Still serving the Lord

Retired Catholic priest continues his ministry at Friendship Haven

-Messenger file photo
Rev. Jennifer Owen, left, and Rev. Jim Tigges apply ashes during Ash Wednesday services at Friendship Haven. Owen is the chaplain there, Tigges is a retired Catholic priest. They conducted the service together.

Editor’s note: This feature first ran in a special publication called Hometown Pride, published June 30, 2020, featuring people and organziations from Fort Dodge and the surrounding area who are making a difference in their communities.

When the Rev. Jim Tigges retired in 2016 after nearly 45 years as a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Sioux City, he didn’t hang up his clerical collar for good. Not really, anyway.

Tigges, a native of Willey in Carroll County, may have been officially retired as a pastor, but he hasn’t retired from doing the work of God and ministering to the people around him.

When Tigges retired, he joined the Friendship Haven community, moving into a town home on its campus and continuing to provide sacramentala care and leading Mass during the week for the Catholic residents there.

“The only reason I’m slowing down now is because of the (COVID-19) virus,” Tigges said recently. “I can’t go up to the big house until this is over.”

In his four-plus decades of priesthood, Tigges served Catholic communities all over northwest Iowa, from Sioux City to Algona to Dayton to Humboldt, and more. From 1984-1987, he was a guidance counselor at St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge.

During his time serving the different parishes of the area, Tigges has come to appreciate the diversity he’s found among the parishioners.

“Throughout the diocese, I’ve been a number of places where we met with the older generation, and then I’ve been places where there’s more of a younger generation,” he said. “It’s a mix of people and diversity that I found among the people. It’s been a good 49 years. It’s been a good priesthood for me.”

When Tigges received his call to priesthood, he felt God’s guidance to minister to children and younger Catholics. He said he’s been lucky with the assignments he’s been given over the years.

“I’ve been a high school counselor; I’ve been a grade school counselor; I’ve been a high school teacher,” he said. “That’s been really gratifying for me over the years. I think the opportunity to work with the younger people, but then also being able to connect at this point in my life with the older generation and help them through whatever they deem important, that’s important to me also.”

At Friendship Haven, Tigges often works with chaplain Rev. Jennifer Owens, a Lutheran pastor. The two led a multi-denominational Ash Wednesday service earlier this spring for the residents at Friendship Haven.

Lately, with COVID-19 putting a halt to religious gatherings and preventing the retired priest from visiting parishioners, Tigges has managed to find ways to keep busy.

“I’ve been doing a lot of reading here in the last couple months, and I walk every day for about an hour,” he said. “I love golf. I say daily Mass at my kitchen table for the time being.”

To reach out to his friends and neighbors at Friendship Haven, Tigges has created what he calls “kindness packages” full of candies to let the residents know he’s thinking about them during this tough time.

“It’s reaching out because of the isolation and knowing what they’re going through, because I’m going through it too,” he said.

The loneliness and isolation has been tough on Tigges, and he knows it’s been tough on other residents as the facility hasn’t allowed visitors since March. He said he’s optimistic and looks forward to when the community can come together again.

“It’s been a difficult time for me also with recognizing … something good will come out of this because the Lord is still with us,” he said. “The Lord is directing us. As long as we keep our eyes focused and our faith focused on what is happening and how we can help other people go through this process, that’s what we need to do.”


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