Monday, August 27, 2012


There was a nice gathering at the St. Sebastian rectory a couple of Fridays ago.  My classmate is the pastor one parish away.  Fr. Pf, our parochial vicar, has a classmate that is my classmate’s parochial vicar.  We had a seminarian staying with us for a two week “rectory experience.”  His classmate was at my classmate’s parish too.  So they all came to St. Sebastian for dinner, along with one of their home grown seminarians, our two seminarians, and Fr. Swirski who is in residence at St. Sebastian (and of course, Sebastian.  If the rectory had blown up it would have been a serious blow to the percentage of clergy in Summit County.


After dinner, those who were brave enough climbed the bell tower.


Back to Fr. Swirski who helped round out the generations of those gathered.  He will not be in residence at St. Sebastian much longer though hopefully he will still be doing some of his ministry here.  It has been fascinating hearing his life story starting as an orphan in Poland, fighting in World War II, and befriending a young priest by the name of Karol Wojtyla who would later become Blessed John Paul II.  Unfortunately Fr. “Ted” is rarely any longer able to dredge up stories of his early years at will.  They can still come up naturally but often not when called upon.  Soon his stories may disappear.
If I piece together his narratives correctly, he first met the young Fr. Wojtyla as a new priest.  Fr. Ted was traveling (in Poland) and needed a place to stay for the night.  Someone directed him to a nearby rectory.  It was late and the lights were dimmed.  He went to the back and knocked at the back door.  There he waited.  The door swung open and Fr. was greeted with pan full of water and suds being thrown on him.  The housekeeper had not heard his knocking, had been giving the pastor a shave, and had opened the door to throw the shaving water out into the dark!  Fr. Ted was drenched.  The pastor came out to see what all the brouhaha was about and the housekeeper said, “I just through water on this seminarian in the dark!”
“Not seminarian,” said Fr. Ted, “Already priest!”
At that he was invited in and introduced to a priest who would become the future pope who was the assistant there at the time.  “He was so kind with me as a new priest,” reports Father, “and he stayed up late talking to me and giving me encouragement.”


That was not the last Father would come across Fr. Wojtyla.  Fr. Ted, at a very young age, (the Church in Poland was trying to rebuild itself after the war) became pastor of a parish near a lake.  Apparently his fellow priests would come out to the lake to enjoy a couple of days of retreat from time to time.  Fr. Wojtiya being among them was apparently an expert swimmer and enjoyed many hours in that lake.  Fr. Ted often used sound effects to tell stories and would say, “He would dive in the water and go woo, woo, woo,” indicating, I think, that he swam like a fish, “and so we called him ADMIRAL!”
The rectory was small and they had to set up temporary beds.  Apparently the future John Paul was offered one of the remaining beds.  He, however, turned and asked, “Who is the oldest?”  When the oldest priest was presented JP said, “He shall have the bed!  I shall sleep on the floor!”
I guess they also used to call him Lolek, something well known, but according to Fr. Ted they also called him Stash for some reason I cannot seem divine from Father’s stories.  (Maybe someone can clarify.)  A new story came up this past week that we had not heard before.  “Stash” came to the United States for a visit (before he became pope) and visited Fr. Ted in Akron.  They went to our Cathedral church and Fr. Ted said, “See how many people go to Communion!”  And the future pope had a look of concern and said, “I hope that they are all prepared to go and make use of the sacrament of confession.”
It has been very interesting living with Fr. Ted these past three years.  Maybe this will help his stories live on a little longer.


Anonymous said...

I love to see the smile on Fr. Swirski's face when I greet him with a few words in Polish. I wish him the best and many of God's Blessings.

Matt W said...

Very nice post. I love the lake story.

Pat said...

Fr. V.

Great summary.

I think "Stash" was referring to Pope John Paul's long-time secretary, Fr. Stanislaus Dziwisz.

I think "Stash" was referring to Pope John Paul's long-time secretary, Fr. Stanislaus Dziwisz.

After Fr. Ted came to America, he obtained a degree in Slavic languages. When then-Cardinal Wojtila visited Fr. Ted in Cleveland (1978?), the Cardinal turned to his secretary, Fr. Stanislaus, and said, "Stash, Fr. Ted came to the United States to teach Russian." It was an inside joke among these fellow Poles.

Anonymous said...

the connection between Father Swirski and Pope John Paul and St Sebastian Parish is fascinating. There is a guy of Polish extraction in our parish. His name is Stan and he has a son named Stan, who he calls "Stash" Who is this guy? Stan Najeway, usher at the 11 o'clock Mass . . . and one of my best friends.


Pat said...

Regarding the first meeting between Fr. Ted and Fr. Wojtyla, Fr. Ted told me that Fr. Woytyla served Fr. Ted's Mass the next morning.

Fr. V said...

Pat - You're RIGHT! and that story I forgot so thanks.

Thanks for that RMK!

Chris P. said...

Can you repost this or bump it up to the front page?