Rev. Gery Gerald Francis Meehan, O. Praem.

July 6, 1934 – August 23, 2017

Fr. Gery Meehan, O. Praem.

Fr. Gery Meehan, O. Praem.

Fr. Meehan, age 83, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey and a Norbertine priest, teacher, principal, and pastor, passed into God’s Eternal Kingdom on August 23, 2017.

Fr. Meehan was born on July 6, 1934, in Philadelphia to John and Elizabeth (Campbell) Meehan.

In 1952, Fr. Meehan graduated from the Norbertine Southeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. He received a B.A. degree in philosophy from St. Norbert College (SNC) in 1957.

Upon entering St. Norbert Abbey, he was vested as a novice on August 28, 1952. He professed Simple Vows on August 28, 1954, Solemn Vows on August 28, 1957, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 18, 1960.

Fr. Meehan began his teaching and administrative ministry at Abbot Pennings High School, spending 19 years in the classroom and 11 years as principal. During this time, he also completed his M.A. degree in French at Middlebury College, Vermont. He also served several terms as house superior at St. Norbert Abbey and at St. Joseph Priory. For almost 30 years, Fr. Meehan assisted with weekend parish ministry at St. Mary Parish in De Pere. He devoted much time and care by his participation in the Cursillo Movement for 20 years, and he coordinated the St. Norbert Abbey youth retreat program for three years. He was a French and German instructor at SNC for two years, and was named pastor of St. Norbert College Parish at Old St. Joseph Church and director of campus ministry from August 1993 to February 2001. After his ministry at SNC, Fr. Meehan ministered to the Hispanic parishioners at St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay and at a number of local nursing homes.

Fr. Meehan has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1985 Ft. Howard Paper Foundation Humanitarian Award, the 1990 St. Norbert College Silver Knight Award, and the 1994 Roses for the Living Rotary Award.

Fr. Meehan is survived by the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey; two brothers, James Meehan and Jack (Mary) Meehan; and beloved niece, Christine Parsley. Fr. Meehan is also survived by the hundreds of students to whom he ministered so selflessly at SNC and his cherished Abbot Pennings High School.

He was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters: Sr. Clare Amata Meehan, IHM, and Christine (Meehan) Perham.

The Norbertine Community is grateful for the extraordinary care Fr. Meehan received from the abbey medical and nursing staff, and for the many friends who visited him throughout his recent illness.


Visitation will be held in the Church of St. Norbert Abbey on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, beginning with Vespers of the Dead – Reception of the Body at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8 p.m.

Visitation will continue at the abbey on Thursday, August 31, 2017, from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

The Mass of Christian Burial, expressing our faith and hope in the promised glory of the Lord’s Resurrection, will be held in the abbey church on Thursday, August 31, 2017, at 4 p.m.; the Rt. Rev. Gary J. Neville, O. Praem., abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, will serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the concelebrated funeral liturgy.

Burial will follow immediately in the St. Norbert Abbey cemetery.

Ryan Funeral Home, De Pere, is in charge of the arrangements.

Read More about Fr. Meehan

“Vivat in Eternum”: Reflections on Two Funerals

By Bob Woessner

Past Pennings High School Parent, “Green Bay Press-Gazette” Writer

It has been our good fortune to have avoided going to many funerals. But a week ago Thursday there were two – an hour apart in churches a mile apart.

The first, at 4 p.m. at St. Norbert Abbey, was for Father Gery Meehan. He was the principal at Abbot Pennings where our three sons went to high school. The second, at Resurrection Parish, was for Patricia O’Neill. She and Kit were in a book group together.

Pat struck me as a vibrant and intense person who did lots of good work for many people during a life of 73 years. That included 16 years in village government, the last two as president. She fell victim to a cancer so aggressive that it was only a few weeks from diagnosis to death.

