Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, those who had come to faith in the Risen Lord “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Thus, from the very beginning, Christians have gathered each week on the day of the Resurrection, the Lord’s Day, to celebrate the Eucharist. And so it remains to the present day: the weekly celebration of the Eucharist is center and heart of our life as disciples of Jesus. As Catholics, our lives are ordered to the celebration of the sacraments.
As we celebrate Father Peter Gorges’ 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood this month, I am reminded by his long-dedicated service of the importance of having many priests to offer the regular celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments. We have wonderful, dedicated priests serving in our diocese, but we have fewer priests than we need. Which is why my primary emphasis going forward must be to promote vocations to the priesthood, the provision of priests to our parishes and missions and finding the resources to support seminarians and obtain long and short-term help from priests coming into the diocese.
I am pleased to report that Fr. Augustine Minn, a member of the Korean Missionary Society arrived just before Holy Week and will be serving long-term in our diocese. He is a welcome addition to the seven active and one retired priest serving in our diocese.
We currently have two seminarians studying for our diocese. Mr. James Wallace is beginning his third year of study at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. He has just finished a semester pastoral assignment at St. Gregory of Nazianzen Parish in Sitka. After doing his Clinical Pastoral Education this summer, James will return to the seminary and be ordained a deacon next spring with priestly ordination to follow a year later.
Mr. Luke Daniel began his studies at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon last year. After completing his undergraduate degree, Luke will begin theology studies.
During this past Holy Week and Easter, we were blessed to have three priests come into our diocese to serve in parishes that otherwise would not have been able to fully celebrate the most sacred week of the entire Church year. I am grateful to Father Jim Ward, C.M., a Vincentian priest from St. Louis, Father Christopher Martin, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and Father John Hinsvark, a priest of the Diocese of Fairbanks. I will continue to reach out to active and retired priests who may be able to serve here temporarily, either in our communities where there is no resident priest or to fill-in for our pastors when they need to be away for rest, retreat, or studies.
In the name of us all, I offer Father Peter Gorges our gratitude and sincerest congratulations for his 50 years of priestly ministry in the Church and our diocese. Inspired by his ministry and example, I invite you to encourage vocations to the priesthood. Let us redouble our prayers for vocations, that God will provide us with the priests who are indispensable for the life of this local Church.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.