(Editor’s Note: On Saturday July 18, 2020 the Oblates will say goodbye to St. Gregory Nazianzen Parish in Sitka, Alaska. The following is the official statement for the occasion from U.S. Provincial Fr. Louis Studer, OMI)
It is always with sadness that we Missionary Oblates leave a ministry! We pride ourselves on fostering lay leadership, trusting and relying on, the many gifts and talents of the parishioners, staff, and employees with whom we minister. Those friendships and wonderful relationships are necessarily changed when we leave a ministry.
As Missionaries, we are sent. That is the very meaning of that word. We were sent here to assist this local church, to help build up the community of the faithful here. I know that has been encouraged and developed here.
As Missionaries, our charism, given to us by our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, is that we live together in community for mutual support, common prayer, and encouragement of one another in the ministry we do. As you know, that has not been possible for the Oblates who have served here.
Living alone is not ideal, but more than that, it is not even the way we are to live as Religious, as prescribed in our Constitutions and Rules.
Although I know Fr. Dwight, and the Oblates before him who have served here, have found this quite challenging, even difficult, they have served well. But it can also take a toll on the Oblate who did not foresee this when he joined the Congregation. This is certainly understandable. This is not what Fr. Dwight signed up for!
I know Fr. Dwight has appreciated his ministry here in the North. He has told me about the wonderful people he has met, with whom he ministers, the care and concern you have shown him and great appreciation for his willingness to be with you to build up this local church in your faith and love of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your support and encouragement to Fr. Dwight. As you probably already know, he will be going to minister with the Oblate community in New Orleans. We have a beautiful shrine and parish there and a good outreach to the homeless and the poor in the downtown area. Fr. Dwight will be busy, but he will also have a good opportunity once again to live in community.
As Missionaries and as Religious, we are very aware of the great need for priests in the state of Alaska. So we are happy that Fr. Pat is staying here. At the same time, living alone is not how we are expected or even encouraged to live as Oblates but, at times, for the sake of the mission and service to God’s people, we do that.
Thank you for your understanding. I am very grateful to Archbishop Bellisario for his support and encouragement of our presence and ministry in now the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
God bless you!
Louis Studer, OMI