Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

November 24, 2010, Page 2

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon



Neillsville Priest moving on to new ministry



Rev. Woodrow Pace poses at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Neillsville Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. 

Pace, who has been a priest in Neillsville for over 10 years, will move on to Independence in

February 2011 where he will serve two churches (Photo by Peter Spicer/Clark County Press)


By Peter Spicer


Reverend Woodrow Pace, who has been the priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Neillsville since June 2000, is moving on to the Independence area in February 2011.


Pace leads a congregation of 470 families and 1,200 total congregants at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located at 1813 Black River Road.


Growing up in Altoona, Pace knew at an early age he wanted to become a priest and told his parents his plans in fourth grade.


Pace’s parents supported his decision, and they tell others Pace “never changed [his] mind from there,” when he declared his goal in fourth grade.


Pace then convinced his parents to allow him to begin training to become a priest during his first year of high school.


“[My parents] supported [my decision],” Pace explained.


As a freshman in high school, Pace began attending St. Lawrence Seminary, located south of Fond du Lac.


At the school, Pace along with the other students attended prayer hours and completed chores in addition to their studies.  After a year away from family and friends, Pace returned to Altoona for his remaining three years of high school and graduated from Eau Claire Regis High School. 


Throughout Pace’s childhood, he looked up to a priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Altoona as a “role model.”


Pace has always had a “desire to help people” and participate in charity work through the church.


After high school, Pace attended St. Thomas University in the Twin Cities in Minnesota to earn a bachelor’s degree. He then attended St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, MN to further his training to become a priest.


While at seminary, Pace spent a year completing mission work in Uganda.  His love for Uganda’s people continues to this day, as Pace and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Neillsville are helping support the construction of a school in Uganda.


After seminary, Pace had a four-part role at his first church, St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Wausau.  He served as associate pastor and worked with both high school and middle school students and Wausau’s Hmong community.


Pace was able to overcome his fear of working with high school students and enjoyed his time at Wausau; although he stated “There were some tough things” he dealt with as a first time pastor.


However, Pace’s time in Wausau was a positive time and helped him learn more about serving in a church.


“It was a very good experience,” explained Pace. “The people are always good.”


After three and one-half years in Wausau, Pace spent one and one-half years as an associate pastor at a Durand Catholic Church. From there, he received his own parish for the first time when he became priest at Neillsville’s St. Mary’s in 2000.


Pace felt “an immediate sense of being at home” in Neillsville and worked with Rev. Joe Henseler – who had retired from St. Mary’s in Neillsville after 26 years – for several years.


Pace appreciated the fact Henseler was always honest with him and told Pace when he disagreed with something he did.  However, Pace stated he never felt Henseler was “looking over my shoulder” and provided a lot of help.  Pace and Henseler visited each other often to discuss issues until Henseler passed away in 2003 after three years of retirement.


When Pace arrived in Neillsville, “People really came forward” to develop new ministries and get involved at the church, said Pace.


Congregants were always willing to “step up to the plate” and take on responsibilities and help others, explained Pace.


One of Pace’s favorite church activities is participating in the ecumenical March for Life that takes place in Neillsville each January to support the rights of unborn babies; he enjoys the camaraderie participants have during the event.


Pace will be the new priest at St. Peter-St. Paul Catholic Church in Independence and will lead the congregation of approximately 800 families and also lead St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Whitehall, which has approximately 200 families.  He will also oversee a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade Catholic Church School in Independence.


A new priest will probably be named in Neillsville within one month of Pace leaving; during that month, a Marshfield priest will lead weekend masses at St. Mary’s, said Pace.


Pace hopes to continue supporting the school construction project in Uganda and will miss witnessing the completion of a remodeling project at St. Mary’s, which is scheduled to be completed next year.


Most of all, Pace stated he will miss being involved in the lives of many Neillsville-area families and sharing in their joys and sorrows.  He has enjoyed being a part of the community and appreciated the way St. Mary’s congregants have helped move the ministry forward.



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