On July 31, Father Michael Chowning, O.F.M., and Brother Michael Dubec, O.F.M. will celebrate their last Sunday service in Hazard. Fr. Mike will be retiring and Brother Mike will be taking a year of sabbatical and then he will be re-assigned elsewhere. Both Father Mike and brother Mike are members of the Franciscan Order, which means they have committed their lives to following Jesus, in a way similar to Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived back in the 1200s.
Father Mike has served as pastor at Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Hazard for 23 years. For all those years he has seen himself as pastor not only for the Catholic Church but also for the whole community. When he came to Hazard in 1993, there was very limited access to the Internet. Father Mike set up an electronic bulletin board that allowed people in Perry County to play games online and receive email. Maybe you remember the “Peace Connection.” Over the years many non-profit organizations have benefited from Father Mike’s interest, wisdom, and analytical mind. He has served on the boards for Hazard/Perry County Community Ministries, the Housing Development Alliance, the Samaritan Center East and the Little Flower Clinic. Down in Brownsfork, you’ll find a street named “Chowning Way,” named in honor of Father Mike for all his work with the Housing Development Alliance. There is an Eastern Kentucky United Way because of Father Mike was one of the founders who helped bring the local chapter here to help raise and keep more money in the mountains. As an amateur radio operator, fr. Mike has enjoyed being part of the local “Ham” group. He has led people in prayer at church, in the community, at the hospital, and at funeral homes. In the midst of all these community involvements, Fr. Mike has touched many hearts with his humble ways and prayerful spirit.
When the calender turned to the new millennium, Brother Michael Dubec, joined the ministry team at Mother of Good Counsel. While Brother Mike did much of his work behind the scenes, he quickly won the hearts of all who came to know him. His quirky sense of humor put friends and strangers at ease. Brother Mike became a familiar face at the Homeless Shelter, Care Cottage, Baby Pantry, and Spouse Abuse Shelter while delivering donations of needed items and good cheer to the staffs. Many people, including those at Corner Haven, were treated to Brother Mike’s well prepared dinners. He always likes to add a special touch of sweet dessert, colorful napkin or an appropriate centerpiece. When those in need came to the church doors, they often experience Brother Mike’s compassion and listening ear. The beautiful flowers and landscaping at the church are a testament to Brother Mike’s love of nature and all creation. After 16 years, he has left a grace-filled footprint on many hearts.
On Sunday, July 31, there will be an Open House from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. at Mother of Good Counsel Church at Cedar and Poplar Streets in Hazard. Everyone is invited to come, say farewell, and share your good wishes with Father Mike and Brother Mike. On their part, they want to thank yo for being such warm and welcoming community and for sharing your beautiful hills and lives with them.