Saying Goodbye to Friends

(Note: The photo above is the social media and editorial team for the Wyoming Catholic Register.)

I’ve been dreading this. While I understand the importance of saying goodbye the actual practice is one I dislike very much.

Last month, Deacon Vernon Dobelmann informed the chancery staff that he would be leaving to take a position at St. Francis by the Sea Parish in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Since I came to work at the chancery in September of 2015, there have been a significant amount of changes. Every time a friend or co-worker leaves, there is some amount of grieving that takes place. I confess, I am having a harder time in this instance.

I remember being very impressed with Deacon Vernon’s homilies when he first came to St. Mary’s Cathedral. His preparation indicated an earnest respect for the people in the pews. From the outset, you could tell that here was a very conscientious member of the clergy, with great attention to detail.

After I was ordained, Bishop Etienne assigned me to Holy Trinity Parish. One day, I got an email that looked to have been forwarded around like a hot potato. The local newspaper’s “Religious Section” editor was looking for a Catholic who might be willing to submit occasional pieces from a Catholic perspective. That was the content of the original email. The responding replies seemed to indicate a similar thought, everyone thought it was an important thing, but everyone was too busy with current responsibilities to take this on. The final response, the one which brought the conversation to me, was from Deacon Vernon. It read: I seem to remember one of the new guys has a degree in English. Maybe we should ask him?

Very cautiously, I responded to the email. I would be willing to consider it. But, I was reluctant to speak on behalf of the Church in a secular forum, especially since the newspaper seemed to relish controversy. Shortly after that, I was asked to assist at a Mass during the clergy institute. Bishop Etienne walked into the sacristy and greeted me. Then he said, “I hear you’ve agreed to write articles in the paper. Thanks for doing that….”

Such was the discernment process.

Long story short, that forwarded email set things in motion. Because of that, Bishop Etienne would eventually ask me to consider applying for the Legislative Liaison position. On difficult days, I make sure to stop by Vernon’s office and let him know, “It’s all your fault,” which never fails to elicit a good laugh from us both.

He understands, better than most people, the challenges of speaking on behalf of the Church. Our social media and editorial team for the Wyoming Catholic Register will definitely miss his wisdom. He has been a tremendous mentor and I will personally miss his thoughtful input which he has always been willing to provide. Most of all, I will miss my friend.

Vernon, you and Margaret leave the diocese with our prayers. We will be forever grateful for the time, talent and treasure that both of you have sacrificed on behalf of the People of God in Wyoming. We are stronger because of it. May God reward you and your family with countless blessings!