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Jan. 27, 2011

Contact Pat Kerrigan at 608-796-3041 or pgkerrigan@viterbo.edu 

VITERBO APPOINTS UNIVERSITY CHAPLAIN 

LA CROSSE, Wis.—Fr. Conrad Targonski, OFM, has been named chaplain at Viterbo University in an appointment that takes effect March 1.

Fr. Targonski is a member of the Order of Franciscan Minors, which operates out of Franklin. Founded in 1887 in Northern Wisconsin, the friars original mission was to serve the Polish immigrants who had settled there.

Fr. Targonski has experience working with youth in parishes and universities and in the military where he has traveled with enlisted men and women to many parts of the world including deployments in several war zone locales. He retired in September from the United States Navy Chaplain Corps with a rank of Captain having served the Marine Corps for 22 years.

During his career in the service, Fr. Targonski ministered to troops in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Australia and on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. In Iraq, he was the sole Catholic chaplain on the front lines during the Fallujah offensive, sometimes offering Mass nine times a day for the troops throughout the embattled region.

Previously, Fr. Targonski served as pastor at St. Michael Parish in Milwaukee and as Catholic chaplain at Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Miss.

According to Rick Artman, president of Viterbo University, Fr. Targonski’s appointment is the first step in the realization of the new collaborative ministry among Viterbo, St. Rose Convent, and Franciscan Skemp Healthcare, in partnership with the friars from Franklin.

“We are very excited to have a full-time Franciscan priest serving Viterbo,” Artman said. “It is a further strengthening of our Franciscan identity, which is one of our strategic priorities. Fr. Conrad has a very warm and engaging personality and I am confident he will be an excellent fit for our campus and local community. He has the pastoral, sacramental, spiritual and life experiences to lead our campus ministry program.”

Artman noted with appreciation the services of a number of priests from the Diocese of La Crosse who have celebrated Mass on a regular schedule at San Damiano Chapel since the death of Fr. Tom O’Neill in the fall of 2009.

Fr. Targonski, 62, will begin at Viterbo in early March, fully expecting and anticipating the fast pace of campus life and the energy that goes with working with students. A marathon runner who enjoys fitness training and the outdoors, he will be ready. “I know it usually takes four to six months to get the feel for a place, but I have a tendency to hit the deck running,” he said. “I am very impressed with Viterbo and the way the university embraces its Franciscan values. The influence of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is very inspiring and the proximity to the convent and Franciscan Skemp Heathcare are also very appealing to me.”

“We have a sense of prayer and hospitality and we worship and pray well,” he said of the friars’ reputation. The Franklin Wisconsin Order is comprised of approximately 130 friars, said Fr. Targonski who credits his strong Catholic Polish background for his interest in ministry. “I guess you would say it is inherent in my family. We had nuns and priests in the family; it was almost natural for me to choose a religious vocation.”

While Fr. Targonski will offer daily mass, counseling, and some advising for students, he sees his role as one that will constantly develop. “I’m a Franciscan and I want to be with people. To be present is very important.”

The partnership with the Franciscan Friars of Franklin is expected to result in the future assignment of at least one additional full-time priest to serve Viterbo, St. Rose Convent, and Franciscan Skemp.

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