Date of death: 2/6/22
Saint Meinrad Class: O 1946
The Rev. Frederick J. Nietfeld, the oldest priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who served parishes across northwest Ohio and taught college courses, died Sunday in St. Charles Center, Carthagena, Ohio. He was 101.
“He had been doing fine, until he wasn’t, and that’s only been in the week preceding his death,” his niece Louise Bistrick said. “He still had all his mental faculties.”
He moved to the St. Charles Center in 2017.
“His service became more limited as time went on,” said the Rev. Thomas Extejt, who knew Father Nietfeld for nearly 40 years.
It was as “a witness to the goodness of God” that his service endured, said Father Extejt, pastor of Ss. Adalbert and Hedwig Parish.
Father Nietfeld’s last diocesan assignments were as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish at Marygrove in western Lucas County from 1975-80 and as chaplain of what is now Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital in Oregon from 1980-81.
He retired in 1981 and became an auxiliary chaplain for several years to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Afterward he was a chaplain for several years to the Veterans Administration hospital in Miami.
“What really impressed me about him was his devotion to his Catholic faith,” said Msgr. Walter Oxley, vicar for clergy in the diocese. “When he entered senior status, he wanted to keep going. He wanted to keep serving. Service was at the depths of his identity.”
He was born Dec. 18, 1920, to Addie and Frederick Nietfeld, one of five children, and grew up on a farm in Ottawa County near Oak Harbor. He learned to play the piano and, through high school, was the organist at St. Boniface Church, he told the Daily Standard newspaper of Celina, Ohio, at his 100th birthday in 2020.
“That was a battle – the ministry, the priesthood or music. Music lost out,” Father Nietfeld told the Daily Standard.
His niece said: “He would say, ‘It’s not my job. It’s my calling.’ He felt he was called to service.”
He attended the former DeSales College in North Toledo and then Mount St. Mary of the West Seminary in Cincinnati. He received a master’s degree from the University of Toronto.
He was ordained as a priest on Oct. 13, 1946, by Bishop Karl Alter at Our Lady of the Consolation Shrine in Carey. He served as parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Church in Bowling Green from 1946-52, during which he was chaplain to the Newman Club at Bowling Green State University.
Afterward, he served at St. Mary Church, Defiance. He was assistant at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo from 1958-65. In 1967-68, he was pastor of Mother of Sorrows Parish in Crawford County. He returned to St. Aloysius as pastor from 1968-75. From 1958-65 he was an instructor in Thomistic philosophy – the branch of philosophy inspired by St. Thomas Aquinas – at the former Mary Manse College in Toledo. From 1965-67, he taught Thomistic philosophy at what is now Lourdes University in Sylvania.
“He was always a student and always an educator,” his niece said.
He traveled to Budapest as part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ initiative to rebuild the Catholic faith in formerly Communist Hungary.
Father Nietfeld also was a bird watcher and a fitness devotee – working out and swimming several days a week into his 90s.
He could be a “strict disciplinarian,” his niece said. “He did have an expectation level.”
She added: “He was very charming and very polite and very engaging. He could converse about current events and stayed up on things that were going on, not just in his complex or city, but the world.”
There are no immediate survivors.