NEWTON, Mass. – A priest from a missionary diocese in northern Alaska will receive Voice of the Faithful’s® Priest of Integrity Award during VOTF’s 10th Year Conference in Boston next month. This marks VOTF’s tenth presentation of the Priest of Integrity Award since its founding in 2002.
The recipient is Fr. Patrick Bergquist, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, the largest in the country, spreading across 410,000 sq. mi. of northern Alaska.
The Priest of Integrity Award, according to VOTF, while recognizing that most priests work faithfully and often anonymously in their ministries, acknowledges specific actions demonstrating the leadership needed in the Catholic Church. Criteria for candidates to be considered for a Priest of Integrity Award include those who:
- Have spoken and acted his conscience, proclaiming the truth with humility, courage and compassion without regard for his own future security;
- Are a model of servant-leadership, both in the context of his life and of his ministry; and
- Have given credible witness to the truth in both speech and action.
Fr. Bergquist is the author of The Long Dark Winter’s Night, Reflections of a Priest in a Time of Pain and Privilege. His book grapples with the clergy sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and has been commended by Fr. Donald Cozzens, an award-winning author and recipient of a VOTF Priest of Integrity Award in 2009: “I know of no other work that has so insightfully captured the grieving spirit of Catholic priests in the current vale of tears wrought by the clergy sexual abuse scandals. The Long Dark Winter’s Night gives way to the morning light of hope that always follows honest grieving. In his poetic prose, Patrick Bergquist grieves for us all.” Fr. Cozzens will be a speaker at VOTF’s 10th Year Conference.
“From within this brokenhearted priesthood, we ought to take our rightful place within a brokenhearted Church,” Fr. Bergquist said in The Long Dark Winter’s Night. “Not separated or set apart, but standing in solidarity with those who weep. Here we draw strength and encouragement from one another. The Church Grieving is not a deserted and desolate wasteland, nor should it ever be seen as a failure … It is time we say yes once again to the vows and promises we pledged—our hearts broken, blessed and given for others.”
“Bergquist forces readers to reflect on the raw wounds exposed by the scandals with an uncompromising authenticity and brokenness, all within the context of universal truths spoken by prophets, poets, and in iconic passages of Scripture,” said Bill Casey, former VOTF trustee, who nominated Fr. Bergquist for the Priest of Integrity Award. “He speaks truth in a way that rarely escapes the lips of clergy (or laity), but his purpose is not judgment but a call to healing that can only come from grieving the truth which cannot be avoided. He prompts his brother priests to compassionate action, not fear, defensiveness, or timidity.”
Casey added, “Rare is the clergyman that has challenged fellow priests (and laity) to move beyond their own denial and resistance to healing the wounds of the sexual abuse scandal in our Church.”
Among the many letters supporting Fr. Bergquist for this award was one from Gloria Slagle, a parishioner in St. Raphael’s Parish where Fr. Bergquist was pastor. “As things unfolded in the sex abuse crisis both nationally and in Alaska,” she wrote, “he (Fr. Bergquist) found himself caught between his own instincts for responding to someone in pain versus the manner in which the present leaders in the church were reacting.”
Fr. Bergquist was ordained in 1990 in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland. From 1998 to 2010, he was pastor of St. Raphael’s Parish, just north of Fairbanks. Since 2011, he has had responsibility for pastoral care in the Holy Mary of Guadalupe Parish, Healy; St. Theresa’s Parish, Nenana; Clear Air Force Base, 160 miles northeast of Mt. McKinley; and the native villages of Tanana and Huslia.
VOTF’s 10th Year Conference takes place Sept. 14-15 at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston, Mass. The St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Layperson Awards will be presented following the banquet on Sept. 14. Information and registration is available at www.votf.org.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.
Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360 Office, 617-291-3495 Cell, firstname.lastname@example.org