News
After 53 years, Oregon Jesuit Joseph Retzel Retiring from Native American Ministry

After 53 years of pastoral care for Native American communities across Montana, Jesuit Father Joseph Retzel is retiring. For the past 21 years, Fr. Retzel has served at St. Paul Mission — a steady presence on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation through times of joy and sorrow.

With Fr. Retzel’s departure, a 128-year history of Jesuit residency at Fort Belknap will conclude. "Our provincial (Father Scott Santarosa) came last October to talk about retirement," Fr. Retzel said recently. "He said, 'Joseph, I know it's in your mind to die here, but I want you to pray about it, and start thinking about retiring.'"

Fr. Retzel's prayers ended in quiet humility. "It is difficult — and I grieve — yes," he confessed. "These people are my family, and with my leaving — I'll be leaving my family. But following the provincial's lead, I've been praying about it, and I've come to the point that I see it's going to be OK.”

After graduating from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington, in 1945, Fr. Retzel enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He next graduated from Gonzaga University and entered the Jesuit novitiate. As a newly-ordained Jesuit priest, he was assigned to serve as the assistant pastor at St. Jude Church in Havre, Montana, in 1962. He was next assigned to St. Paul Mission on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

"It's not just that he's a special priest, he's a special person," said Mary Byrne, a teacher at the St. Paul Mission school. "Some people come here and feel like they belong. Some people come and always feel out of place. Fr. Retzel is comfortable with all the people. He's just so in tune with the people around him — he is there for all of them."

On July 15, Fr. Retzel will make a short journey to Spokane, where he will join a community of retired Jesuit priests on the campus of Gonzaga University. Those who know him best are saddened by his departure.

"I had to get my heart OK with him retiring," said Byrne. "I think if he stayed, he couldn't slow down. … I believe now that retiring is probably better for him, because if he didn't, he would never ever have a chance to just stop and relax — to just pray and be with other Jesuits."

“The people here — especially some of the elders — have taught me the importance of being present," Fr. Retzel said. "Just to be present in the moment, wherever I am. They've taught me the gift of that, the meaning of that." [Source: Great Falls Tribune]





Recent News

July 22, 2020 — Pope Francis declared Fr. Eusebio Kino, SJ, venerable on July 10.

July 14, 2020 — After four ordinations went off without a hitch last week, Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits West Province, had reason to be hopeful.

June 30, 2020 — Fr. Frank Buckley, SJ, clinical director of the Center at Blessed Sacrament, the Jesuit parish in Hollywood, shares how the parish has responded to the pandemic.

June 25, 2020 — Fr. Chris Corbally, SJ, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory in Arizona, now has an asteroid named for him.

June 24, 2020 — Dr. Fauci explains how his Jesuit education helped prepare him for his work in public health.

June 23, 2020 — Jack Krouse, SJ, of Jesuits West, was ordained to the diaconate at Saint Ignatius Church in Paris on June 20.

June 19, 2020 — It is with great joy that the Jesuits West Province announces ordination dates have been set next month for six Jesuits of the province.

view all news

Search news

Publications

Jesuits West Magazine - Spring 2020

Jesuits West Magazine - Fall 2019

Jesuits West Magazine - Spring 2019


Companions
Fall, 2019

Companions
Summer, 2019

Companions
Fall, 2018


Jesuit Retreat Center of the Sierra
The Jesuit Retreat Center of the Sierra is an adult, youth, and family retreat center in Applegate, Placer County, California, for nonprofit groups of 20-130 (105 guests overnight; +25 additional beds in summer only).