Update from Fr. Sakowski: 07/11/21

My Upcoming Sabbatical

As many of you are already aware, I have been planning for some time now to take three months away this fall for a sabbatical. I’ll be flying out in six weeks! I am very much excited for the opportunity to be trained and equipped for more effective pastoral ministry to those impacted by trauma and addictions. Below are more details about the sabbatical, in case some of you are wondering about it.

What is a Sabbatical? In the Diocese of La Crosse, priests are allowed to take a three-month sabbatical every ten years. Several Eau Claire priests have gone on sabbaticals. In fact, Fr. Schultz took two of them during his years of active ministry. Sabbaticals for priests of the diocese are typically a combination of ongoing professional development and a time for personal and priestly renewal that enriches both priest and parish following his return.

What will I be doing? I am working on three different certifications that are focused on providing outstanding pastoral care to those who are impacted by trauma and addictions. I also look forward to some hiking and some writing.

Where? I will be living in community with the Benedictine monks at St. Martin’s Abbey, located in Lacey, Washington. That is about 5 miles from the Capitol in Olympia and about 60 miles from Seattle.

When? I will fly out to the Seattle airport after the weekend Masses on August 22 (six weeks from today) and will return to St. Mary’s and St. Raymond’s after Thanksgiving.

Who will fill in? In terms of Masses, Confessions, weddings, and other sacraments, Fr. Peter will fill in, along with seven of the other priests in the Eau Claire Deanery. Collectively, they will provide coverage during the three months. You will probably see a lot of Fr. Peter on the weekends!

In terms of administration of the parishes, our four Directors (Bonnie Firkus, Jon Jones, Jacqueline Van Hemert, and Tyler Andreae) have each been meeting weekly with me, and I have every confidence in their readiness to lead our other staff and volunteers. They will collaborate as needed with Fr. Peter and (if a crisis should arise) with me.

During my past nine years in these parishes, I have been heeding the advice many of you have given and have been learning to delegate.  People are sometimes surprised at the kinds of leadership that I delegate to our Directors, but it’s so healthy as a Church to have lay people collaborating in the administration of our parishes. It allows so many more people to be meaningfully involved, and it frees me up to focus on the ministries that only priests can do. It also opens up the opportunity such as this one to go on a sabbatical that will (God willing) ultimately enrich thousands of people.

Who is paying for this? When a priest gets his sabbatical approved by the Diocese of La Crosse, it is one of many ministry enrichment efforts that are funded by the Diocesan Annual Appeal. That diocesan funding includes the cost of my certifications, the airfare, room and board at the monastery, and my monthly salary. So thank you to all of you who support the Diocesan Appeal each year! All other expenses will be paid for by me personally.

Why am I doing this? I deeply desire to follow out John Paul II’s vision for building up a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love. I want our marriages and families in the parishes to be healthy and strong. Each of us carries brokenness with us in a way that impedes us from having deep and meaningful relationships. Each and every human being has a story, including painful parts that we would rather ignore. Jesus brings integration and healing, helping us become a whole person. The healthier we become in our relationships, the more our families and parishes will attract others to join with us in following Jesus.

Our parishes need to be a shining light for all who need it. The reverence for human dignity and the love of the Heart of Jesus needs to be palpable. My vision is that anyone who walks through our doors for the first time will feel profoundly welcomed, will be moved by the joy of the Gospel encountered here, and will easily find ways to begin walking the next steps on their path of discipleship. That will happen to the extent that we ourselves have encountered the Good News of Jesus and been transformed by it. So many of the not-yet-members of our parishes have been through painful trauma in their lives. They will not have the courage to join us if they are not convinced that we are safe, wise, and strong companions for their journey of discipleship. I am deeply hopeful that the lessons I learn in the weeks ahead will be a great benefit to us all. Please keep me in your prayers!