Dec 28, 2007

Worldwide Interest in Local Priest

I am amazed at the places from which people have googled the name of "Msgr. Heliodore Mejak" of Holy Family Church in Kansas City, KS to reach a short biography of his life. Msgr. Mejak died just before midnight on Christmas Eve after becoming ill the previous Thursday. The 98-year old priest was the oldest active pastor in the U.S. and likely in the entire world. Here are some of the locations of computers that searched for news about Msgr. Mejak in the past 22 hours:
  1. Tokamaru, New Zealand
  2. Englewood, Colorado
  3. Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  4. Wallingford, Connecticut
  5. Lexington, Kentucky
  6. Silver Spring, Maryland
  7. Hermosa Beach, California
  8. Pueblo Nuevo, Chiriqui, Panama
  9. Mansfield, Ohio
  10. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  11. Flower Mound, Texas
  12. Pompano Beach, Florida
These "search from" computer locations are in addition to many local searches for Msgr. Mejak from Olathe, Shawnee, Lenexa, Prairie Village, Overland Park, Topeka, Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.

The body of Msgr. Mejak will be able to be viewed and he can be prayed for in his parish, Holy Family Church, on Sunday afternoon, December 30, from 2 pm to 6 pm, with the rosary to be said at 5:00 pm. The funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 am on Monday, December 31, at the same church. Msgr. Mejak's body will be buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Kansas City, KS.

Kiddie, Kiddie, Bang, Bang!

One of our daughters contributed the idea for this post. She told me that families with more than four children evoke a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reaction when people stare at their families. Some people look at the children with wide-open surprise, but other individuals continue to question large families with slightly raised eyebrows.

In the 1968 move, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang , there is a scene where the townspeople of Vulgaria stare wide eyed at Jeremy and Jemima Potts, who with their father are trying to find their kidnapped Grandpa. The people stare at the children because their town has no children, not one! Children are banned in Vulgaria because Baroness Bomburst finds children disgusting. The plot includes an evil Child-Catcher (China? Planned Parenthood?) and is relevant today.

Our children's large families have encountered similar stares. When one daughter takes all her well-disciplined (mostly!) young children with her to the grocery store, she is asked whether they are all hers. While visiting his wife in the maternity ward of a hospital, my son-in-law is questioned on whether the new baby is the last one. [He quickly answered that he might need more substitutes for his sports team!]

The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stare should be called the Kiddie, Kiddie, Bang, Bang! stare, and it's even been encountered in Catholic churches. One of our children's family stopped for Sunday Mass while on vacation in another state. When they entered the large church, many of the congregation stared openly at them. As they looked around, they saw only one other person in church was less than five years old. So it was not surprising that the old people looked in wonder at all the little kids entering the church with their two parents.

The same situation happened to another daughter. The church was quite large and in a wealthy neighborhood, but there were extremely few children. My daughter actually felt somewhat uncomfortable because her large and young family stood out as so different from the rest of the older Mass-goers.

One local Catholic parish approaches death because the parishioners are mostly elderly. One large family visited this parish and easily stood out from the rest of the many much older Mass attendees. The family was eagerly approached after Mass with a specific invitation to become parishioners. The inviting parishioner was somewhat disappointed to hear that the visiting family was a member of a Kansas City community with the old Latin Mass.

The National Center for Health Statistics says the fertility rate in the U.S. has jumped to its highest level since 1962, when the " baby boom" ended. Many of the births are due to new young immigrants, but some appear to be the result of individual citizen concerns that our country and families will die without more children being born. I was surprised and elated that USA Today's article on the increasing birthrate correctly emphasizes:
A high fertility rate is important to industrialized nations. When birthrates are low, there are fewer people to fill jobs and support the elderly.
May these valid concerns increase and result in larger families.

Dec 27, 2007

Concert to Benefit Benedictines of Mary

The 14 nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, will receive all the proceeds from two Kansas City/St. Joseph concerts by Carlos Ibay. The talented musical artist is described as:
Sings like Pavarotti.
Plays like Chopin.
Totally Blind.
The concert schedule is:
501 S 10TH ST.
ST. JOSEPH, MO 64501

Cost is $25 per person and checks should be made payable to the Benedictines of Mary to help them build their permanent Priory in Gower, MO. Read more about their activities and the two scheduled concerts in the sister's most recent newsletter. I'm impressed with their initiative; they also write a blog that has pictures of their new tractor, "Brother Phil."

Dec 26, 2007

Msgr. Heliodore Mejak

dustiam received an email this evening and is glad to comply.

