“You’re moving where? Are you crazy? It’s winter and complete darkness for 6 months out of the year.”
This is the common refrain my husband, Ben, and I heard when we told our friends in northern Mississippi that we were moving to Juneau. It might seem like a huge change: Mississippi to Juneau, but I’m originally from Chicago and my husband is from northern Wisconsin. We know what winter is all about and our snowshoes are waiting to be used again.
I am very excited to be the new Executive Director of the Shrine of St. Therese. My first introduction to the Shrine was a few weeks ago during the record breaking heat of June 16th. Anyone who has been to the Shrine can tell you of its physical surroundings, but the holiness is harder to put into words. I was lucky to have some time in the Chapel by myself and after the cacophony of raven and crow calls died down outside, there was silence. I started to wonder if my friends were right, maybe I was crazy to move my family across the continent to take this job. As I started to pray, a peace descended upon me and I knew that this move, crazy as it might seem to others, is what God is calling me and my family to.
For years my husband and I have dreamed about moving to Alaska, but we figured it would remain just a dream. Ben and I have longed to find a place to raise a family that isn’t too large, but isn’t too small. We wanted a place where we could easily access hiking and do other outdoor activities. We wanted a place where we could get by with only one car and hopefully walk to work or take the bus. To all this we added our careers: education and ministry. Little did we know that our wish list would all come together in Juneau and through the Shrine.
In my short time in Juneau I am awed at the love people have for the Shrine. It is beautiful to behold.
In a previous position as the Director of Retreats at LaSalle Manor Retreat Center in Plano, Illinois, I experienced up-close the importance a place like the Shrine can have on a person’s life. It was a humbling experience to be with others when they discovered the love God has for them, or to know that God forgives their sins, or even that their life matters. When you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit overshadow and uplift you, that place is never forgotten. Bishop Burns would like to see a retreat program begin at the Shrine and that will be an area of focus.
I am looking forward to using my background in theology and ministry to help create a vision for the Shrine and to expand the spiritual programs offered in the Diocese of Juneau.
Deirdre Darr is the Executive Director of the Shrine of St. Therese for the Diocese of Juneau. Phone: (907) 586-2227 x 24, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.