St. Columba’s Father Kipfer will leave Ottawa after 25 years

Priest says he will miss the families, proud of Marquette Academy school

Twenty five years after he first called Ottawa home, the Rev. Father David Kipfer is being transferred to Metamora in a move he said he’s surprised didn’t come sooner.

Kipfer is the longest serving priest in the history of St. Columba in Ottawa dating back to the 1830s, when there were two priests who served for 22 years. He said Bishop Louis Tylka indicated some time ago he didn’t realize priests served in a parish for that long.

“It’s part of our life histories to go where the bishop wants to send us as a shepherd,” Kipfer said. “When I take the promise of obedience and respect to the bishop, as I live my priesthood, if the bishop wants me to move, it’s what the needs of the day are.”

It didn’t hit Kipfer he would be leaving Ottawa until he was asked to talk about it: He said it’s tough to leave the city he’s called home for most of his life. He spent the first 19 years of his life in Peoria before entering the seminary, then served a few years at the Cathedral in Peoria.

“We don’t have 400-plus priests and 250-300 parishes to manage, so the community is smaller but from his comments, I kind of thought he’d be calling about a move. Right before Easter, he called and said ‘I’m moving you to St. Mary’s in Metamora.’ ”

Kipfer said he has a lot to be proud of in his years at St. Columba and now Marquette Academy. He’s particularly proud of the Catholic education children receive from kindergarten to 12th grade at Marquette, and he believes the Catholic community is happy with it.

“I think looking at all the buildings and planning for the future, too, that’s something I can be proud of,” Kipfer said. “We also have the shrine and nameplate from after the tornado that destroyed St. Mary’s Church in Naplate.”

Kipfer said he’s going to miss the community and all of the families in Ottawa. He’s had the joy of baptizing multiple generations of families, and while he says he isn’t the kind of person to remember every name, he’s gotten so used to the Ottawa community he doesn’t believe there’s anyone he doesn’t know.

He is looking forward to being closer to home, though, now being 20 or so minutes outside of Peoria where most of his family still resides.

“And there’ll be a few more Cardinals fans closer to Peoria,” said Kipfer, who roots for the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s all Cubs fans this far north. I won’t miss the Cubs fans quite as much.”

Kipfer will be succeeded by the Rev. Monsignor Mark Merdian, who transfers from St. Pius X Church in Rock Island.