Dear Wolftracker and dustiam,
Msgr. Mejak died on Christmas morning and I thought one of you might print a little of the history that is shown at the bottom of this page. He and his Holy Family school "kept the faith" during difficult times in the 1970's, and provided a refuge for many traditional Catholics in Kansas City. Funeral arrangements are not known at this time.
Mary Ann Grelinger

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 Kansas City, KS that he has served since 1944, six bishops ago[1]. Msgr. Mejak was a do-it-all pastor, and was very proud that his parish had no paid employees and was staffed entirely by volunteers.

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 Catholic High School class and subsequently first in his class at St. Benedict’s College. With advancing age, his poor eyesight required daily memorization of the changeable parts of the Mass.

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.

Holy Family Church boasts a centered tabernacle, communion rail, statues, Stations of the Cross, and altar boys. A beautiful stained glass window of the Nativity of Jesus Christ was photographed to become a Hallmark® Christmas card. Fr. Mejak made no apologies for his traditional Catholicism. He was the last priest in the archdiocese to continue offering the old Latin Mass after Vatican II had installed the Novus Ordo. In the 1980s, he continued to hope that he would again be allowed to offer the old Latin Mass again at Holy Family church.

Our children attended Holy Family School (that he built during his time as pastor) and said Fr. Mejak carefully reviewed each report card before giving it to a student. Poor grades would make his deep voice even more impressively somber, and good grades would receive favorable comments that students knew were deserved. Fr. Mejak’s commitment and donations kept the elementary school tuition one of the lowest in the diocese.

Holy Family Elementary School was one of the last Catholic grade schools in the Archdiocese to be staffed with Catholic nuns in full habits (School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, Lemont, IL). The school was integrated with St. John the Baptist School in the 1990s and Fr. Mejak worked diligently to keep the small school open until Fall 2007 when St. John/Holy Family School was integrated with and moved to St. Peter Cathedral School.

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.

Born in Rijeka along the Adriatic coast in 1909, Fr. Mejak immigrated to the U.S. as a 3-year old. Bad luck began in New York when all their belongings were either lost or stolen. His tailor father died when Fr. Mejak was 9, and his mother worked as a seamstress in their home to support the four children. The backyard had chickens and a vegetable garden, but the Mejak home had no electricity. So 15-year old Fr. Mejak installed electrical wire and fixtures throughout the house, and helped his Mother to paper and paint the walls and enlarge the basement.

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 Kansas City, KS as Valedictorian in 1927. A scholarship is now presented in Msgr. Heliodore Mejak’s name at the renamed Bishop Ward High School.

His four years at St. Benedict’s College again showed his intelligence and zeal. His roommate was a Croatian student from Kansas City, KS, who also became a priest, Rev. Msgr. Stanley J. Loncaric (1909-2006). Fr. Loncaric would be sent to the rural parishes of Miami County, KS, while Rev. Msgr. Mejak would serve Kansas City, KS.

Ordinarily, the first ranked graduating student to enter the seminary would be sent to Rome for study, but because Fr. Mejak was not yet an American citizen, Bishop Johannes feared he would be drafted into the Italian Army (Rijeka was now occupied by Italy). So he was sent to study at the Sulpician seminary at the Catholic University of America where Fr. Mejak was ordained a priest on June 8, 1935. When Holy Family Church needed a new pastor, Bishop Schulte asked him to quickly learn Slovenian (Fr. Mejak’s native language was German) and Fr. Mejak was appointed pastor on August 1, 1944. He has remained the active pastor of Holy Family Church for a total of 63 + years of continuous service in a single parish.

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 Shawnee who cut short a trip several years ago in order to be an altar boy for Fr. Macek’s Mass as he celebrated 60 years at Holy Family Church in Kansas City, KS. Victor and Michael Macek are twins who as 12-year old boys had served Fr. Mejak's first Mass at Holy Family in 1944.

The parishioners of Holy Family parish knew they had a special priest in Msgr. Mejak. Anita Montez graduated from Holy Family School in 1979 and had moved away but knew her old pastor was very aged and decided to return for his last few Sunday Masses. She said she knew Fr. Mejak’s time on earth was limited and she would always regret it if she did not come to his last offerings of the Eucharist at Holy Family.

Another graduate of Holy Family School, Ann Sanders of Asbury, MO, was informed on December 24 that Fr. Mejak was in the hospital and would not be able to offer Christmas Mass. This Mass that begins with candles in the dark church was clearly Fr. Mejak’s favorite feast of the year. Mrs. Sanders mused to her sisters that perhaps this year he would be blessed with enjoying Christmas in heaven with the baby Jesus. Fr. Heliodore Mejak died Christmas morning. May God eternally bless Fr. Mejak with His choicest blessings.

