Fr. Wirth to Be Pastor of Parishes in Fessenden, Esmond, and Maddock

Rev. Steven Wirth, Parochial Vicar, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

In May I received word that Bishop Folda has chosen to name me pastor of St. Augustine Church in Fessenden, St. Boniface Church in Esmond, and St. William Church in Maddock. This gives me some mixed feelings. I am very excited to have my own parishes, and I look forward to the work I will have there. I am also a bit nervous about the responsibility I will have in my new role. And, of course, I will miss the parish of St. Joseph, St. Joseph School, and the Devils Lake community. 

First, let me explain. Bishop John T. Folda as Bishop of Fargo is responsible for the care and governance of all the Catholic churches in eastern North Dakota. His appoints his priest to be his representatives and to care for each church. He has appointed me “pastor” of these three churches in Fessenden, Esmond, and Maddock. In the Catholic Church the title “pastor” is given to the priest who is put in charge of a parish (or parishes). This is different from my current title of “parochial vicar” (often called “associate pastor” or “assistant priest”) which is given to a priest who works in a parish under the charge of that parish’s pastor. 

In the case of new priests, the job of associate is often given as a sort of training period, to give them time to learn how to be a parish priest before giving them the full responsibility of leadings a parish. Such was the case for me when I spent two years as an associate under Fr. Phil Ackerman in Langdon, then four years here in Devils Lake under Fr. Chad Wilhelm. I have been greatly blessed to have worked under these two priests and in the great communities of Langdon and Devils Lake. I will treasure the experiences I gained here. 

In one sense, with my training period complete, becoming a pastor is a promotion for me. It is reassuring to me that Bishop Folda and the priests that advise him feel that I am ready for this next step. While the greater responsibility does make me a bit nervous, it also makes me excited. God is entrusting me with the care of his people, and I know that He will be with me the whole time. I almost can’t wait until I begin at my new parishes. I look forward to getting to know the people there. And I look forward to the work that God has in store for me there. 

My final day here in Devils Lake is Sunday, June 26. There is a going away party for me on Sunday, June 19, at about 1:45 P.M. (following Noon Mass and a Eucharistic Procession) at the St. Joseph Parish Center. 

I want to thank all the many people who made my time here so amazing: starting with Fr. Wilhelm, as well as retired priest Fr. Pfau. I also want to thank the staff and volunteers at St. Joseph Catholic Church who have helped me so much in my ministry. And I want to thank the teachers, staff, and students of St. Joseph Elementary School and St. Mary’s Academy Middle School. And I wish to thank all the St. Joseph parishioners and the members of the Devils Lake Community. I also want to encourage you to welcome my replacement, Fr. Joseph Littlefield, with the same kindness in which you welcomed me. 

I ask you to pray for me as I transition into my new role. And I pray God’s blessings upon all of you.