I am Fr. Bill Zamborsky, pastor of Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Ormond Beach, Florida. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and am still a fan of Cleveland sports teams – a tribute to both my loyalty and my penchant for suffering. I have been a priest in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida for over 40 years and have long ago come to consider Florida to be my home. This past summer I spent time in the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska – relaxing on vacation (away from the stress of my parish life) and offering my priestly ministry wherever it might be helpful. This was my third time in the Diocese of Juneau and each one was a spiritual adventure.
My first two visits to your outrageously beautiful but fiercely rugged diocese were punctuated by encounters with my mortality. The first time (a 3 month sabbatical at St. Gregory’s in Sitka 4 years ago) I faced my mortality in Skagway on a very challenging hike rendered dangerous by poor choices on my part and, I believe, by God’s providence on His part. The second time (2 years ago) I left quickly and ahead of schedule under a dark cloud of cancer – of which I was healed by God’s miracle or from which I was protected by God’s providence, either one a tangible expression of God’s grace and His love for me for which I am deeply and joyfully grateful. (Yes, I am God’s favorite, but second place is still available for y’all.)
This time it was just the joy of spending priestly time in a place which surreptitiously touches my soul with the dangerous presence of our all-loving God; or does it brazenly touch my soul with the benign presence of our all-powerful God – I’m really not sure. It is hard to explain this to Floridians but you Alaskans may very well understand. As no other place on earth, the geography and wildlife of southeast Alaska stirs my soul with the presence of God. The towns and villages dotting the shores of the inside passage, the mountains with their lakes and streams, the vast open spaces of wilderness, the salmon, bears, whales, eagles, otters, halibut and sea lions (off the top of my head) all speak loudly of God’s presence. The raw, untamed beauty which will kill you if you don’t respect it whispers brazenly of the power of God while teaching the true meaning of “fear of the Lord.”
My first time in Alaska I was very surprised at how quickly and naturally I fit in and got along with the people who live there. I have come to realize that what stirs my soul about Alaska is why most of you choose to make it your home. I have enjoyed the company of kindred spirits; I won’t mention names, but you know who you are and I thank you for your hospitality, your Alaskan stories, your love for the beauty that surrounds you, and your love for me. All this is why I feel so at home with the people of the Diocese of Juneau, why staying and praying at your cathedral seemed so natural, why working with the staff at the chancery felt like a visit with friends (well, I wasn’t really working), why I have enjoyed my time(s) with you beyond the meaning of the word ‘enjoy’, and why I look forward to sharing life, faith, nature and Jesus with you again in the future.
In next month’s edition of The Inside Passage I will share four special memories from this summer with you: the icebergs (of Yakutat), the fisherman (from Sand Point), the bears (of Juneau), and the retreat (at the Shrine of St. Therese).
Oh by the way, I really do believe that I am God’s favorite, but so are you. No one is in second place with God and not because He loves us all the same – which He does not. He loves each one of us with a unique love that cannot be repeated and which makes each one of us His favorite. Yes, He can do that; He is God after all. But still, I’m His favorite!
Love to All,