Our Lady of Guadalupe and 25 years as an OMI

By Andy Sensenig, OMI

Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI is seen kneeling in the right-center of the photo.

This year, 2017 is a big year for me and by my fellow Oblate, Fr. Tim Paulsen OMI.  It is the 25th anniversary of our first vows as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  I remember those halcyon days at our novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois, where Fathers Bill Sheehan OMI, Paul Waldie OMI, and Ed Vrazel OMI inspired and challenged us to be “true men” of the Gospel.  I remember when I left those hallowed grounds on my way to seminarian studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, I thought the world was our oyster to evangelize.

Now, I am an Oblate priest on a small island in Southeast Alaska, doing what I can to journey with the people on our common pilgrimage to follow Jesus Christ.  Mind you, I don’t have great numbers showing up as some of my Oblate brothers do in their ministries, I get excited when four people show for daily mass, but nevertheless, good things are happening despite the meager numbers.

That is a reality the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate taught me, especially at the novitiate with Fathers Sheehan, Waldie and Vrazel: it is not amount of numbers you evangelize, but the amount of love you throw into ministry that counts.   Numbers will take care of themselves.

That is what happened on the night of December 11th as we got ready for our second Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass in Spanish at our parish of St. Gregory the Nazianzen in Sitka.  As the hour crept closer to midnight with no one showing up, I thought maybe it was a mistake to attempt this mass. However, as you can see from the photo, it was not a mistake, but a success.

Our Lady of Guadalupe surprised St. Juan Diego and sent him on what appeared to be an almost impossible mission. That mission has become a key moment for all us, especially the People of the Americas.  As I celebrated with the hardworking Hispanic people of Sitka, many of whom work 2 or 3 jobs just to get by, that wisdom of doing things with great love and letting the numbers take care of themselves, rang true.

I am grateful to all the people I journey with here in Sitka, but most of all, I am grateful to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who still inspire and challenge me to do things with great love and let the numbers take care of themselves.