It was 1991 when Saint Pope John Paul II laid hands on Father Kermit Syren’s head and ordained him into the priesthood.
Born and raised in Alaska where he attended Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage, Father Syren returned to his childhood parish last month to mark his 25th year since becoming a Catholic priest.
The celebration on July 30 began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and ended with family, friends and fellow priests gathered at Abbot Loop Community Park to share food, memories and long-running friendships.
Ordained as a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, Father Syren’s ministry has been primarily working in vocations, parish support and with the lay movement Regnum Christi.
Coordinating with local and international Regnum Christi members he founded a fathers/sons adventure camp, Camp Kodiak, which has operated with the permission of the Anchorage Archdiocese in Southcentral Alaska for nearly 20 summers.
The second of eight children born to Kim and Lester Syren, Father Syren discovered his calling to become a priest in his late 20s. At age 28 he was a well driller in Anchorage, working with one of his brothers, when a statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought to Holy Family Cathedral as part of an international tour.
“Mom called and told him the statue was at Holy Family Cathedral,” recalled Father Syren’s sister Therese Syren. “He left not nets but water and came down to visit Our Lady.”
Praying before that statue that day became a catalyst in his decision to follow Christ as a Catholic priest.
Through the years, the Syren family has left a lasting imprint on the Anchorage Archdiocese. Working with late Anchorage Archbishop Francis Hurley, Father Syren’s mother donated family land and helped establish Blessed Sacrament Monastery in Anchorage in the 1980s. The Sisters of Perpetual Adoration continue to maintain a community of cloistered nuns on the site. One of Father Syren’s sisters, Sister Gail Marie of St. Joseph, was a nun with the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration until her death from cancer.
Father Syren now lives in Rhode Island and often leads youth pilgrimages to Rome at Christmas and Easter.