by Sr. Elizabeth Racko and Julie Ferraro

Sister Catherine Mary Gachau of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 25 years

Sr. Catherine grew up in Kiambu, Kenya. She entered the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor because of their unique charism around the world of caring for the elderly poor with modest resources. She is currently stationed at Villa Guadalupe in Gallup. This is her first time in the Diocese of Gallup, but not in the USA. After her final vows in 1997, she got her assignment to be in Palatine, Illinois, where she did her nursing studies.

Sr. Catherine, foreground, at the 2017 Jubilarian Mass.

After graduating in 2001, she went back to her country of Kenya for one year where she was in charge of the postulates, women wishing to be sisters. For the next six years she was a member of the Formation Team in the novitiate in France and in Benin, West Africa until 2009. After that, she had the joy of going back to the care of the elderly poor in France and England. She has only been in the Diocese of Gallup for three months. Sister Catherine Mary says with a great smile on her face, “I always knew that my place was to be with the elderly residents, and I am looking forward to serving them in the church in my new Diocese of Gallup.”


Sister Maria Cristina Sosa of the Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph, 50 years

Sister Maria also grew up outside of the United States, in Puebla, Mexico. Her current ministry is as a pre-K teacher at St. Francis Catholic School, which she has happily been doing for 10 years. She is not new to the diocese. Forty years ago, before coming to Gallup, she served in the churches at San Mateo, New Mexico and at Saint Vivian church in Milan, New Mexico. Sister Maria Cristina says with a sparkle in her eyes, “I am very happy to be serving the little children. I enjoy being with them. Even though at one time I worked teaching at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California and was very happy, I really have a wonderful time with the little ones.”

Sister Joleen Retzer, CSA, 50 years as a sister in the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Agnes

Sister Joleen made her first vows in 1967. She was born outside the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin into a family of eight children. Because she was interested in the community, she attended high school as an aspirant with the Sisters of St. Agnes at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She went on to receive her Master’s degree in education from Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota and later received her librarian certification from the state of Arizona. She has taught in Minnesota, Indiana, New York City, and Wisconsin. She spent a year as an audiovisual librarian in Mary College and summers assisting in community hospitals as a physician’s research librarian. She came to the Diocese of Gallup in 1984 and taught middle school science for four years at Sacred Heart Cathedral School (as it was then called) in Gallup. She currently ministers as a teacher/librarian after many years of teaching middle school science in Fort Defiance, Arizona (a total of 29 years). She adds these personal comments: “I especially enjoy the wonders of nature, gardening, sewing and reading. I am very, very thankful for the many people who have colored my life and the countless opportunities that have enriched it!”

Brother John Friebel, OFM, 50 years as a Franciscan brother in the Order of Friars Minor

John Friebel is originally from Shelby, Ohio, the ninth of ten children. Educated by the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate (Joliet Franciscans) through grade school, he learned young about Franciscan spirituality. Graduating from public high school, his sister, Marie, invited him to visit her in Dayton, and see St. Leonard’s College, the seminary for St. John the Baptist Province of Franciscan Friars.

There, Br. John picked up a brochure titled “Hands for Christ: What Brothers Do”. He recalled discerning, “This is exactly what I want to do.”

His pastor at the time, however, encouraged Br. John to pursue the priesthood. He traveled to Boston, where four years of Latin were crammed into a nine month course. He then studied at Duns Scotus College, Southfield, Michigan, for three months, before deciding to join the “brothers out having fun”.

Beginning his formation in Oldenburg, Indiana, on February 14, 1963, Br. John noted “I knew that’s where I was meant to be”. Yet he admitted to having difficulty during his novitiate year. “There was too much quiet time, and not enough work.” He added, “I’m a doer.”

On the day of his first profession, August 16, 1967, he found himself relieved the year had ended. “I made it!”

With prior experience as a brick layer, Br. John traveled to St. Michaels Mission in Arizona in 1969. He joined other temporary professed friars – a plumber and two carpenters – to work on a variety of projects in the Southwest. “I’ve been here ever since,” he stated.

