Congratulations to Fr. Peter Gorges who has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the Catholic Extension 2015 Lumen Christi Award!

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Modeling faith in action, Catholics from Alaska to the Gulf Coast are reaching out to make a difference in their communities. Since 1978, Catholic Extension has been honoring these faithful servants with the Lumen Christi Award. Accompanied by a $50,000 grant ($25,000 for the honoree and $25,000 for the nominating diocese), the Lumen Christi Award is presented to an individual or group of people who have demonstrated how the power of faith can transform lives and society.

This year, the Diocese of Juneau nominated Fr. Peter Gorges for the Lumen Christi Award. On June 1 the Catholic Extension announced Fr. Peter as on of the 10 finalists for this year’s Lumen Christi Award!
The final Lumen Christi award recipient will be announced in the fall.
READ MORE about these inspiring followers of Christ on the Catholic Extension’s website: www.catholicextension.org.

Read on for more information about Fr. Peter and his life and ministry in the Alaska:

Father Gorges was ordained priest in Boston, for the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, on May 29. 1968. He has been pastor in most of the parishes in the diocese from 1969 to 2001. During that time, he not only attended to parish needs, he regularly visited remote villages and logging fr peter gorges w shadowcamps by ferry and float planes. Over the years, he has been very involved in state, national & international Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and local ecumenical programs. He also ministered to children in Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Wrangell Institute boarding school, and the Mt. Edgecombe boarding school in Sitka. He has been everything from Vicar General to missionary. Because Alaska has such a small population, Father Gorges has provided a wide range of services to both the civil and Church communities throughout the state—always bringing a “Jesus” presence in doing so.

Father Gorges retired from parochial ministry when he was 66 years of age in 2001. He has been a volunteer fill-in priest ever since. He is the only retired priest still present in the Juneau Diocese.

FROM the BRONX TO ALASKA

Father Gorges first arrived in the Anchorage area of Alaska in 1959, to serve as US Army Chaplain Assistant through 1960. As Chaplain Assistant, he served the needs of the Catholic community on post (Wildwood Station, Kenai, Alaska), the nearby village of Kenai, and the Catholic community at Fort Richardson in Anchorage.  It was at Wildwood Station and Kenai, while doing Catholic ministry on and off post, that he began to sense a call to a priestly vocation in Alaska. Father Gorges watched both the Kenai and Anchorage communities (and the Catholic communities therein) grow—long before Anchorage became an archdiocese. In fact, since 1959, he saw the number of Anchorage Catholic Churches grow from 2 to 8.

The Tlingit village of Hoonah had not seen a Catholic priest for over 10 years. In 1967, as a Transitional Deacon, Fr. Gorges renewed Catholic contact with Hoonah, where a church was eventually built with Catholic Extension Society funds.

Being ordained in 1968, Father Gorges was a “child of Vatican II.” He personally knew many of the ‘Old Timers’ of the era and heard their stories. Now, with 47 years of active ministry in Alaska, he is something of a living history between the last of the ‘Old Timers’ and the present. Because Alaska has such a small population, Father Gorges is a well-known face of the Catholic Church, not only in the Juneau Diocese, but also in parts of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

For over 10 years, he was the de-facto Alaska delegate to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) Catholic Charismatic Renewal Diocesan Liaison Committee, participating in their meetings, and in many state, national and international conferences. Father Gorges mentored three seminarians before their ordination; he twice represented Region 12 as Auditor at the national NCCB meetings; and for 15 years he led Catholic tours around the world, providing spiritual support. He continues his active ministry to this day, celebrating Masses at churches throughout the state, and celebrating weddings and funerals for his former parishioners.

Fr. Peter Gorges in India.
Fr. Peter Gorges in India.

When Archbishop Francis Hurley came to Juneau in 1970, his vision was that his priests look beyond their immediate communities to see all of Southeast Alaska—and, in fact, all of Alaska – as their community. That has pretty much been Father Gorges’ mantra ever since. As noted previously, his ministry has spanned the Diocese of Juneau and the State of Alaska as a whole. So often he is “welcomed home” to this parish and that, and sometimes even manages to find a parish where he has never served before. Every year since retirement, he has served parishes and missions throughout the Diocese of Juneau and spent four to five weeks filling in at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage (the largest church in the state). Over the years he has ministered at St. Michael’s in Palmer and St. Patrick’s in Anchorage (Archdiocese of Anchorage) and celebrated Mass at Seward, Tok, Homer, Ninnilchek, Kenai, Soldatna, Nome, Bethel, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, Naknek, and Fairbanks.

ACTIVE in RETIREMENT

Last summer he had the unique opportunity to fill in at four different Yukon Delta Eskimo villages, Emonnak, Kotlik, Stebbins, and St. Michael. These villages are remote Eskimo villages, without many of the usual amenities, where Father Gorges (remember he is an older man) had the unique opportunity of learning to use “honey buckets” and live without running water. As Father Gorges puts it, “It’s amazing a kid from the Bronx can live comfortably with water from a rain barrel, hot water from a tea pot, and an aluminum foil tray for washing (body, laundry, and dishes).”

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Fr. Peter Gorges outside Sacred Heart Church in Emmonak. In his ‘retirement,’ Fr. Peter travels as a substitute priest throughout Alaska, and was recently named one of 10 finalists for the Catholic Extension’s 2015 Lumen Christi Award.

On August 27, 2015, Father Gorges will be 80 years old. Alaska is his home.  Priesthood is his ministry. Preaching God’s personal love, justice, mercy & forgiveness is his passion. He does that throughout all of Alaska and even in a local church in upstate New York, and one in southern Virginia, when visiting family and friends.

The Bishops of Alaska have dreamed of the day when they would be able to have an interchange of priests – for the benefit of the priests, and for the benefit of the parishioners. Father Gorges, in retirement, has gone a long way to make those dreams happen.

Father Gorges keeps a journal of his activities. His 2014 journal is typical of the past 13 years of retirement:

Sitka – 144 days (3 months filling-in after the pastor died); Anchorage – 37 days (Our Lady of Guadalupe parish); Skagway – 35 days (St. Therese parish); Haines – 28 days (Sacred Heart parish); Palmer – 26 days (St. Michael’s parish); Yukon Delta Parishes – 20 days (Emmonak, Kotlik, Stebbins & St. Michael).

What retirement?  May we all be so active in our own retirement!

Father hopes that his post-retirement routine will be an inspiration for other Alaska priests who will retire in the future, that they too may be available to fill-in as needed throughout the state. They too can help the Bishops of Alaska achieve their dreams of a state-wide interchange of priests.