Priest plans sabbatical | ParkRecord.com

Priest plans sabbatical

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The Rev. Bob Bussen, who has led St. Mary’s Catholic Church for 16 years, said he plans to leave his Park City post this summer.

"I will leave Park City probably the last week of July and I will be on sabbatical," Bussen said in a telephone interview Monday.

The religious leader said he plans to hike and bicycle the Camino de Santiago, which is an important trail for Christian pilgrims.

"This is an ancient, ancient pilgrimage route in Europe," Bussen said. "It goes through northern Spain."

The trek is about 1,000 miles, he said.

It has been about 25 years since Bussen has been on sabbatical.

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"That is something that as priests we usually do every 10 years," he said.

Bussen said he will not return to Park City when his sabbatical ends.

"I will be transferring and I will be receiving a new assignment," Bussen said. "It will be in Utah. I will always work somewhere in the state of Utah."

But it was his decision to leave Park City, Bussen said.

"I came to that decision in November," said Bussen, who is 63 years old. "I could stay."

It is a good time for him to leave St. Mary’s, Bussen said.

"The parish is in a very good place. There are no big issues, no crisis and no overwhelming problems. It’s at the top of its game right now and that’s a real good time to change," Bussen said. "I want some time to do something new and fresh in my life and if I wait too long I won’t be able to. I won’t be able to walk 500 miles in a few years."

The Ogden native arrived in Park City 16 years ago as a wave of Latino immigrants were moving into the community. Bussen did not shy away from controversy as he went to bat for illegal immigrants.

"I have, through the years, not only worked on behalf of the immigrant population, but more importantly to build and establish a number of bridges between the two cultures we have," Bussen explained.

Sadly, the Park City area still lacks diversity, he said.

"We talk a lot about diversity but there is no diversity in Park City. What we have in Park City is a monolingual, white, well-educated, affluent community into which we have radically inserted a monolingual, poor, poorly educated community," Bussen said. "It is a little bit like water and oil. They just don’t mix."

However, some Parkites are more open-minded than people in other parts of Utah where hosting a Mass for gay people would have been difficult. Bussen led a ceremony for homosexuals in the Park City area in 2007.

"That would have been very hard in other places in Utah," Bussen said. "Park City is unusual in its openness to receiving people."

Congregation continues to grow

The congregation at St. Mary’s Catholic Church has grown with the influx of Latino immigrants into the area, the clergyman said.

"The needs of the people just continue to increase and escalate," Bussen said. "It’s wearing me out and I can’t continue at this pace forever. It will be good for the parish to have somebody fresh and different, with new perspectives and new ideas."

Major capital improvements will be needed at St. Mary’s in the next few years to keep up with the pace of growth, he said.

The mission in Heber will soon need a new facility and repairs will be necessary at St, Mary’s Catholic Church in Old Town, Bussen said.

"All of the work is going to take big, big money," he added.