In celebrating 50 years as a priest, Fr. Kenneth Hezel, S.J., said that he is filled with “wonder and gratitude.” His presbyteral anniversary on June 9, 2016, also marks over 60 years since his calling to the priesthood after entering the Jesuit Novitiate.
“I am happy to have had many years of health and support from family, fellow Jesuits and parishioners, that allows me to continue to serve,” Hezel, 81, told Saipan Tribune. “Every evening, I take time to reflect on those people whom I met during the day and how they were a gift to me…”
Hezel’s term of service as a Jesuit priest was primarily spent in Micronesia, where he taught at Xavier High School in Chuuk in 1960. He explained his joy in working with lay leaders and catechists during his time there. Similarly, in Yap, where he resided in for eight years, Hezel recounted traveling by ship to spread the good news. He also assisted the people of Guam for 20 years while working for the campus ministry at the University of Guam.
At the end of his time on Guam in 2011, Hezel moved to Saipan and has since ministered at St. Jude and Kristo Rai parish. He said he was drawn to the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa by a program commenced by Deacon Shewman, which selected and developed lay leaders for the church.
“Most memorable was the opening invitation at Fiesta Resort and Spa to over one hundred participants from all of our parishes in 2012,” he added.” This past spring five of those who accepted the invitation completed the first course of training and were give title of Lay Pastoral Ministers. This is memorable because it empowers local people to participate in growing our church here.”
As he celebrates half a century of priesthood, Hezel also expressed his hope for more youth to be “personally involved” in the Church community. He added that assisting the needy remains a priority along with forming more adults for the ministry of the Church.
In part, Hezel said he “prays [that] we may be of one mind and one spirit in the Lord.”
He noted that he does not plan to retire his robe anytime soon. He added, “ Jesuits never retire, as you normally think of it. When they can no longer be of service to the church or community, we reside at a community house and are given our final mission: To pray for the church and the Society of Jesus.”
Hezel will celebrate the Feast of the founder of St Ignatius Loyola and his anniversary mass this Sunday at 9:30am.