[1] Francis Johannes (20 Apr 1929 - 13 Mar 1937)

Paul Clarence Schulte (29 May 1937 - 20 Jul 1946)

George Joseph Donnelly (9 Nov 1946 - 13 Dec 1950)

Edward Joseph Hunkeler (31 Mar 1951 - 10 Sep 1969)

Ignatius Jerome Strecker (10 Sep 1969 - 28 Jun 1993)

James Patrick Keleher (28 Jun 1993 - 15 Jan 2005)

Joseph Fred Naumann (15 Jan 2005 - Current)

Dec 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

One more pie is still in the oven for tomorrow's Christmas dinner, the counter top is full of dirty pots and pans, and I'm beat! Yet being tired doesn't make Christmas Eve less special. Even an old Granny knows when to sit back and enjoy remembering what God did for us when He sent His only begotten Son to save us from our sins.

There's many, many things for which to be thankful in this past year, too. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's celebration when our family gets together to share gifts and eat a wonderful banquet. On Thanksgiving, we had 26 different dishes and I suspect our Christmas meal will be similarly blessed with everyone contributing a little.

I'm especially pleased that some of our grandchildren have been prodded by their parents to fix and bring some dinner items. Some of the littlest ones are delighted to be helping with the meal and it is excellent training. Young grandsons are bringing jello (they like the green and purple kinds). One granddaughter is making the potato casserole, and another is baking two pumpkin pies. One of the four-year-olds says she will help her mother make a chocolate dessert! Last Thanksgiving, one of the two-year olds separated bakery rolls and placed them on the cookie sheet, but tomorrow morning I am making homemade rolls. It should take about three batches in the oven before all 70 are done!

Then we'll take the rolls, five pies, a cake, and presents now stacked by the dining room wall to one of our children's houses. We'll first go to an early Mass where the stable will be lit and statues of Mary, Joseph, and the Child Jesus will remind us of when He lay in a manger 2,000 years ago. It's time to be a child again, with complete trust in God as we approach the new year.

Merry Christmas! May God give each of you His choicest blessings.

Dec 23, 2007

The Devil, Gravity, "Homeless Minds", and New Religions

Is there a force the devil loves best? Personally, I think it is gravity.
  • He pulls people down when they want to go up.
  • When the Church tries to escape an error, the devil drags the pendulum down so that it swings rapidly beyond the center point and a new and opposite extreme (error) is reached.
Following the example of many Protestant churches, the Catholic Church became a barren place during the past 40 years. Beautiful Latin liturgies, prayers, statues, artwork, and sacramental elements were replaced with a sparse and more human-centered worship. New architecture and music forgot their roles to lift people to God and pulled them to Earth. Consequently, new religions continue to appear in reaction to the loss of spiritual and physical elements in the Church that reminded us of death, judgment, and heaven and hell.

Several people I know (and am praying for) have adopted new religions that emphasize self and the physical world. Adherents to new paganism develop a strong social feeling of connectedness to others who also have rejected the Christian faith of their fathers and adopted unrestricted self-expression. In reaction to the abandonment of Christian liturgy, these new religions color their ceremonies with strong physical and pseudo-spiritual elements because they believe occultic symbols haness powerful energies. For example, see one Christian's description of Burning Man that he describes as Satan's birthday celebration, with lots of rituals and symbolic ceremonies. [And please, please remember to tell our Saviour how sorry we are for the terrible sins of blasphemy that have been committed at these pagan ceremonies.]

Nature-based spiritualities, such as Neo-Paganism and Wicca, are what happens to "homeless minds" who lose confidence in the Christian faith--usually because they haven't been taught it, embrace self-gratification, and because they see a weak and decaying Church.

A previous post on super-environmentalism dealt with a form of new paganism that worships nature rather than the God of Abraham--the Father of Jesus Christ. New paganism also features drugs, nudism, mystic stories, seances, and eastern spiritualities that fill the voids left by the modern Church. The new paganism turns people inward to rely on their subjective selves without any controlling institutions, and to experiment according to their own personal desires.

While there are new laws that replace the ten commandments, new pagans most often rely on the empty promises of the devil to give pleasure. "If it feels good, do it" is the new commandment. The joy of the soul is forgotten when the pleasure of the senses is practiced.

How can the Church counter paganism's new spiritual outlet in what appears to be a post-Christendom world? One Protestant writer says that "cults are the unpaid bills of the church." I believe it is more realistic to say that new religions are the maggots that were hatched from eggs laid by the Lord of the Flies in the wounded flesh of the bride of Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI and many new and faithful Bishops are paying past due bills. They are also removing dead tissue so that the remaining living tissue can adequately heal and grow. It may take almost 20-25 years before the Church can be sufficiently strengthened with (1) charity, (2) truth, and (3) beauty to attract and serve the next generation--the children of the New Pagans.