Fr. Heliodore N. Mejak
The longest serving pastor of an active parish in the world was Msgr. Heliodore Mejak (May’-yock), who died December 25, 2007. At age 98, he continued to say Mass seven days a week in the Slovenian parish of
Until shortly before his death, he prepared the weekly bulletin, managed the finances of the parish, and until injured several years ago while maintaining the church boilers, was the parish handyman and lawnkeeper. His mind seemed as sharp as it was when he graduated first in his
Fr. Mejak (he disdained any title except Father) welcomed many families who sought an oasis during the rampages of Modernism, and wanted to avoid sex education in the Catholic schools, irregular and irreverent liturgies, and flawed Catholic education. These faithful families fled their old parishes to insure their children received an excellent Catholic education, including daily Mass, weekly Benediction, and at least four opportunities for monthly Confession.
Our children attended
This deep voiced and gruff speaking priest with a slight stutter was a super Grand Father whose special delight was small children—searching for them, talking to them, playing with them, and laughing with them. At the communion rail, babies and small children always appeared for Father’s blessing and wide smile.
When we joined Holy Family parish, Fr. Mejak took us to his basement to show our five children his replicas of old trains and all his tools. He explained that he constructed his trains by hand using old photographs and drawings. Once, a thief broke into the rectory and stole the trains; needless to say, the police quickly recovered them, much to Fr. Mejak’s relief—as he had spent years constructing the individual gears, wheels, and engines.
The young priest-to-be attracted the attention of Father Koch, who arranged for Fr. Mejak to attend Catholic High tuition-free with used, donated books. One of the jobs of the young student was to work after school until 9 p.m. in a dental laboratory. Then he attended late classes at a public high school to study architectural drawing, after which he walked a couple of miles hom--after eleven at night. In one of his last sermons, Fr. Mejak remembered one of his summer jobs when he took a cheese sandwich to work. His employer saw the cheese sandwich and asked the young boy if he was a Catholic. When the reply was yes, the young student was fired. In spite of a rigorous schedule of learning and working, Fr. Mejak garnered yearly gold medals for academic performance and graduated from Catholic high in
His four years at St. Benedict’s College again showed his intelligence and zeal. His roommate was a Croatian student from
Ordinarily, the first ranked graduating student to enter the seminary would be sent to
The people of Holy Family parish learned to love their priest, and Fr. Mejak unabashedly admitted to loving his parishioners in an interview with the Archdiocesan newspaper, The Leaven. One example of that love was shown by Victor Macek of
The parishioners of Holy Family parish knew they had a special priest in Msgr. Mejak. Anita Montez graduated from
Another graduate of