By: Dominique Johnson

On May 29th, Bishop Andrew Bellisario, Bishop Chad Zielinski of the Diocese of Fairbanks, priests and deacons of the Diocese of Juneau and parishioners gathered at St. Gregory Nazianzen parish in Sitka to celebrate Father Peter Gorges and his 50 years of priestly ministry.

During his homily Bishop Bellisario extended a message of gratitude to Father Peter for his many years of service to not only the Diocese of Juneau, but the Catholic Church in Alaska. The bishop continued sharing how as he traveled to many parishes this spring he thought of Father Peter. How he has journeyed the inside passage of southeast many times and the motto of the U.S. mail carrier often came to the bishop’s mind, “No obstacle of any kind has prevented you, Father Peter, from fulfilling your priestly ministry.”

Bishop Bellisario concluded his homily quoting Saint John Vianney saying, “O, how great is a priest. The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die. Not out of fear, but out of love.” He then thanked Father Peter saying, “You have given much of God’s love to the people…and we have appreciation for you for the gift of accepting God’s priesthood and bringing Jesus closer to us all.”

Before the Mass concluded Father Peter addressed those in attendance graciously thanking them for being a part of the celebration. Father Peter said that after serving so many years as a priest that if you feel loved by the people you’ve served, “then you are blessed.” He continued saying “Love makes the kingdom of God go around…and when you love and people love you back, that’s what makes life worth living.”

Father Peter then shared that being a priest in a small diocese you get to have a special connection with the people you serve and that he remembers what Bishop Hurley used to share with the priests that, “You aren’t just members of this Diocese, you are members of the church of the state of Alaska,” a saying Father Peter took to heart, serving across the state in his retirement.

Father Peter ended his speech thanking those who he has worked with and those he has served across the state for, “Being family for me,” saying, “It’s a wonderful world having people I am happy to see and are happy to see me.”