Editor’s Note: Sister Andrea of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, who works at Bonacum House for retired priests in Lincoln, was urged to write this piece by one of the priests in the residence, as an example of how the sisters - and all in similar care - help ‘bury the dead.’ It was published in the April 2016 ‘Troubador,’ the Sisters’ order newsletter, and shared with the Register.
“In death, God calls man to Himself.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1011)
The life of each individual consists in several “callings.” At our birth, our parents called us by a name. Some have been called to a life of total dedication to the Lord and in service of the Church.
In the course of exactly five months, God called home five priests from the Diocese of Lincoln. On the day of their priestly ordination, they were called by name to approach the altar, and they responded “PRESENT.”
Sister M. Paula and I have been blessed to care for the retired priests of the Diocese at Bonacum House in Lincoln. It is clear that they daily renew their call to serve and minister to God’s people in spite of advancing age and infirmity – always ready to offer pardon and blessing in the sacrament of penance, or to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass here at the retirement home, or in a parish.
We see them slow down physically due to age, but we also see them accept more and more the need to ready themselves for the end; when in the sacredness of death, God calls His beloved priest to Himself. We have been able to accompany our priests on their journey through old age and assist them into eternity.
Last year, on Aug. 2 (the feast of Our Lady of the Angels), Msgr. Raymond Hain was called home. As I sat beside him, holding his hand, I noticed his pure blue eyes open wide. What he saw, I will never know. A smile came across his face and about 10 minutes later, his once-strong hand fell limp in mine. His final call was made on him on the eve of his 92nd birthday.
Msgr. David Hintz died a few weeks later of cancer. During his illness, he lived at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, and several priests were praying the Rosary with him when he answered the final call.
Father Patrick Lyons answered the final call Nov. 24 to be held in the embrace of the Lord whom he loved and served as a priest for 70 years and five months. We like to think that his dear mother (who died on his fourth birthday) came to get him and hold him once again.
Msgr. Daniel Pohl was called home by God Dec. 27 (the feast of the Holy Family). A nurse came in to get him up and ready for the day when he closed his eyes and opened them only to see the face of the Lord.
Msgr. Myron Pleskac heard the call to come home on the eve of the Epiphany, Jan 2. A few of the School Sisters of Christ the King prayed the Rosary with him, and as they prayed the Hail Holy Queen, he put his life into the hands of the Father.
Of course there is sadness in saying goodbye and burying each of these dear priests. Death is indeed the final call on the soul, but it is not a final separation. We will see them again in the next life.
To quote Father Lyons, “To us, the person seems dead, but they are truly alive in God... their souls live forever.”
Lord in your steadfast love... grant them eternal rest.