Last July, after 12 years of serving the parishes on the Kenai Peninsula, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate priests withdrew from ministry in the Archdiocese of Anchorage.
Over the last seven months, Father Patrick Brosamer, Father Jaime Mencias and Father Michael Ko, KMS, have served as resident priests in Soldotna, Homer and Kenai. Though the Oblates served these three parishes, they lived in community in Soldotna.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Father Patrick Brosamer, who had previously served as parochial administrator at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Anchorage, said the change in parishes was a good thing. “I was happy to be reassigned. It’s good for the parishes and it’s good for us (priests).”
In his six years of ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, he said he learned that, “in leadership, you can’t make everyone happy, so you have to do what you think is best for the parish.” Now, as the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, he plans to start new ministries in the parish that will help bring more community to the parish.
Leading a smaller parish has its advantages Father Patrick shared. At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, he was always running around from event to event and didn’t get a chance to know all of his parishioners at a deeper level. At Our Lady of Perpetual Help, he said he is “more personally involved in the lives of many people of this parish,” something that he couldn’t do at St. Elizabeth’s.
Like the pastor of any parish, Father Patrick has gotten to know parishioners by talking with them after Mass and at parish events. He shared, though, that he has spent time getting to know his flock by spending time fishing with them. “On the peninsula, life revolves around the Kenai River.” He added, “I’ve become friends with several parishioners by becoming fishing buddies.”
As his new ministry continues, Father Patrick plans on leading adult faith formation at the parish, as well as a men’s ministry. He also shared that he is working with Father Michael Ko in Kenai, to bring the two communities together to share resources and ministry.
Leading up to his first Lent at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Father Patrick said, “My priority is to learn the parish.” He added, “Each parish has its own unique pattern and rhythm through the liturgical year,” so he doesn’t plan on making any big changes. Father Patrick said he plans on spending the next year learning more about his new community.
St. John the Baptist
Like Father Patrick, Father Jaime Mencias has spent the last several months at his new assignment in Homer, getting to know his new parishioners and the traditions of the parish. Before his new appointment as parochial administrator at St. John the Baptist, Father Jaime served as parochial vicar at St. Michael parish in Palmer.
Having a resident priest in the community was a refreshing change for the parishioners, Father Jaime said. “They have told me that they are happy to finally have a resident priest after many years, where previously, the priest would just come to celebrate Mass and go.” He did add that “The parish has strong lay leaders,” who have kept the community alive without a priest always present.
In his short time in Homer, Father Jaime has made small changes, offering 24-hour adoration, which was a request of parishioners. He has also changed the weekend Mass schedule to allow more time with the parishioners at St. Peter the Apostle Mission in Ninilchik.
Some of the ministries parishioners are involved with at St. John the Baptist are a ministry to homebound and assisting at the local food bank. At the end of January, the parish began an adult faith formation study following Sunday Mass.
With the season of Lent coming up, Father Jaime says he is still learning the traditions of the parish, “Immersion is key. I am still learning their parish life.” He added that he wants to complete a full liturgical year at the parish before making any changes.
In the future, Father Jaime hopes to offer more faith formation and catechesis opportunities to the parishioners of the parish “So they will see who they are as part of the Church and the mystical body of Christ.”
Our Lady of the Angels
Father Michael Ko, KMS, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels in Kenai, has been in the Archdiocese of Anchorage for three years. Previously he served as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart parish in Wasilla. In the short time he has been in Kenai, Father Michael said he has been grateful for the warm welcome he has received from parishioners. “They have been very good to me and have accepted me.”
Like Homer and Soldotna, Our Lady of the Angels was served by the Oblates. Now the parish has its first resident priest in many years, and Father Michael says, “The parishioners really appreciate having a priest present.”
Father Michael is a missionary priest from Korea. He said what he has found interesting during his three years of ministry in the United States is how celebrations differ from parish to parish. “In Korea, the liturgy was quite unified from one parish to another, but here you have to learn a different style.” So, going into the season of Lent, he will learn the traditions of his new parish.
One hundred ninety-five families attend Our Lady of the Angels. To get to know each family, Father Michael plans to visit each family in their homes. “I want to have short visits for a house blessing or to pray together,” Father Michael said. He added that he plans to start making these visits after he has been in the community for a year.
Since the parish hasn’t had a resident priest in years, there aren’t a lot of active ministries. Currently, they offer religious education and faith formation. Father Michael said parishioners are very active and want to offer ministry for the parish youth.
As he approaches the end of his first year in Kenai, he said he hopes to encourage parishioners to be more active. “I want to see more parishioners participate as Eucharistic ministers and lectors, as well as other ministries in the parish.”
With priests immersing themselves into the communities of the Kenai Peninsula, the hope is that the Catholic communities in these parishes will continue to grow.