The journalist in me wants to say Rev. Gery Meehan, who was 83, as the AP Stylebook dictates. But everyone called him Father. That is the way he will be remembered by the hundreds of students he encountered at Pennings in his 30 years as teacher and principal.

Pennings was one of two Norbertine high schools in the Green bay area. The two and St. Joseph’s Academy, the all-girl school our daughter attended, were folded into one in 1990. Finances and fewer priests and nuns made the merger inevitable. But the decision embittered many people. Someone who knew him well told me it broke Father Meehan’s heart.

The APHS building was a hand-me-down from a De Pere school district. Enrollment was rarely more than a few hundred but the place always seemed crowded and noisy. Growing boys in jackets and ties clomped and thundered up and down stairs. Most of the jackets and ties were from Goodwill or someone’s closet of worn-outs. The dress-code garb was worn only during the school day, rarely laundered and often left to compost in lockers.

Looking back, three things made Pennings work. One, as son Tim noted, the place was small enough that most any student with a pulse could find an activity. Second, finances were so precarious that parents had to be involved in fundraising and that forged a sense of community.

The final reason was Father Meehan. The abbot who delivered the funeral homily said Gery “lived as a gentleman.” I did not see the text but assume there was a space between “gentle” and “man.” Father Meehan was a gentleman – well-mannered and civil – but also a gentle man who was both a mentor and a model for boys who likely are better men because of him.

The logistics of the two-funeral day led us to a mid-afternoon visitation for Pat, to Father Meehan’s funeral and then to a country-club reception for Pat.

After Father Meehan’s liturgy we followed the Norbertines – many white-haired and age-bowed – to the cemetery a few hundred yards from the Abbey. The white-robes gathered around the open grave. As late-summer sun lengthened shadows, they sang “Vivat in Eternum,” not a dirge but an exaltation for someone who “lives forever.”

At the reception, Pat’s husband held off his grief to talk of her life and his loss with eloquence and humor. You wondered how he could do that and if you could if the sad task became yours.

I wore a wore a coat and tie for the day – something I do rarely. That was proper attire for the country club. But the real reason was that Father Meehan would have approved.

August 2017 Norbertine Celebrations at St. Norbert Abbey

August 21, 2017

St. Augustine

St. Augustine

On Sunday, August 27, 2017, at the First Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Augustine, Rev. Peter B. Ambting will be vested in the white habit of the Norbertine Order. Rt. Rev. Gary J. Neville, O. Praem., Abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, will preside over the vestition ceremony.

On Monday, August 28, 2017, the Solemnity of St. Augustine, Frater Patrick M. LaPacz, O. Praem., will profess Solemn Vows, forming a mutual lifelong commitment to the canonical life between himself and the entire professed community. Abbot Neville will preside over the solemn rite.

On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, Frater LaPacz also will be ordained to the diaconate by Most Rev. Robert F. Morneau, DD, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Green Bay.

Read more about vestition and the Norbertine religious habit »

August 27, 2017 — First Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Augustine

Vestition of Fr. Peter Ambting, O. Praem.

An Outward Sign of an Inward Spirit

August 28, 2017 — Solemnity of St. Augustine

Bishop and Doctor of the Church | Author of Our Rule of Life
Celebrating the Solemn Profession of Frater Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

A Lifelong Commitment to Canonical Life

from St. Norbert Abbey on Vimeo

August 29, 2017 — Mass of Diaconate Ordination of Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

Frater Patrick Michael LaPacz, O. Praem.

Profession of Solemn Vows and Ordination to the Diaconate

… I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me this year as a Norbertine deacon.

—Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.
Frater Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

Frater Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

Frater LaPacz, 30, is the son of Terrence and Mary (Berg) LaPacz of Green Bay, Wis., and is a son of St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay.

Frater LaPacz was vested in the white Norbertine habit in August 2012 and professed Simple Vows in August 2014.

