Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Fr. James Marchionda, OP, has been a friend of the Tomahawk Catholic parish of St. Mary’s since he led his very first parish mission there more than 30 years ago.

Since that first mission, Fr. Marchionda has led hundreds of parish missions throughout the United States and Canada, until eight years ago when he became prior provincial of the Central U.S. Dominican Province. A rigorous schedule has limited his ability to lead missions, but he returns to parish mission ministry whenever possible. He said he was honored when Fr. Louis Maram Reddy invited him to return to St. Mary’s.

Since the early 1990s, the Dominican has led more than 20 missions and retreats and missions in Tomahawk, often with a Dominican preaching partner, Sr. Ann Willits.

Fr. Marchionda presided and preached at the weekend Masses for June 18-19. His presentations continued June 20-22 with 8:45 a.m. Mass, followed by a light breakfast and continued group discussion. Evening services were held on Monday and Tuesday, followed by fellowship.

According to Jan Huseby, director of music and liturgy for the St. Mary’s Catholic Community and an organizer of the event, Fr. Jim was very happy to return “home” to Tomahawk, where his ministry sometimes supported the parish through challenging circumstances.

“God Upholds us Forever” was the theme for the mission.

After Monday evening’s prayer service focused on peace, one of the most significant events of the mission was the Tuesday service titled, “Praise, Lament, Petition, Praise.”

Having experienced deep loss since the pandemic began, people were invited to name their losses, including their feelings of isolation, absence of the Eucharist, loss of physical touch of family members —especially during illness when they could only wave through a window — and the ultimate grief of losing loved ones.

Stories were received with the community’s prayerful support, which continued in the fellowship following the service. Some participants even reported discovering new friendships within the parish.

Before becoming prior provincial of the Central U.S. Dominican Province, Fr. Marchionda traveled extensively, leading parish missions throughout the United States and Canada, preaching the Gospel with his words and music ministry.

A gifted instrumentalist, vocalist and composer of several published collections of sacred music, he also founded the Dominican Festival Choir with members from all over the United States, with whom he has led several concert tours for peace throughout various European countries.

“Because music is so integral to his preaching, he effectively weaves music throughout his missions,” she added. Huseby shared that it has been her honor to support Fr. Jim’s ministry for 30 years as an accompanist, whenever and wherever her help has been requested, including on his European tours.

“Fr. Jim’s gift of preaching the powerful message of the Gospel reminded us that – even in the challenges and hardships of life – we are deeply loved by God,” Huseby said.

Fr. James Marchionda, OP