The Vatican II Awards were established in 1991 to honor men, women and young adults who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council. These individuals have been selected by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki to be recognized for their service to the Body of Christ in southeastern Wisconsin. While an awards ceremony is typically held annually in October, this year’s festivities are postponed until such a time as it is safe to gather such a large group.
Service to the Priesthood — Fr. Ken Omernick
Of all the many joys of his 46 years of priesthood, there is one that stands above the rest for Fr. Ken Omernick.
“It’s celebrating the Sacraments, and in particular the Eucharist, in the context of a parish community,” he said.
Parish community is something Fr. Omernick has had a lot of experience with — his priestly life has been marked by long tenures at a variety of different parishes, beginning with St. Matthias in Milwaukee. It was to St. Matthias that the newly ordained Fr. Omernick was assigned as associate pastor in 1974, and even today he credits the mentorship of his pastor there as being a critical influence in his early priesthood. After seven years at St. Matthias, Fr. Omernick was sent to Rome to pursue graduate studies in spiritual theology. It was a profound experience for the young priest, and he describes a silent, directed Ignatian retreat that he participated in during that time as “one of the most significant experiences of my life.” Since that time, directing retreats has been a cornerstone of Fr. Omernick’s ministry.
In 1985, he joined the faculty at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary as the formation director and professor of spirituality, where he served until 1997, during which time he also ministered to several local parishes as an assisting priest.
In 1997, Fr. Omernick was assigned to St. Gregory the Great Parish in Milwaukee, and he stayed in that post for 12 years. He has served the parish of St. Charles in Hartland since 2009, first in the role of administrator and later as pastor.
In 2015, Fr. Omernick was asked by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki to be a “missionary of mercy” for Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy.
According to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Vatican office coordinating the Year of Mercy, a missionary of mercy should be “inspiring preachers of mercy, heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.” As part of his role, Fr. Omernick crafted presentations on Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for the archdiocese, which the archbishop said “demonstrated the profound insight of a pastoral leader and doctor of the soul whose video presentations were mini-spiritual directions.”
Fr. Omernick also served for two years as the pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta in nearby North Lake while remaining pastor of St. Charles; he is now the supervising priest at St. Teresa since the appointment of a parish director in 2019.
Fr. Omernick described St. Charles as “a parish with a future” in a 2018 interview with the Catholic Herald.
“I said from the beginning that I thought God wanted something to happen here,” he said. “It really is just watching the way the Lord works in the lives of a parish of stunningly wonderful people. It’s one of those places that I think will be a flagship parish because it has everything you could imagine a parish would need. That’s kind of what’s fun about being in a big parish, because it gives you the ability to do anything you would like to do. It’s just limited by the bounds of your imagination.”