Deacon Michael Weitl (right) of Audubon stands on the altar for the canonization Mass on April 27 for Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. Weitl was honored to have been chosen to be on the altar with Pope Francis as a eucharistic minister for the historical day for the Roman Catholic Church.
Deacon Michael Weitl (right) of Audubon stands on the altar for the canonization Mass on April 27 for Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. Weitl was honored to have been chosen to be on the altar with Pope Francis as a eucharistic minister for the historical day for the Roman Catholic Church.
May 7, 2014

Deacon Michael Weitl of Audubon took part in the Roman Catholic Church's historic day of four popes on Sunday, April 27, when he served as a eucharistic minister in the canonization Mass of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on April 27 at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

Weitl, son of Howard and Sharon Weitl, was on the altar with Pope Francis as the pontiff celebrated the Mass.

This was called the day of four popes, as Francis invited retired Pope Benedict XVI to join him on the altar at St. Peter's Square, the first time a reigning and retired pope have celebrated Mass together in public in the 2,000-year history of the church.

The Associated Press reported an estimated 800,000 people - many of them from John Paul's native Poland - filled St. Peter's, the streets around it and bridges over the Tiber River. St. Peter's Square is located in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City,

Weitl's parents said in an email, "Michael was so honored and so blessed to have been chosen to be on the altar with Pope Francis as a eucharistic minister for this very historical day for the Catholic Church. There were nearly 1 million people there. Deacon Michael remarked to us that it was 'the most incredible feeling to be right there on the altar with Pope Francis on this very special historical day!'"

Weitl, a 1995 graduate of Audubon High School, has only a couple of weeks remaining in his four years of studying in Rome at the Pontifical North American College.

He will fly to Combermere, Ontario, Canada, on May 18 to prepare for his priesthood ordination, which will be Saturday, June 21, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Combermere.

Weitl had his diaconate ordination on Oct. 3, 2013, at St. Peter's Basilica, and he has chosen to have his priesthood ordination in Combermere, to honor the Madonna House Community, with which he's been affiliated. Bishop Michael Mulhall of the Diocese of Pembroke will ordain Weitl.

Weitl will visit his home near Audubon at the end of June and early July. He will be saying a Mass of celebration of his ordination at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 5, at St. Patrick Church in Audubon. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Patrick Parish Center.

Weitl will return to Ontario, Canada, where the bishop of Pembroke will assign him to his first parish.

His parents relate, "He has always sincerely commented he will go graciously wherever God sends him. And with his great love of studying about the Catholic doctrine and history of the Catholic Church he hopes to go back to college to continue to learn more and to learn the Greek language better."

The Weitls add, "He will most definitely miss Rome and all of Italy. He has had the most wonderful experiences and so many extraordinary ones. He will miss the many papal Masses and papal audiences that he was so blessed to be able to attend. He is so grateful to have had the opportunity to be in Rome at this time in his life and in this time in history to have a personal encounter with Pope Benedict XVI plus to be in Rome for the election of Pope Francis and to have two personal encounters with Pope Francis and two special opportunities to be a eucharistic minister on the altar with Pope Francis with one of those times at the canonization. And how blessed to be ordained a deacon at St. Peter's Basilica. That was so overwhelming. He truly gives all praise, honor and glory to God! And God willing, he hopes to be able to visit Rome again some day."

Weitl was ordained a transitional deacon at The Chair in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City. He was one of 41 students at the Pontifical North American College in Rome who were ordained by his Eminence James Cardinal Harvey last Oct. 3.

After graduation from Audubon High School, Weitl attended Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he majored in math and Spanish, graduating in August 1998.

While he was in college he spent a semester with a school missionary tour to the Dominican Republic. He worked with hospice and nursing-home patients. Some of the students in the group traveled to Haiti, and there he worked with the "poorest of poor" people. He left Haiti with an empty suitcase, leaving them all his clothes and belongings.

It was his experience in Haiti that he felt a calling to minister to the sick and needy as a missionary.

His father said that after his son's college graduation Michael spent the next year visiting various seminaries and missionary societies all over the United States. He worked in soup kitchens in poor areas of New York City and St. Paul, Minn.

During that time of discernment he discovered the Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada. He entered the Madonna House in 1999 as a guest and performed various duties there for a year. His second year he entered the Madonna House priest seminary serving in the missionary field houses in Edmonton, and Regina, Canada, and in Brussels, Belgium.

Madonna House has 23 field houses worldwide.

Michael spent six months at the Madonna House in Washington, D.C., located across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building. The religious assigned there spent 24 hours a day praying for the decisions being made by the members of Congress.

In 2008 he took his final vows, and in 2009 he began his seminary studies at St. Phillip Seminary in Toronto.

The North American Conference of Catholic Bishops chose him to attend the Pontifical North American College, which is where he has been studying the past four years.

For several years, Weitl's parents have been members of Carroll Area Serra Club. Serra promotes religious vocations and supports those pursuing vocations. Carroll Serra members adopt a seminarian from the Sioux City Diocese and area. They send cards, letters and prayers to them for birthdays and holidays. Serra also sends financial support and care packages at test time each year.

Serra Club membership is open to anybody interested in supporting religious vocations. Serra offers two types of membership. Active members regularly attend meetings and activities, which Friends of Serra give financial support but are not asked to attend meetings, or other activities.

Anybody interested may contact Carroll Area Serra Club president Vern Henkenius of Carroll.