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Charles City’s Immaculate Conception parishioners say goodbye to Father Mayer


Charles City's Immaculate Conception parishioners say goodbye to Father Mayer
A farewell celebration for the Rev. Gary Mayer was held Sunday at the Columbus Hall in Charles City. Mayer is leaving the Immaculate Conception parish after six years for a new assignment in Hiawatha. Press photo by Mary Pieper
By Mary Pieper, Special to the Charles City Press

Parishioners from Immaculate Conception Church lined up to say their farewells to the Rev. Gary Mayer on July 12 during a reception at the Columbus Club following his final Sunday Mass there.

Mayer, 37, has been assigned to Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hiawatha after six years as pastor at Immaculate Conception.

“Charles City has a special place in my heart because this is the parish my mom grew up in,” he said.

His parents, Rick and Chris Mayer, met while working at the White Farm Co. in Charles City. They settled in Stacyville, where Father Mayer was raised.

“I count it as one of the best blessings I have ever received in my life to be able to be here and be close to family and to have these interactions with people,” he said.

Mayer said he’s appreciated being there for parishioners at joyous times such as baptisms and weddings, as well as sad occasions such as the sacrament of anointing and funerals.

He said he enjoys “being able to connect God to the normal experiences that we have in our lives.”
After he was ordained as a priest, Mayer’s first assignment was at Holy Ghost, Holy Trinity and Sacred Heart churches in Dubuque for two years. After that he spent three years at Holy Resurrection, also in Dubuque.

During his five years in Dubuque, he also taught at Wahlert Catholic High School.

Mayer said another blessing in coming to Immaculate Conception is the parish also has a parochial school, noting he loves “bringing kiddos and their parents closer to Christ.”

Mayer said he will miss the people in the parish and spending time with them. He also said he will miss community events, such as dinners and athletic competitions.

COVID-19 has been a challenge because it has cut down so much on social interaction in the parish, according to Mayer.

“God created us to be holy and to interact with people,” he said.

During a pandemic “we can still by holy” but there is something missing without that face-to-face contact.

Like churches throughout the area, Immaculate Conception only had online worship services for several months beginning in mid-March.

The going-away party for Mayer was the first major social event in the parish since the annual fall supper.

Christine Schrodt, a member of the pastoral council at Immaculate Conception, called Mayer “a gem.”

“He’s such a young man, and he’s the holiest man I know,” she said. “He’s incredible with the kids, he’s incredible with the young families, he’s incredible with the older people. He’s just wonderful.”

Schrodt said she will miss Mayer’s ability to “make the Gospel come alive and make it relevant to everyday life.”

This Sunday the parishioners at Immaculate Conception will be gathering at the Columbus Hall for another reception – this time to welcome Mayer’s successor, the Rev. Tom Heathershaw.