A 2005 graduate of Notre Dame de la Baie Academy, Green Bay, Frater LaPacz graduated from St. Norbert College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He also studied at Conception Seminary College in Missouri from 2009-2011, and is completing a Master of Divinity degree at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

“My solemn profession and diaconate ordination were special days for me. My journey to this point has been long, but it was worth the wait. I’m so glad I was able to celebrate these days with friends and family, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me this year as a Norbertine deacon.” —Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

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Rev. Peter Bernardus Ambting, O. Praem.


… I look forward to take time for contemplation and reflection during the novitiate.

—Fr. Peter Ambting, O. Praem.
Fr. Peter Ambting, O. Praem.

Fr. Peter Ambting, O. Praem.

Fr. Ambting, 44, is the son of Peter H. and Wilhemina (Vos) Ambting of Doetinchem, Netherlands, and is a son of St. Martin Parish in Beek, Netherlands.

Fr. Ambting graduated from the Secondary Agricultural School of Doetinchem in July 1991 and from Higher General Continued Education schooling in August 2002. After being admitted into the seminary for the Archdiocese of Utrecht, Netherlands, in 2001, he earned a master’s degree in theology (Pastoral Theology) in August 2007. Fr. Ambting was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Utrecht on May 17, 2008, and most recently served as the pastor of the Roman Catholic Parish of Maria en Laurentius (a merged parish comprising 19 previous parishes) since 2010.

The first-year Norbertine novitiate (in which Fr. Ambting will participate) will take place at St. Norbert Abbey.

“After saying farewell to my parish in the Netherlands on July 2, emptying my house, and organizing the move to the U.S. in the weeks afterwards, finally the moment of vestition was here. It was the result of two and a half years of discernment since I first visited St. Norbert Abbey. That was a pretty long time. Because of the distance I was only able to make it to De Pere during my yearly summer vacation. I also wanted to finish the merger of the two parishes where I was the pastor.

I have been a priest for more than nine years, and always felt the desire for community life. The vestition with the white habit was for me an external sign of an internal movement. It felt good to take this first step, but I also realize the call to community life will be there every day as a gift and a task. After 10 years of working in a parish I look forward to take time for contemplation and reflection during the novitiate.” —Fr. Peter Ambting, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

As seen in the Spring 2017 issue of St. Norbert College Magazine

Unto the Next Generation

By Breanna Mekuly ’12

St. Norbert College

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., teaching at St. Norbert College | Photo courtesy of St. Norbert College (used with permission)

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., teaching at St. Norbert College | Photo courtesy of St. Norbert College (used with permission)

The Rev. Matt Dougherty, O.Praem., ’09 is ministering alongside some of his own former mentors in a year of teaching on campus before he moves on to doctoral studies.

Dougherty is serving at St. Norbert in the theology and religious studies discipline, and also as vocation director and chaplain at the parish. “This is my first time teaching, and so far it’s been a blast!” he says. “I’ve always loved theology, and to talk to people about something (and some body – Christ!) you love for a ministry is such a blessing!”

Of other Norbertines who have recently taken vows, Dougherty is the only one currently teaching at St. Norbert.

“It’s great to have a lot of other young Norbertines in the community,” he says. At the same time, he’s enjoying the company and wisdom of elder priests in the order. “I am privileged to be able to live with guys who really formed and shaped St. Norbert Abbey and the college for the past 50 plus years. After all, the average age of the Norbertines at St. Norbert Abbey is around 74 years old! These men have so much wisdom to pass on to us young guys, and it’s great to hear their stories, and how things have changed over the years.”

Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., on his vestition day in 2009, assisted by Fr. John Tourangeau, O. Praem. Read more about vestition and the Norbertine religious habit in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 3) article, “De·con·struct·ing the Habit.”

Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., on his vestition day in 2009, assisted by Fr. John Tourangeau, O. Praem. Read more about vestition and the Norbertine religious habit in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 3) article, “De·con·struct·ing the Habit.”

