Although parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Shady Cove lost Father William McHugh to retirement last July after two decades, the two Priests that have taken his place quickly won the hearts of the congregation for their refreshing approach to spiritual values. Fathers Mike Walker and Theodore Lange are 44 and 32 respectively and offer two distinct styles of preaching.
Walker often uses humor, is low-keyed and into scripture. Lange is emphatic and traditional. While Walker feels English is most effective, Lange likes a touch of Latin, the poetic language he studied. Walker and Lange, Pastor and Vicar respectively, divide their time between Shady Cove and Shepherd of the Valley Church in Central Point.
Walker grew up in Grants Pass and after earning a Masters degree in Business Administration at Southern Oregon University decided to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1999 after seven years at Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary. His business degree is not wasted, however, as Walker said church administration is more complicated than ever.
Lange, a native Oregonian, was raised in Salem and got an Associate of Science degree at a community college. After almost three years of philosophical studies at Mt. Angel, Lange was sent to Rome for five years to study theology. Ordained in 2009, he celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. Lange was in Rome when Pope John Paul II passed and Benedict XVI elected—“painfully sad and beautiful at the same time.” The diversity in Rome gave him a strong interest in international priesthood.
Entering the priesthood was not a light decision and both Walker and Lange spent many introspective years determining whether that was the right path. Through prayer, they ultimately were led to be of service to God and the people, they said. Doing so ended any thoughts of marriage.
Do they regret not having marriage and a family? “Oh yeah,” said Lange thoughtfully. That was part of his four-year discernment and part of the sacrifice. Walker said he knew what he was getting into and had the time in seminary to consider it. He felt he could devote more fully to the church without marriage.
Lange is concerned about children exposed to commercials that are soft-porn, such as in the Super Bowl, causing them to deal with the complexities of adult life before they are ready. His immediate goal is to work with Rogue Valley pastors of all denominations to find ways to recreate a healthy culture.
The Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church with an estimate of more than a billion members. The liturgy includes various sacraments, such as the Sacrament of Confession. A common misconception is that Catholics can sin, go to Confession and be free to repeat the cycle the following week. Although there is forgiveness, Confession is penance and an opportunity for accountability, said Walker. It also offers moral support and encouragement but not permission to keep sinning. In the Sacrament of Confession, a commitment is made to try not to commit that sin again. Lange highly recommends Confession for struggles of addiction of any type such as drug use and pornography.
When it comes to crime both Priests believe in appropriate punishment. Lange favors lifetime imprisonment for certain crimes such as rape and murder. And Walker said, “It is not accurate to say that we as Christians should forgive and forget when people treat others disrespectfully and in an oppressive manner.”
Priests are not much different than the rest of us in their views but they face different challenges. When asked what, Lange joked, “Getting up early and going to bed too late sometimes.” And in a serious vein, not neglecting prayers and getting everything done each busy day. For Walker, it is trying to make the gospel relevant, which it is, for the old and young and making sure the message is applicable to people across all backgrounds and cultures. “The good thing about the gospel is it is not liberal or conservative, young or old or anything else. It is just what it is and people can receive and apply it.”
Our Lady of Fatima Church is located at 56 Williams Lane, across from the post office. Services are Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 a.m. and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. For more information call 541-878-2479.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent