Erin and I were engaged at the Nestucca Sanctuary, a Jesuit retreat house on the Oregon Coast. I figured it an appropriate spot since it was also were we met during my senior year and her freshman year at the University of Portland.

Every Christmas, we send a check to Nestucca both in thanks for helping shape some of the important events in our lives and to help provide on-going support for other retreatants.

I was shocked to learn from this year’s “thank you” card that Fr. Andy, the head of Nestucca since 1987, had passed away last November after an extended battle with cancer.

I remember him as a gentle soul who felt such an obvious love for nature that while at Nestucca one couldn’t help but feel the same. I can’t say that I knew him well, which is why it feels at least a little strange to feel so saddened by his loss. Perhaps he hid his foibles better than most of us since while I’m sure he had some, I couldn’t tell you what they were. What I do remember more vividly is how adept he was at allowing the purity of Nestucca’s mission and the tranquility of the surroundings to predominate the visits I had there.

The only communion I’ve ever taken was at Nestucca. Everyone was welcome at Fr. Andy’s table, and I think now that it was his way of saying, “Look at the beauty around you. God has brought this into the world, and today in this time and place, he has brought all of us together to see it.” It might be against strict Catholic orthodoxy, but it’s hard to see how a closed communion would work in such an environment.

I remain grateful for the small but important ways in which Fr. Andy touched my life.