Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It has been a busy time at Saint Gregory Nazianzen Parish in Sitka. It was announced on the first weekend in June that Father Andy Sensenig, OMI, the pastor for the past four years, has been reassigned by his provincial superior to be the Oblate director of Lebh Shomea House of Prayer in Sarita, Texas. Lebh Shomea means “Listening Heart” in Hebrew. Father Andy will be greatly missed when he departs for his new mission at the end of July. It was also announced that the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have graced the diocese with another Oblate priest. His name is Father Dwight Hoeberechts, OMI. I have appointed Father Dwight to take Father Andy’s place as the pastor of Saint Gregory’s effective on July 1, 2018. We thank Father Andy and wish him well in his new mission and welcome Father Dwight to our diocese.
On May 29th I was able to join with Bishop Chad Zielinski of Fairbanks, many priests, deacons and faithful at St. Gregory’s to celebrate with Father Peter Gorges his Golden Jubilee of priestly ordination. It was a wonderful 50th-anniversary celebration and a chance to rejoice in a lifetime dedicated to living out his vocation as a priest and pastor.
When Father Peter was ordained in 1968, the Second Vatican Council had just concluded. Vocation was on the mind of the Council Fathers, who stressed the universal vocation to holiness of all of the People of God, noting in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) “… it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.”
Father Peter’s anniversary got me thinking not only about priestly vocations (which I spoke of at length in last month’s letter), but on the call each of us received in our baptism, lived out in a variety of ways and states of life. None of us are exempt from Christ’s call to become holy.
June is traditionally a month during which many couples marry. For them and for all married men and women, this beautiful sacrament is the particular means by which they experience “the fullness of the Christian life” and come “to the perfection of charity”, as they live out their commitment to love, honor and be faithful to their spouse in joy and adversity over a lifetime.
Pope Francis recently published a short Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad” (Gaudete et Exsultate) with the goal to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.” He points out: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves… Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus.”
God has a unique plan for each one of us to become a saint. Fortunately, we are not dependent on our own limited gifts and abilities: God equips and strengthens us with his Word, with the sacraments of his Body and Blood and of Reconciliation and with the example, prayers and encouragement of the Body of Christ, the Church. All we have to do is to move closer to Christ through love of God and love of neighbor a step at a time.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.