Many of these men are the mentors who guided Dougherty through his own vocational discernment. He remembers the Rev. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., ’88, the Rev. Tim Shillcox, O.Praem., the Rev. John Bostwick, O.Praem., ’68, and the Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem., ’50 – all present on campus while Dougherty was a student. They not only taught him theology, but also provided spiritual direction, confession, and even lessons on the history of the Norbertine order.

Though Dougherty’s current positions focus on religion and theology, he is academically as interested in learning more about freshwater ecosystems, or aquatic ecology. His undergraduate degree was in organismal biology and he has hopes to continue studying aquatic ecology at the doctoral level in the fall of 2017. He anticipates that this doctoral degree will allow him to teach courses at St. Norbert College in the science department, or possibly on the intersection of religion and science.

I love helping students be challenged and affirmed in their faith.

—Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

As a young priest working at the college, Dougherty says, “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to try to bring the Catholic faith and Norbertine charism to the next generation.” And this is important to him; he believes the Norbertine presence on campus is necessary to continue the Norbertine and Catholic identity of the college.

“I look forward to introducing the students to these values,” Dougherty says. “It’s a big task, but a rewarding one!”

He is most interested in sharing the Norbertine value of communio. The word, as he understands it, means “trying to live in unity with God and others within a locality.” Communio, he believes, should then “combat individualism and divisiveness by claiming that before God we are one family, no matter our differences, and therefore we have responsibilities toward each other.”

With this, he hopes that St. Norbert College students, faculty and staff will continue to foster Norbertine values by maintaining peaceful community – regardless of division – and then proceeding to build more such communities wherever they may go next.

Fisher of Men

“I grew up in Waukesha, Wis., and I come from a proud Irish-Catholic family. Fishing and hunting are my passions. I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid, and have loved it ever since. It’s hard for me to look at a body of water without getting a strong urge to grab a rod and reel. My interest in hunting came a little later in college, but still remains a passion of mine. Aside from the outdoors, I really like good literature, good cigars, and good discussions!

“I love helping students be challenged and affirmed in their faith. I found my faith as a freshman at St. Norbert. In it I found a new way of looking at the world, and it changed my life. I’d love to help other students have a similar experience.”

– The Rev. Matt Dougherty, O.Praem., ’09

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 14-15)

A Priest for the People

By Katrina Marshall

On June 6, 2015, Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., was ordained to the priesthood.

Through ritual actions that contribute uniquely to the Rite of Ordination, he was given insight into his new identity. Of the major elements in this rite, first to occur was the Rite of Election, connecting the soon-to-be ordained with the faithful by asking their assent of his worthiness to fulfill priestly office. Bishop Robert Morneau (Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Green Bay) asked Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem. (representing the Norbertine community of St. Norbert Abbey and the entire People of God),

Do you know him to be worthy?

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

“You can’t help but feel humbled and a little bit nervous by that question, honestly,” shared Fr. Dougherty, reflecting on his ordination day. “Humbling is the best word. Because how can anyone be worthy—to perform the Sacraments, to follow Christ in that way? There’s a fear: am I really up for it? In a way, I’m not worthy. I don’t think anyone is worthy of such a gift.”

Following dialogue between Bishop Morneau and Abbot Neville affirming his worthiness, Fr. Dougherty received a lengthy round of approving applause—recognition of Christ working in him and an implicit invitation to enter into the lives of everyone.

“Amid feelings of unworthiness, to feel affirmation for my vocation through the applause was amazing,” said Fr. Dougherty. “Perhaps one of the most demanding pieces of priestly formation is coming to terms with one’s self: ‘Who am I to be a priest?’ Priesthood is an awesome gift and an awesome responsibility. These people are lifting you up to be their servant. By showing their assent, you are for them … to share in their most intimate moments, the ups and downs. Today, as a priest, I remain grateful. Never have I felt closer to God. Never have I experienced a stronger sense of identity or purpose. I am not a priest for myself, but a priest for Christ, his Church, and the world—I am a priest for the people.”

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