Tears began the ceremony Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Moline, which ended with a fanfare of jubilation and the celebration of five decades of memories.
Monsignor Dale Leo Wellman, who served 13 years as pastor of the church at 1608 13th St., celebrated his golden jubilee Mass and retirement in a sanctuary packed with well-wishers and a ceremony that included the Catholic Order of Foresters, Court 1691 and Father Bader Assembly Knights of Columbus. The Sacred Heart Festival Choir and musicians provided joyous music, including “Lord of the Dance.”
Wellman, who obviously was touched by the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation, teared up as he welcomed guests and concelebrating priests and deacons.
Monsignor Paul E. Showalter gave the homily, saying that people were gathered “especially to celebrate with our good friend Dale Wellman” and to celebrate his 50 years with the church. “That’s it, Dale,” Showalter said. “That’s all I’m going to say,” he joked.
He talked about how long the two had known each other — since they were students at Alleman High School — and noted both grew up in the Quad-Cities.
“I know I’ve appreciated his friendship very much,” Showalter said.
Showalter remembered Wellman’s early days in Galesburg at Immaculate Heart of Mary and talked about his service to different parishes. He also talked about the Paschal candles that Wellman hand-crafted for the past 40 years using PVC pipe, a spool of candle wicking and a large kettle of hot wax to melt used candles left over from Masses to “mold a pristine white candle.”
Wellman then decorated the candle “with relevant artwork,” carrying it to the sanctuary of the church where he served to be lit during Easter and for baptisms and funerals.
Showalter said Wellman was “guided by one simple question: What is good for the entire parish?”
Wellman himself briefly reminisced about all the changes within the Catholic Church since he became a priest.
“Everything was in Latin,” he said. “So, in 50 years, we have seen a great change.”
He thanked everyone who helped plan the event “and especially for showing up and sitting through it.”
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“Once you get to know Monsignor, he is the gentlest, kindest and most unassuming person you have ever met,” said Suzie Budde, director of music and administrative assistant for Sacred Heart. “Monsignor has a special gift of ministering to the sick and the poor. I experienced Monsignor’s gentleness with my own mother. ... So many families have shared their thoughts on how they were moved by Monsignor’s gift of tenderness in ministering to families at their time of loss and suffering.”
Connie Morris, stewardship committee chairwoman and parish trustee, said Wellman taught her what it means to be a good steward in her faith and to the parish.
“He always seems to find a stewardship message to share, sometimes with obvious stewardship comments, but often just by teaching us what it means to be a good steward,” Morris said. “Monsignor’s stewardship is definitely infectious.”
A reception was held after the Mass.
Wellman plans to retire to the country and live in his sister’s former home in Port Byron, Ill.