This past Sunday I was able to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination to priesthood of Father Don Bates, O.S.A. Father Bates was one of my high school teachers, and in the course of studying art under his guidance I formed a special friendship with him that has lasted through the years. I comment on this because of two items in this week’s issue of the Polish Weekly.
The first is an article on the beatification of Father Jerzy Popieluszko. In reporting the beatification, the article notes that Fr. Popieluszko’s faith had a great impact on those around him. Sharing the celebration with father Bates focused my thoughts on the great impact that so many priests have on those around them, and how that impact is so deep and yet often so unrecognized.
The second item I note is the article on the Orchard lake Schools. A primary aspect of the latest developments at Orchard Lake is the concentration of foreign seminarians, both from Poland and elsewhere, who are studying for the priesthood at our wonderful institution of Polish culture. When Fr. Popieluszko was martyred, there were many less-prominent priests who continued their ministries and kept the church viable as communism teetered and finally failed in Poland and other Eastern European countries. Father Bates is formally “retiring,” and younger priests are needed to fill his shoes and those of others who retire or pass on, but if I know Father Bates, he will be busier than ever in his so-called retirement, much like Monsignor Stanley Milewski, one of the most active retirees I have ever known. We continue to be blessed with leadership in the form of our clergy, and the next time you see one of them, maybe you should give them a heartfelt “thank you” like the one that was so well deserved in the story “The Sack Lunches” elsewhere in this issue (oops, I miscounted… that’s three items that relate to this!).
Back to the Orchard lake Schools article, I have one more comment to make before I finish. A remark was made by recently ordained (2001) priest Arthur Duchnowicz who serves the parish of Gaylord that “I wanted to be a missionary, and rural Gaylord (Michigan) looked like Northern Poland, and the terrain to serve.” When I travelled through Poland with my mother and brother Frank, I was struck by how much the rural countryside resembled Northern Michigan, with gently rolling hills and lush forests. My thoughts were echoed Father Duchnowicz, and I am pleased to be reminded of the experience.