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Grow With Age

Francis Doyle Gleeson, SJ Bishop of Fairbanks 1962 – 1968 January 17, 1895 – April 30, 1983 Picture via The Alaskan Shepherd

Francis Doyle Gleeson, SJ
Bishop of Fairbanks 1962 – 1968
January 17, 1895 – April 30, 1983
Picture via The Alaskan Shepherd

While recuperating from a surgical operation in Fairbanks, Alaska, in September, 1976, I lived in the Bishop’s House. Next to my room, on the second level, resided the retired Bishop of the Fairbanks Diocese, Bishop Francis Doyle Gleeson, a Jesuit, then at the age of 80.

Every weekend he made his famous lasagna for all of us living in the House, with even himself doing the shopping for the necessary ingredients. When he finished, the kitchen looked as if a whirlwind had hit it, with flour all over the place, and pots and pans piled high on the counters. Although he didn’t say much, he made me feel his equal, treating me, a stranger, with a quiet graciousness.

A little chapel stood between his room and mine. A few steps out of my room brought me to this place of peace, just about the size of a bedroom, with its Tabernacle, altar, a few pews and the reddish glow of the sanctuary lamp.

For exercise, I walked a ten-mile round trip each day to the Fairbanks Airport, with a little lunch in its cafeteria to break up the ritual. One day, when in low spirits, I found a Catholic magazine in the Airport with an article on the Priesthood. The words, by an author whom I knew, lifted up my outlook on life. For this reason, I had always tried to keep lots of reading material in the Chapel at Midway Airport.

In those September days, walking along, meeting no one, gazing at the wide-open horizons stretching back to the mountains hundreds of miles away, delighting in the quietness and the briskness of the far northern Alaskan atmosphere, I received many exhilarating insights into life.   Cut off from family and friends, free of any responsibilities at the time, I had a chance to find a never before experienced attractiveness in God and His marvelous world of nature.

This brings us back to Bishop Gleeson, now deceased since 1983: the shopper extraordinaire, the man who kept on growing. I found him a man fully interested in all that was happening about him, serving others with his own lasagna recipe, going off at 6am every morning in -50 degree Fahrenheit to offer Mass for the Little Sisters of Jesus.

This slightly built man has influenced my thinking much in the years since 1976, serving as a model of the kind of person I would like to be.

Fr. George McKenna

September 13, 2015 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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