Fr. Kevin Gordon, center, renews his priestly vows during his 35th Jubilee Mass on Sunday, July 22, in Washburn. (Catholic Herald photo by Anita Draper)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

“‘To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him, the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.’

“The words of St. Augustine resonate in my heart,” Fr. Kevin Gordon told more than 320 people who gathered Sunday, July 22, to celebrate his 75 years of life and 35 years of diocesan priesthood.

“These 35 years of priesthood have been an amazing adventure,” he added. “I love the Church, and I love the people who make it up.”

Clergy, religious, parishioners, family, friends, Knights of Columbus and Bishops James P. Powers, celebrant; Paul D. Sirba, of the Diocese of Duluth; and Peter F. Christensen, former bishop of the Diocese of Superior, now of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, attended the 35th Jubilee Mass honoring Fr. Gordon.

The Mass was held at St. Louis Catholic Church, Washburn, one of five parishes in the Catholic Communities of the Bayfield Peninsula cluster. Fr. Gordon’s other parishes include St. Francis, Red Cliff; St. Joseph, La Pointe; St. Ann, Cornucopia; and Holy Family, Bayfield.

During the homily, Bishop Powers spoke of Fr. Gordon’s many contributions to the diocese. Currently the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Fr. Gordon has served as the vocations director, member of the vocations team, member of the presbyteral council and in other capacities in addition to pastoring parishes.

“For 35 years, Fr. Kevin has very faithfully and joyfully served the diocese in any way he was ever asked,” he said.

Fr. Kevin has also been deeply loyal to the diocese, coming back to active ministry after two health issues, including advanced cancer, that could have easily justified retirement.

“Instead … he swung back, and continues to follow the example of the Good Shepherd, to do what he can to minister to the people of God in the Diocese of Superior,” the bishop continued.

Bishop Powers also recalled the year he started college in pursuit of the priesthood, while Fr. Gordon was in his second or third year of theology at the seminary.

“I will never forget how welcoming, how inviting … he was,” the bishop added, and then joked, “He was almost as big a sanitation freak as he is now, and that was before Purell.”

“Fr. Kevin, today we join together to celebrate and rejoice with you, for the number of times you spiritually fed the people of God the body and blood of Christ,” he said. “On behalf of myself and all the people of the diocese, thank you for saying yes to God’s invitation to come, follow me.”

Addressing the crowd after Communion, Fr. Gordon spoke of the priest’s “humbling” privilege of entering others’ lives at the most pivotal moments – births, deaths, weddings, baptisms, first Communions, confirmations, “sad times, happy times.”

“It is a privilege and an honor to do that,” he said.

Naming those priests who influenced his call to the priesthood, Fr. Gordon also recognized the Joliet Franciscan sisters, who taught him in Catholic school and who have given 139 years of uninterrupted service to peninsula parishes, and the Benedictine sisters from St. Scholastica, who cared for him when he was in treatment for cancer.

Fr. Gordon quoted 1 John (4:16): “Anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

He spoke of his great love for the Church – its priests, people, popes, churches and cathedrals, and especially small mission churches – and his love of the priesthood, the “amazing” ability to stand at God’s altar and repeat Jesus’ words.

Fr. Gordon also recognized his family, the bishops present, members of other nearby religious communities, and his parishioners. He recalled the words in Hebrews 7:17: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek,” and shared his prayer that he may persevere in ministry until God calls him to be with Him in eternal rest.

Following the Mass, local law enforcement led a procession to Legendary Waters, Red Cliff, where attendees continued the celebration.