordained into a church reeling from a shortage of priests. Neitzke, who will be 36 when he is ordained, is also in exclusive company locally.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Washington has produced 22 priests — only two of whom have been Jesuits — since 1879, according to Kevin Wester, who compiled the history of the parish for its 150th anniversary in 2003. Wester was the last parish member to be ordained in 1990, although he has since left the active ministry of the priesthood. Neitzke’s ordination will be a grand affair that promises to pack the immense Gesu Church with hundreds of fellow Jesuits, but it is his first Mass at his childhood church that will be particularly special, he said.
Link (here) to the full article