RIDGEFIELD – For the past 35 years, as different priests served St. Mary of Guadalupe Mission in Ridgefield, Deacon Carl Anderson has been “the one constant,” said parishioner Debbie Brooks.
That’s why Brooks and other parishioners at this small mission about 15 miles north of Vancouver gathered Jan. 28 to celebrate Deacon Anderson’s 90th birthday.
“Carl is just a very special man,” Brooks said. “Everybody loves him. He’s very Jesus-like.”
Deacon Anderson and his wife, Pat, have been parishioners at St. Mary’s since 1962. He was ordained in 1982 as part of the archdiocese’s third class of permanent deacons.
Since then, Deacon Anderson has served at St. Mary of Guadalupe — which has 213 households — as well as the surrounding parishes of St. Philip in Woodland, St. Joseph Mission in Kalama, Sacred Heart Parish in Battle Ground and St. Joseph the Worker Mission in Yacolt.
“I’ve always had a good feeling about the community and the facility,” Deacon Anderson said of St. Mary’s. “It’s been a great godsend for me.”
At Deacon Anderson’s luncheon party, the tables were adorned with signs highlighting some of his many talents: hopeful homilist, thoughtful teacher, prayerful peacemaker, supportive scout and more.
About 20 members of the Anderson family, including sons Bob and Jim and their families, were in attendance. The rest of the hall was filled with 125 members of Deacon Anderson’s other family — the parishioners of St. Mary’s.
With the party theme “More valuable than silver and gold,” guests shared stories about Deacon Anderson’s talents.
Parishioner Gayle Gonzales read a poem she wrote for the occasion. “I wanted it to be cute and funny and reflect on the things he’s done and how we felt about him,” Gonzales said. “He’s brought so much love and joy to the parish.”
Father Raphael Mkuzi, parochial vicar for St. Philip and the missions of St. Mary and St. Joseph, said Deacon Anderson welcomed him and offered his support when he was assigned to St. Philip a year and a half ago.
“He’s a person who wants to help all the time,” Father Mkuzi said. “He has shown a lot of support for the church and the parishioners.”
Spiritual, physical impact
Until a year ago, Deacon Anderson served at Mass every Sunday. “He always said for him to be of any service to the people, they had to see him on the altar,” said his wife, Pat.
Brooks said she appreciated Deacon Anderson’s homilies. “He always brought in his family; it was always relatable,” she said. “He put a lot of work into it, a lot of prayer.”
Often Deacon Anderson’s homilies would include his experiences from Operation Nightwatch, a program serving the homeless in Portland.
“Nightwatch is one of those ministries where you receive more than you give,” Deacon Anderson said.
Today, the program is more of a drop-in ministry, he said, but when it began in the early 1980s, volunteers would walk around downtown Portland from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., looking for people in need of help.
“Walking the streets was a living ministry,” Deacon Anderson said. “I met some of the most wonderful people. They were always looking out for me.”
That work with Operation Nightwatch was a form of parish outreach, Pat Anderson said. “He would share stories of St. Mary’s with people in Portland, and they grew from that,” she said. “Then, he would share stories of Nightwatch with St. Mary’s, and we grew from that.”
Besides helping parishioners understand the Scripture readings, Deacon Anderson spearheaded parish improvement projects, his wife said. He found local artisans to make holy oil vessels and chalices. And he figured out how to have the church’s original marble altar moved forward after Vatican II changes meant the priest stood facing the congregation.
“Carl’s greatest talent is to get people to share their skills and talents,” Pat Anderson said. “He’s left a physical imprint at St. Mary’s, in addition to an emotional and spiritual impact.”