Going where others can’t or won’t go is a charism Father Frank Reitter, a former Marist priest, brought with him to the Archdiocese of Anchorage and his current parish, St. Mary’s in Kodiak.
Going to where he is needed has been a recurring theme of Father Frank’s ministry. Early in his priesthood, he was a teacher and baseball coach at Notre Dame High School in Michigan. He was comfortable and successful, with a 61-19 record as a baseball coach, leading the team to three championships. He said, “I could have had a nice career teaching and coaching, but there was pull to go to the (Sioux) reservation because that’s where the needs were.” Father Frank wanted to serve those who were overlooked, “There are so many people who can coach and teach. There aren’t a lot of priests who want to go to the reservation.” He also served in Cameroon, Africa and Jamaica.
Father Frank made his first trip to Alaska to go fishing. During his visit, he was asked to celebrate Mass at Saint Peter’s in Ninilchik and Seldovia. Father Frank later learned how, at the time, the Archdiocese had 14 parishes without a regular priest present. The need for priests in Alaska stuck with him, and when he decided to leave the religious community, he found a mission and home in the Archdiocese.
In Alaska, Father Frank has served as a pastor in Valdez and Soldotna and has been in Kodiak for seven years. He said what he has enjoyed in each archdiocesan parish is getting to know the people. When Father Frank was asked to become the pastor in Kodiak, he asked for time to pray about the decision. Like the other decisions he made in his ministry, he decided to go where he was needed.
The community in Kodiak is different than the other parishes Father Frank had served before, with most of the parishioners being Filipino and Hispanic. To better understand the Filipino culture, he spent three months in the Philippines to learn Tagalog and to immerse himself in Filipino culture. Father Frank said, “It was one of the smartest things I’ve done,” even though he didn’t learn as much Tagalog as he would’ve liked.
Cultural immersion wasn’t something new for Father Frank. He shared that while in seminary, he served at a mission on the Sioux reservation and read “two and a half feet of books” to learn about the culture. Even though he read about the culture, he knew living among the people would help him experience their culture.
Father Frank has also enjoyed being present at Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Kodiak. He said the school has “the nicest kids, and the school does a really good job of helping them succeed.” Father shared that he does his best to be at the school every day. He said he enjoys going from table to table during lunch, asking each kid, “what makes you cool.” He said kids like to talk about themselves and asking them that question helps him to know each child better.
Father Frank said he enjoys serving Saint Mary’s parish, the school and the community in Kodiak and serving where others can’t or won’t go.