Praised be Jesus Christ! I think the first time I met Dan Kitzhaber was in the spring of 2002. We were attending a pro- life gathering hosted by the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Stevens Point. I remember the presentation Dan gave about the damage being done by pornography and for years I used some of his insights when I covered that topic with my students. Dan made a positive impact on me from the very start. As you already know, Dan has begun his new position in the office of Marriage and Family and is now officially employed by the Diocese of La Crosse. Dan served our two parishes for the past 18 years and I’ve wanted to take some space here to publicly thank him for all the good he did. In a perfect world I would back up my words of gratitude with an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World! But because my personal finances can only afford to send him and his family to Arpin and back, I’ve decided a nice tribute ought to suffice in accurately reflecting the way we feel about his time with us. A first point to mention is that no one this side of eternity will ever fully know the impact of his life. The remarkable movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” grants some insight into how powerful one person’s life can be in bringing hope and peace and light to others. I can only imagine all the young lives Dan affected by his constant witness to the splendor and challenge of living the Gospel in our world today. And from my own experience in working with young people, I imagine much of Dan’s work was rather unsung and sometimes may have felt unappreciated. Only in Heaven will Dan know the good he did, and I am very confident that such a revelation will be a powerful and happy experience. Again, another insight is the old mantra that “no man is an island.” This could be further spelled out by the words, “Behind every good husband is an encouraging wife.” Dan and his wife Christy are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this weekend and God knows they’ve lived well the mystery of two becoming one. One way to thank Dan for his service is to pray for his family, all of whom are home to celebrate with gratitude the gift of married love. When a married person commits to working for the Church, the other spouse and children are conscripted into service too. So while Dan was the official employee of Saint John’s and Christ the King these past 18 years, Christy and the kids have been involved and supportive every step of the way. Just think of how many jar mixes they’ve made or brat barns they’ve sweated in or how often they rode the bus to the March for Life. So our public gratitude extends to Christy and Sister Anna Grace (Veronica), Zech, Rebekah, Catherine, and Elizabeth. We happily surround you with our prayers this weekend as you celebrate Dan and Christy’s silver anniversary. In closing, I’m reminded of the words of Coach Boone in the movie “Remember the Titans.” Shortly after the tragic accident that left star player Gary Bertier paralyzed for life, a press conference was held in advance of the state championship game. With obvious emotion in his voice, Coach Boone told the press, “You cannot replace a Gary Bertier.” And so it is in life – each of us in a way is irreplaceable. Each of us is unique and unrepeatable and nobody else does things quite the same as we do. And so as we bid a fond farewell to Dan Kitzhaber and the heroic work he did for us, we realize that no one can truly replace him. However, we must always remember that the flipside of the coin is also true: that life goes on without us. For example, while I was away 6 weeks for my hip replacement back in 2013, I was secretly hoping that the parish would flounder in my absence. Sadly, it seemed to actually flourish under the direction of Father Burish. I have forgiven you for that! The point is that Dan’s successor, David Alcott, will do things differently than Dan did and that’s all according to God’s design. Please welcome and support David as fully as you did Dan. And Dan, from all of us, thanks for everything that you did – our parishes are so much better from having been served by you!
May God bless all who labor for the salvation of souls! Your friend in Christ, Father Martin