"The dogs were my first friends," is how Father Twohy opened his remarks to a crowd gathered at Saint Joseph's Parish in Seattle, to hear him reflect on 35 years of living and working on the Swinomish reservation in Shelton, Washington.
When he first arrived on the reservation, all those years ago, it took some time before he was accepted by tribal members, as he was a true outsider on many levels. He recalled for the audience an encounter with Clara, an elder, whom he had approached for some advice. He was still new to the reservation and counted only a pack of dogs and a few kids as his friends. He was looking for some words of wisdom to help him bridge the gap he was feeling, and facing, in the community.
After being introduced and asking his questions he was faced with a period of painful silence on her part. After forever passed she stated, "If you ever grow up you will be a good man." Not exactly the advice he was seeking! Fortunately for all, he became an accepted member of the community living and sharing their dreams, heartbreaks, joys, births and deaths over the years. While reflecting on the ongoing challenges the Native Americans continually face ,he summed it all up saying, "The love is greater than the sadness when the people come together." He told the audience of many encounters he had witnessed, and took part in, proving those words are etched into the souls of the communities he loves. Father has left the reservation allowing younger priests the opportunity to serve. He is currently active in supporting the community work of the Chief Seattle Club in their support and outreach to all Nations.
The following is from a graduation ceremony a couple of years ago in Spokane, Washington. Says it all...
"...Gonzaga University honored Fr. Patrick Twohy, S.J. with a Doctor of Law degree. Twohy is the Superior of Jesuits working in the Rocky Mountain Mission with native people throughout the Northwest. The citation read at the ceremony stated: “Elders from the Colville, Tulalip, Lummi, Upper Skagit, Swinomish, and Snohomish tribal communities all agree on one thing: Father Pat Twohy has an Indian soul, walks the talk of Jesus Christ and is a holy man. He is a Black Robe who gets ‘it’: with ‘it’ being the healthy and happy reconciliation of two seemingly contradictory allegiances: being Native and Catholic.” Twohy is a published poet and a gifted oil painter who knows French, Spanish and several tribal languages. He loves to ride horses, practices Tai Chi and kayaks..."
M. Barrett Miller, ‘68