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John The Baptist Led People To Christ


Fr John Hinsvark, as a Catholic Chaplain and Captain in the United States Army, during a field exercise in  Bethel, Alaska, in 1982. Photo courtesy of Fr. John Hinsvark via The Alaskan Shepard

Fr John Hinsvark, as a Catholic Chaplain and Captain in the United States Army, during a field exercise in
Bethel, Alaska, in 1982.
Photo courtesy of Fr. John Hinsvark via The Alaskan Shepard

One modern John the Baptist stands out in my life.  His name coincidently, was John too – Father John Hinsvark.  Back in 1976 I lived with this priest in Bethel, Alaska, a community of 3,500 people, of whom 70% were Eskimos.  About 500 miles west of Anchorage, with no roads in between, Bethel and its jet airport stood as the largest community in far western Alaska.  Among the 38 priests in the Fairbanks Diocese, John and I were the only two diocesan priests; the others were Jesuits, including the Bishop.

Pleasant, lighthearted, generous in his words of encouragement, Father John overlooked my weaknesses and shared his wide knowledge of Eskimo life and culture with me.  Twenty years my junior and already 20 years in Alaska when I arrived on the scene, this physically strong man accepted me warmly and made me feel wanted and important.

What I found most appealing in my days with him was the predictability of his behavior.  Day in and day out, my new found friend had few highs and lows, no swings of mood.  No matter what happened, he remained kind, considerate, even tempered and patient.  His closeness to Christ, his belief in prayer, helped him live this way.  After a time, I began saying to myself, “If Christ is helping him to be this kind of person, I want to know this Christ better, more intimately.

Even now, 38 years later, Father John’s way of life still influences my actions.  In Bethel, the Eskimos cherished his presence.   At this time in 2014, Father John is retired living in Anchorage, but still helping out his brother priests in the three Alaskan Dioceses.  I assure myself, if I stay in close union with Christ each day, I, too, can be cheerful, in good spirits, and supportive of others with me on the Glory Road.  Thank You Lord, for bringing this great hearted person into my life, a John the Baptist for me!

In God’s Providence, all of us have a calling to be modern day John the Baptists.  What can prevent us from being loving people in our homes, our places of work and in our community?  Be nice people with those about us!  Without knowing it, we can have people saying: “Why is this person so kind, pleasant and helpful?  Is it Christ who helps him/her to act this way?  If that’s the case, I want to bring Christ into my life through prayer.”

Start out in the morning with a plan of action in our minds.  When unexpected things happen, we will be ready to respond in a patient, even tempered say as Christ would do.  Lead others to the Lord!

Fr. George Mc Kenna

November 22, 2014 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I really needed this today. Thank you. You seem to always have perfect timing. God bless you!

    Comment by barttimm | November 22, 2014 | Reply

  2. Thank you dearly for sharing with us the love of Christ that Fr. John had for his fellow neighbour. One can sense the love of Christ that shines within his eyes and overflows from his heart.

    Comment by photographymemoirs | November 22, 2014 | Reply

  3. Hi Fr. George! I love your stories from Alaska. I can’t imagine living up there. You must have been really amazed by all you saw and experienced. That is great advice, to make a plan each day – and I will start that tomorrow – to purposely be nicer to people and helpful. In any of my conversations with you, that was the one thing that always stood out – no matter what I said, you had a complimentary comeback – or else an empathetic message for some misfortune that I was telling you about. After talking with you, I would always reflect on that – and I strive to be more like you! Just like you thanked God for sending Fr. John into your life – I thank God for sending you into my life. That was the most important thing that has ever happened to me in my spiritual life! I love you, Fr. George! Be well, stay safe, and may Our Lord bless you richly! Love, Nancy

    Comment by nancywest22 | November 30, 2014 | Reply


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