Fr. Mel Merwald Award
Father Mel Merwald was a revered leader in the Omaha Catholic community. Known and loved by all, he devoted his life to serving Christ and people in need. Through his nearly 40-year ministry, he touched and inspired many. It is for his steadfast faith and his heart for service that he is remembered.
From 1982 – 1990, Father Merwald served as the Executive Director of United Catholic Social Services, known today as Catholic Charities of Omaha. His imprint on the agency was profound and can still be felt today in the scope and impact of the services provided to the 280,000 people in need annually. Father Merwald’s deep commitment to Catholic Charities was clearly evident, inspiring and motivating those around him – including his family – to become engaged in support of its mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters in need. Father Merwald’s sister and her family – the Janie and Harry Hoch, Jr. Family – are the 2022 Irish Fest Chairs, continuing their sustained support of the agency.Catholic Charities is honored to carry on the legacy of “Fr. Mel” by presenting the Fr. Mel Merwald Spirit of Courage of Award at the 2022 Irish Fest on March 19th - Generations: honoring the past, serving the present, building the future.
Born in 1945, Father Merwald grew up in Omaha, graduating from Omaha Creighton Prep. He attended the former St. John Seminary (now called Mount Michael) in Elkhorn, and graduated from Conception Seminary College. He received his Theology training at Mount St. Bernard College and Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, and his Master of Divinity degree from Creighton University. Ordained in 1971, Father Merwald's first assignment was at St. Thomas More. He went on to serve as pastor at St. Margaret Mary and St. Wenceslaus parishes, and as the Executive Director of United Catholic Social Services, known today as Catholic Charities of Omaha.
Father Merwald had a knack for finances and operational management. In 1995, he created the "Cycle of Life Campaign" that identified parish concerns and included a plan of action for change. He was a very outgoing person, had a vibrant sense of humor and loved joking around.
In 2010, he retired from the pulpit 39 years after being ordained and passed away two years later. He left behind a legacy of generosity and kindness. He was a giving and unselfish person who always put others first including family, friends and parishioners.