Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Fathers Robert Turner, Michael Venneri mark 25th anniversary of ordination
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the June 14, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Two priests of the Diocese of Spokane, Fathers Robert Turner and Michael Venneri, celebrate their 25th anniversaries of priestly ordination a little more than one month apart. In 1982, Father Turner was ordained May 19; Father Venneri, on June 25.
Father Turner (right) is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Pomeroy, St. Mark Parish in Waitsburg, and St. Joseph Parish in Dayton. Previous assignments include St. John Vianney Parish, Spokane Valley; St. Charles Parish, Spokane; St. Vincent and St. Paul parishes, in Connell and Eltopia, respectively; Our Lady of the Valley in Okanogan and St. Genevieve in Twisp; Immaculate Conception, Oroville, and Holy Rosary, Tonasket.
Besides parish work, Father Turner spent several years teaching at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon and serving as Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry at Carroll College, Helena, Mont., before returning to the Spokane Diocese and his present assignment in 2005.
After previous pastoral assignments at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane, St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley, and St. Francis Xavier and St. Patrick Parishes, both in Spokane, in 1993 Father Venneri entered the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center and since November, 1994, he has held the position of Priest-Chaplain there. (Editor’s note: Father Venneri was unavailable for an interview, nor was a current photo available for this edition of the Inland Register.)
Asked to reflect on his 25 years of priestly ministry, Father Turner said that the most rewarding aspect of his experience as a priest has been “the faith of the people. Each Sunday I look out and see the Gospel in the faces of my parishioners. In small parishes you know many events in people’s lives, where they have conformed their lives into the pattern of Christ’s passion and death and then seen the hope and strength of the resurrection in their freedom to continue to love. I have great stories of parishioners like Christ on the cross in such incredible freedom, loving as they are literally pouring out their lives.”
At the same time, Father Turner said that the most challenging part of being a priest over the past 25 years has been “the irrational ideological approach of those people who believe they are filled with the spirit of Vatican II and instead are filled with judgment and an irrepressible impulse to depersonalize anyone who does not agree with their agenda.”
After 25 years as a priest, Father Turner says that he has “realized over and again the focus of my life and ministry is the ordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth. This is what I learned in Guatemala,” where he served in the diocese’s mission for about nine months after college. It also was “the fruit of my 30-day retreat while a student in Belgium, and was the heart of my spirituality when I was ordained and (when I) took some time as a priest to have an ordinary life of work” – after ordination, Father Turner received permission to work at an ordinary job for a time.
“Over the years, over and again, I have been seduced by reason to believe that a reasoned argument will be understood, considered for its merit, and some contribution will be realized,” he said. “I can become a compulsive planner, yet over and again I learn to return to the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, Thérèse of Lisieux, and so many who focused on the power of the incarnation of the Word apart from projects or structural change.”
Father Turner said that he regards all the assignments he has had as blessings, “but the greatest gift to me is parish life.” Looking to the future, he includes among his dreams “retirement housing – not low income housing or assisted living,” he explains, “but housing for (retired) people of ordinary means in parishes that would keep parishioners connected with parish communities.”