Mission as a Family

Diocese of Juneau, AK

By Fr. Andrew Sensenig, OMI

(L-R) Fr. Dwight Hoeberechts, OMI, Fr. Patrick Casey, OMI, Bishop Michael Warfel, Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI

It is an interesting twist within my heart as I write this reflection, because it is the liminal time for a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate between being welcomed to the Diocese of Juneau, and saying “goodbye.”

I am in the latter.  My community has called me to serve at the Lebh Shomea House of Prayer in Sarita, Texas.  It is hermetical retreat center and my mission will be to accompany those who come to a retreat.  The other aspect which excites me greatly is helping our visiting Mazenodian Family (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, our Honorary Oblates and Oblate Associates) to discover the richness of our Oblate Rule of Life.

The one need for this assignment is flexibility, for which I am indebted to the good people I was called to serve as pastor of 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 an exceptional Oblate and priest. Before Fr. Dwight came to our religious community, he was an Emergency Room Nurse. When I knew him serving in Lowell, MA as an Oblate Priest, Fr. Dwight was our Vocations Director and the Assistant Fire Department Chaplain.  Fr. Dwight is familiar with serving in a small town as well.  He was one of the Oblate Team Members serving on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota.  So small towns and cold temperatures are no strangers to him.

But the main reason 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 come across his path, especially the most abandoned.  Over the past 25 years I have experienced that bigheartedness firsthand so often during in my interactions with him, that I have lost count.

A recent re-enactment of the “Cavalry of Christ” in front of the main building at Lebh Shomea. (Photo by Valerie Bates)

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 I am leaving the mission 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 who ministers to my “other” family and friends: the good people of the Diocese of Juneau. There is no diminishment for me, only enrichment. It is a gift from God to see our Family of Faith grow.  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.