By Fr. Andrew Sensenig, OMI
An Oblate’s Reflection on The Soup Kitchen at St. Gregory the Nazianzen Parish in Sitka, Alaska.
When I came to St. Gregory the Nazianzen Parish in Sitka, Alaska, I was happy to find that an active Soup Kitchen was already in progress. It had started even before the late, Fr. Jim Blaney OMI was named pastor here and it would be feed the homeless on Saturdays from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
Yet, it was while attending this soup kitchen that I learned a great deal about our deceased brother, Fr. Jim. It always blows me away how my Oblate brothers do what is needed for the poor and abandoned with their own special sense of love and compassion.
Here is one such story about Fr. Jim: Terry, one of the regulars who would come to the Soup Kitchen shared with me how Fr. Jim would greet Terry by name, whenever and wherever he would see Terry in Sitka. “One time,” Terry explained, “Fr. Jim shouted my name so loud and with joy, that it got him in trouble, because we were both in the town library!” Terry recounted the story about how the librarian reminded Fr. Jim to keep his voice down, but I could see from Terry’s face that this is a precious memory of being recognized as a person and as friend of Fr. Jim.
That brought me to ponder: what does it mean to be a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate nowadays? Too often, we are inundated with “selfies,” – pictures of people doing this and that with themselves as the focus of attention. As I am learning how to be a good pastor from the good people here at St. Gregory the Nazianzen in Sitka, I hear the stories about Fr. Jim, and wonder: maybe it is not a “selfie” that God wants from us as much as a “usie.” A “usie” is a word to help us reflect on the idea that maybe the goal is to carry on the good work started by our brothers and sisters who have gone before us.
The good people here in Sitka have been, and are doing good work for the Lord. The mission here in Sitka is similar to the mission of Barnabas from the Acts of the Apostles, whose name means “Son of Encouragement.” To encourage the good people to continue their good work and follow the good work of those who have gone on before us, like Fr. Jim. That might be what our Founder, Eugene meant when he said, “Leaving Nothing Undared!” As Paul reminded the Corinthians in Chapter 12 in his First Letter, “We are the Body of Christ!”
It is not about “I” but “We.” It is not about “me,” but “us” and “Thee.” So let us drop the “selfie” and embrace the “usie!” Just like our brother, Fr Jim Blaney OMI did with his life as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate.