By: Father Andrew Sensenig, OMI
It is an interesting twist within my heart as I am writing this reflection, because it is the liminal time between a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate being welcomed to the Diocese of Juneau and the other saying “goodbye.”
I am the latter. My community has called me to serve at the Lebh Shomea House of Prayer in Sarita, Texas. It is a hermitical retreat center and my mission will be accompanying those who come to be on retreat. The other aspect which excites me greatly is helping our visiting Mazenodian Family (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, our Honorary Oblate and Oblate Associates) to discover the richness of our Oblate Rule of Life.
The one quality needed for this assignment is flexibility for which I am indebted to the good people I was called to serve, while I was pastor at St. Gregory the Nazianzen. They and Fr. Peter Gorges, with whom I have had the privilege to live and serve with over these past 4 years, have taught me so much about those two qualities. Flexibility is needed when you are living on an island. You must learn to seize every opportunity, because it may not come around again.
The Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, who is coming to the Diocese of Juneau is my ordination classmate, Fr. Dwight Hoeberechts, OMI. He is exceptional as an Oblate and as a priest. Before Fr. Dwight came to our religious community, he was an Emergency Room Nurse and when I knew him serving in Lowell as an Oblate Priest, Fr. Dwight was our Vocations Director and the Assistant Fire Department Chaplain. Fr. Dwight is familiar with serving in small towns as well. He was one of the Oblate Team Members serving on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. So small towns and colder temperatures are no strangers to him.
But the main reason why I am glad that Fr. Dwight is coming after me to the Diocese of Juneau, is because he has a tremendously big heart. He will be a gentle loving person of God to all who will come across his path, especially the most abandoned. I have experienced that big heartedness firsthand so often in my interactions with him over these past 25 years that I have lost count.
Saying goodbye can be difficult at times, when one thinks only about the diminishment of the person or persons left behind, but it is not the case for me now, because I know that I am leaving the mission here in the Diocese of Juneau in excellent hands.
Fr. Dwight is one of my dearest friends along with my other brother and friend, Fr. Pat Casey, OMI ministering with my “other” family and friends to the good people of the Diocese of Juneau. There is no diminishment for me only enrichment. It is a gift from God to see the Family of Faith growing. Thank you all for inspiring me to be better each day of my life.
May all experience abundant blessings as you join in the journey with my Oblate brothers and friends, Fr. Pat Casey, OMI and Fr. Dwight Hoeberechts, OMI following Our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.