I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to this wonderful community of Jefferson County and Warm Springs. From Warm Springs to Culver to Madras to Metolius to the far reaches of Antelope, I have felt nothing but tremendous love, support and joy in living here these past four and one half years. Truly, I have felt welcomed by so many here and have taken great delight in calling this corner of Central Oregon home.
It is because I have been able to call this place home that my decision to leave here has been one that has been made with the greatest of difficulty and pain. I have thoroughly enjoyed being pastor of St. Patrick and BI. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Churches in Madras and Warm Springs. What a tremendous faith community these tow parishes are. Through their strong faith and commitment to follow the will of God, my faith in Jesus Christ has deepened in a most profound way. The opportunity given me to serve as pastor of this community has been a source of great blessing in my life. I will always keep your love for me, and the love of God that you have shared with me, as a guiding force as I go forward in this next step of my journey.
But, it is not only in my ministry to and with the Catholic community here that I am thankful. Through my involvement in many different facets of this community I have experienced a community of people who care for one another. Through my interaction with the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, the schools, the Madras Area Community Action Team, Kiwanis Club, COBRA, COCAAN, Migrant Head Start, and other organizations, I have experienced an intense neighborly care for one another. So many people's commitment to a strong sense of community is inspiring. Know how blessed I have been to be a part of this community and to be able to call you family.
All this said, know how difficult it has been for me to leave y'all. This has been a most painful decision -- one that I regret having had to make. But, I have some issues that I need to work through in my life. At this time in my life, I must take care of myself. So this decision is one of journeying toward healing and wellness. I ask you to please pray for me and support me in taking the tough steps ahead. I cannot do it alone. I will rely on your love and strength to hold me up as I continue this journey to let go of some addictive behaviors in my life.
Again, to all of this Warm Springs/Jefferson County community, I say thank you. I love you dearly. God Bless.
Fr. Jim Stephens