Some of those projects included building a hall in Tuba City; Christ the King Church, Shiprock, NM; the friary at St. Mary Mission, Tohatchi, NM; and the hall at St. Anthony Church, Naschitti, NM.

The latter holds humorous memories for Br. John. On one particular day – his birthday – coworkers raised objections about working due to strong winds. Nonetheless, Br. John was installing gables on the roof, when he asked for plywood to be handed up to him. “There I was, holding a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of plywood,” he recounted. “A gust of wind caught me, and picked me up.” Fortunately, he landed on the ground safely.

Br. John is also well-known for his garden at St. Michaels – flowers and vegetables. “Flowers are my first love,” he said. “The garden is my hobby.” He shares his bountiful harvest with many, including the Poor Clare Colettines in Roswell, NM. An ample delivery of pickles, sauerkraut, apple sauce, and pickled beets arrived at the monastery door this past October, an annual tradition.

Br. John continues to keep busy with maintenance projects, as well. “I’ve been able to use my hands, my talents,” and he hopes to continue doing so into the future. He’ll also enjoy a jubilee celebration with his entire extended family in Shelby, Ohio, on October 14, 2017, with his nephew, Richard Friebel, CPPS, presiding at the Mass, followed by a special dinner.

Father Dale Jamison, OFM, 50 years as a member of the Franciscan Friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province

Michael Stephen Jamison was born in Detroit on January 11, 1947. Joining St. John the Baptist Province, Order of Friars Minor, he attended St. Francis Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, prior to commencing his philosophy studies at Duns Scotus College, Southfield, Michigan.

As was tradition, after one year of studies, he received the Franciscan habit and began his novitiate on August 15, 1966, being given the religious name Dale.

On the day of his first profession, August 16, 1967, Dale remembers feeling like the rich young man from Scripture. “I can remember my little hands being enshrined in the much larger hands of the minister and he ‘looks at me with love.’” The Minister Provincial’s promise, “And if you can live this life, I promise you life everlasting with God in heaven,” touched Dale deeply. “All of that felt pretty good to me. I believed it then, and I believe it now!” he noted.

After professing his vows, Dale resumed his studies at Duns Scotus, continuing on to theology studies at St. Leonard’s College, Centerville, Ohio. Since his ordination on June 15, 1974, he has ministered in the Gallup Diocese and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, primarily among the Pueblo peoples. He also spent six years in the Diocese of Phoenix as Director of Native American Ministry.

Dale has spent 40-plus years in the Southwest, and is remembered fondly as the “Roadrunner” or “Running Rev” for the many mornings he spent jogging remote, packed dirt tracks, training for numerous marathons, in order to raise thousand of dollars for the parishes and schools where he served. His running days may be past, but he still walks five miles a day!

Personally, Dale holds a more recent memory close to his heart. In October, 2016, he traveled to Rome at the invitation of friends, to concelebrate and preach at a wedding Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “In this chapel, the altar of sacrifice contained the remains of St. John Chrysostom” known as “Golden Mouth”. Dale continued, “Preaching for the occasion in his presence was a little intimidating, but also very energizing.” He also presided at a Mass in the Basilica of San Clemente, first century priest and martyr, and concelebrated Mass on the Feast of St. Francis in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi with the Minister General, Michael Perry, OFM. Dale concluded, “Hands down, this was the highlight of my entire Franciscan and priestly life.”

The current pastor of St. Mary Mission, Tohatchi, NM, Dale also serves as Director of Native American Ministry for the Diocese of Gallup, as Dean of the McKinley County Deanery, and on the Presbyteral Council. He is on the board of directors of St. Michael Indian School, and a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Provincial Counil. He was named a “Missionary of Mercy” by Pope Francis during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016.

Having been blessed with good physical health, friends and cross-cultural experiences, Dale’s “sincerest wish and prayer” is to “continue as a Franciscan-priest in this kind of ministry for the Church” for many years to come.