By Dominique Johnson
On October 17th, many family and friends of Father Peter Gorges celebrated his life with a vigil service at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before the service began the friends that Father Peter made over his 51 years as priest in the Diocese of Juneau shared memories of their beloved friend.
In his homily, Father Pat Casey, OMI recalled Father Peter as a priest who was special. “He was willing to serve the Church, though imperfect, because he believed strongly in his heart that we are called to serve Jesus Christ.”
Father Pat recalled how in confession Father Peter’s heart to serve the people came through, “He didn’t pat you on the back,” Father Peter would “remind you that you had to change your ways and that we never stop growing.”
Father Pat recalled how the word retirement wasn’t in Father Peter’s vocabulary and that while visiting Father Peter in the rehabilitation center in Anchorage he told Father Pat, “As we age as priests, it’s not about retirement. It’s about recognizing what we are called to do next.”
The homily concluded with Father Pat asking the congregation to continue to pray for Father Peter and those mourning his death. “We pray that we will have the courage and the strength to continue to remember him, to tell his story and the stories of how he changed us.”
The service ended with three close friends of Father Peter, Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, Mary Horton and Jo Betts sharing stories and memories of Father Peter. (The vigil service can be viewed on line at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H70o4oN1xLI).
The next day, October 18th, Bishop Andrew Bellisario and the priests of the diocese celebrated the funeral Mass for Father Peter. During his homily Bishop Bellisario recalled Father Peter’s never ceasing enthusiasm to serve the people of God in Alaska (Bishop Bellisario’s homily is on page 3). At the end of the Mass, Father Peter’s brother priests served as pall-bearers and carried Father Peter’s casket to his final resting place.
At the cemetery Bishop Bellisario blessed the casket, then the military honor guard presented an American flag to Father Peter’s family in honor of his service in the Army.
Let us continue to pray for Father Peter. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.