In October, Bishop Michael Warfel appointed Father Leo McDowell to be the vocation director for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, responsible for recruiting young men and women to serve the Church as priests, or religious brothers and sisters. In a follow-up to that appointment, Bishop Warfel has ask Father McDowell to move closer to Great Falls. In turn, this will mean changes for the parishes that have been served for the past ten and a half years by Father McDowell.
Last year at this time, in addition to Father McDowell being assigned to the parishes in Circle, Jordan and Richey, one priest was assigned to Glendive to serve there, Wibaux and St. Phillip's and one priest was assigned to Miles City and also serving in Terry. Today there are six priests serving in the same area. Two priests from India are living in Wibaux and helping in the Glendive parishes and the newly ordained priest for the diocese has been assigned to Sacred Heart in Miles City as parochial vicar (associate pastor). This allows for a reconfiguration of the parishes in the area and a change in pastoral leadership. On Ash Wednesday, this change is schedule to take affect. Father Rob Oswald, the pastor of Sacred Heart in Miles City will be given the additional assignment as pastor of the parishes of Jordan, Circle and Richey. Father Cory Sticha will be assisting in serving the parishes from Miles City. Father Alex Palickaparambil, from India, will live in Circle and serve as an additional parochial vicar for the five faith communities. This will create a new dynamic in the service received by these parishes. The parishes will see a variety of priests celebrating Mass in each community.
Father McDowell will temporarily be working out of the Bishop's office in Great Falls so he can get a jump start on his work as Vocation Director. This assignment will include visiting various parishes around the diocese and our Catholic Schools. "I am looking forward to my opportunity to work with the men and women discerning a call to serve the Church," reports Father McDowell. He continues, "We are building on the work of my predecessor and are planning an effort to actively promote vocations around the diocese within each parish. Having time to work on these projects before reporting to my new parish assignment later this year will truly benefit the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings."
While the Catholic people of Circle, Jordan and Richey say good-bye to Father McDowell, they are ready to welcome the changes that are coming. You are welcome to join the parishioners as they say good-bye to "Father Leo" on Sunday, February 22nd. Father Leo will say Mass at 10:00 at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Circle, followed by a pot luck in the parish hall. He will also say Mass at 4:30 pm at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Jordan, followed by a second pot luck.