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Saint Michael & All Angels, parishioners welcome rector

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Oct 6, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss

In late September, more than 100 parishioners from Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church participated in a “drive-by welcoming” to meet and greet the church’s new rector and his wife.

The Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss conducted his first Sunday sermon on Sept. 20.

Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, he explained that he grew up in a Roman Catholic family.

“Church was a really important part of our family life, and I felt called early on to the priesthood,” Van Oss said on Oct. 1. “We had a great parish with great priests, and I always looked up to them.”

Later in life, he graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and then attended the Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, where he received his Master of Divinity.

PHOTO PROVIDED The Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss and his wife, Sue, were welcomed to the islands on Sept. 23 by members of the Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church.

“I was ordained as a Catholic priest,” Van Oss said.

His first assignment was as an assistant pastor at the St. Pius X Catholic Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. In his five years of service to the congregation, he met and fell in love with his future wife, Sue, who was the youth minister. Because priests cannot marry, they had to make a decision.

“We resigned our positions and got married in 1996,” he said.

Van Oss reported that they moved to Saint Paul, and he began looking at the possibility of serving in another denomination and continuing in the ministry when he found the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. He got involved with the church, then started his discernment to become an Episcopal priest.

“He allowed me to preach once a month,” Van Oss said of the parish’s rector.

PHOTO PROVIDED On Sept. 23, 106 parishioners drove by Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church with signs, decorations and masks to greet and welcome the Rev. William “Bill” and Sue Van Oss.

He attended the Seabury Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and was received as an Episcopal priest in 2000. Under the new denomination, Van Oss’ first call was to the All Saints Episcopal Church in Northfield, Minnesota. Serving the parish for five years, he also did college campus ministry work.

Van Oss then accepted the call to the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Duluth, Minnesota.

He served as their rector for the past 14 years.

“During that time, they hired Sue to do Christian formation and digital ministry, and so we served together for those years,” Van Oss said.

Having served the same parish for over a decade, he explained that he was starting to become a little restless and began looking at other opportunities at the start of the year. Van Oss and his wife had vacationed on Sanibel over the years, particularly on trips to Disney World with their daughter, Luisa.

PHOTO PROVIDED During the Sept. 23 drive-by welcome, parishioners dropped off donations for F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva and Healthy Start and to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund in honor of their arrival.

In his searchings, he came across the Saint Michael opening.

“I diligently studied their profile and found a vibrant, healthy, active parish community that I thought would be a good fit for my gifts and talents,” Van Oss said, adding that he applied for the position.

“We Zoomed together and had lots of conversations,” he said of the search committee.

Van Oss was then invited for an in-person visit in July and he participated in a service.

“I was thrilled to be called to Saint Michael & All Angels. Nothing less than that,” he said of being offered the position. “I really felt that it was a good fit, and I really liked the people I had met along the way. I was really impressed with the parish, with the great things they’re doing in the community and beyond.”

Van Oss touched on his vision for the future of the church.

“I certainly want to help them to continue the good work that they’re doing. Expanding and growing outreach, I think, is an important part of the church’s life,” he said, adding that he would like to expand on the opportunities for worship and learning.

One thing Van Oss has noticed is the parish’s technical challenges in terms of its service.

“In light of all of the COVID, we need to be thinking about online offerings and other ways of being connected now,” he said. “I’ve sort of made it my first goal — to strengthen that.”

Van Oss and his wife, Sue, have been married for nearly 25 years and they have one daughter, Luisa, who is attending her first year of college this year at the DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

He reported that he enjoys jogging, biking and the outdoors.

“I love the natural beauty of Sanibel, how well this place has been preserved, how well it’s cared for,” Van Oss said. “Connecting with God in the beauty of creation is one of the ways I connect, and this place certainly fosters that.”