Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 24, 2002
Doetzel had varied ministry
Retiring Oblate marks 50th anniversary
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I enjoyed life (in the North) very much, especially in the early days when I was full of pep."
- Fr. John Doetzel
His first assignment was to Telegraph Creek, in northern B.C. Telegraph Creek was very isolated with the only access being by riverboat from Alaska in the summer and by bush plane in the winter.
"In the summer months it was dog-pack travel with the dogs packing the loads on their backs."
After serving a native mission in Fort Nelson for awhile, Doetzel returned to Telegraph Creek and was instrumental in starting Iskut Village, a native community of about 500 people. He remained in Iskut until 1966, when he had a car accident and broke his collarbone.
For the next two years he served in Carmacks, but in 1969 he returned to Fort Nelson, where he remained for five years. Then he was posted to Elsa, a Yukon mining town of 1,500 people, where he experienced temperatures of minus 76F.
"I enjoyed life (in the North) very much, especially in the early days when I was full of pep," Doetzel said. But then the eternal isolation, the cold and the fact he felt the Oblates were unprepared to serve the native people got to Doetzel.
In the mid-1970s, he asked his order for "a more involved priestly experience" and his wish was granted. He was posted to Kamloops, where in 1979 he founded St. John Vianney Parish. In 1984 he was transferred to Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island. Four years later he again found himself a missionary in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Smithers.
Unable to travel because of his diabetes, Doetzel came to Edmonton in 1989 and took up residence at Annunciation Parish where he spent more than six years. There he worked with the RCIA, visited schools and hospitals, did Cursillos and gave talks to married couples through the Marriage Encounter program.
At the end of his sixth year at Annunciation, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil offered to have him come to St. Joseph's Basilica. He is now in his fifth year.
Doetzel feels it is time to retire with the Oblates in St. Albert, although he vows to continue to be involved in ministry.
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