Message From A Friend: Years Later Oblate Ministers Still Make a Difference

Oblate Legacy

By Mike Viola

Ms. Daggar

Katie Daggar recently wrote a letter to the Missionary Oblates to let them know how important they have been in her life.  She agreed to share this letter hoping that it will inspire others to participate more fully in the Oblate family.

I want to let you know that I am praying for the Missionary Oblates.  I know of all the wonderful things you do in the world with your missionary work.  The little bit I can give isn’t enough to show how much I appreciate all the Oblates have done for me in my life.  I want to be able to give the little I have to help you so I can help others like me whose life was changed by the good you all have done.

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where we had Oblate priests in our parish.  I was blessed with a strong faith ever since I was very young.  I went to Mass daily with my mom.  In 1984, when I was 13, we had an Oblate priest join our parish because our other priest retired.  That priest was Fr. Donald Dietz, O.M.I.  He was only at our parish for the summer but made a great impact on my life.

Fr. Donald Dietz, OMI

Father Dietz gave me a Divine Office prayer book.  On the inside he wrote: “Katie always be convinced of Jesus’ love and care for you.  He is your friend above all others.”  When Fr. Dietz got back to Washington D.C. he wrote to me and sent the rest of the set of Divine Office books.  Today, more than 30 years later, I still have the whole set he gave me.  It took me until I was an adult to figure out how important these books are to me, and I try to pray with them every day.  I think and pray for Fr. Dietz often.

The next priest we had at the parish was Fr. Frank Ryan, O.M.I.  I was still going to Mass daily before school.  In 1996 my parents divorced and the rest of my family quit going to church.  I was the only one that was going.  I went to Mass every day and sometimes I would look down the pews and no one was there.  I would cry.  Father Ryan would always talk to me after and tell me how much God loved me and to keep coming back.  One winter I only had on an old jean jacket and it was cold out.

Fr. Frank Ryan, OMI

Father Ryan bought me a long winter coat from the Sears catalog.  He gave it to the parish women to give to me.  They later told me he bought it.  I still think of Fr. Ryan and pray for him.

From a young age I suffered with depression.  I drank and was homeless at times, also in and out of psychiatric hospitals.  In 2006 I went to a Chrism Mass and at the back of the cathedral I met a priest from my hometown parish, Fr. Al Henger, O.M.I.  We talked a little and later became friends.  I would help him with his computer and eventually he gave me a job in the parish.  Often times I didn’t have enough money for my medications and gas to get to my doctor appointments.  He was always helping me out, finding me rides and making sure I had my medications.  He counseled me when I was suicidal.  I went to Confessions with him and he prayed with me.  He was there for me in my good times and bad.  He has now passed on but I think of him too and pray for him.

Fr. Al Henger, OMI

Today I am blessed to have my prayer life back again.  I go to Mass as much as I can and I am a part-time sacristan.  The depression isn’t totally gone.  I still have some bad days, but I found a new therapist and I am doing well.  Recently I found your literature on Facebook and have been following it.  I love your e-Books and your Sacred Fire book arrived in the mail today.

My life is really changing for the better, and a big part of it is because of the Missionary Oblates that God put into my life.  I thank all of the Oblates out there spreading the Good News of Jesus’ loving forgiveness, mercy and the great love God has for us with Mary as a guide.  The Missionary Oblates will always be in my prayers and heart.

(Editor’s note: Fathers Henger and Ryan passed in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Fr. Dietz currently resides in Belleville, IL)