Monday, August 8, 2011

Loss and Gain

The Apostleship of Prayer has lost (and gained) a friend. A good friend and supporter of ours has died. As I thought about writing this, it came to my mind that while we've lost his presence here on earth, we've gained a friend in a place where his prayers can do even more good.

I wrote about Fr. Richard Tomasek last January when he wrote a message informing family and friends that the cancer with which he was diagnosed in June, 2010 had returned. He moved to the St. Camillus Jesuit community and care center in the Milwaukee area earlier this year and in the process donated all his books to the Apostleship of Prayer's national office. I met with Dick a couple weeks ago when such visits were shortened by coughing. The tumor in his lung had grown to a size that restricted his breathing and led to coughing spells when he tried to talk. In all of this he was strong and peaceful, worried only that the end could be a slow and painful process of suffocation. I couldn't help thinking how much this was like another great intercessor of ours, St. Therese of Lisieux, the second patron saint of the Apostleship, whose tuberculosis also led to her feeling that she was suffocating as she neared the end.

People around the world joined a prayer vigil for him so that in his final hours he would know he was not alone. Word that the end was nearing went out on Friday evening and Fr. Tomasek died at 4:05 PM on Saturday. I was not able to be there but another good friend of the Apostleship, Fr. Rob Kroll, who happened to be on retreat at the Jesuit community of St. Camillus, was there.

As we pray for Fr. Tomasek we also ask his prayers for us now that he has passed on to the Lord. I'm always reminded in these cases of the stories that are told of the early martyrs who, as they were being led away to death, were stopped by other Christians who had not been arrested and who would say to them: "When you get there. Put in a good word for me." Dick--Fr. Tomasek--please, put in a good word for us as we put in a good word for you now and pray that you are enjoying the vision of God.

The following is an obituary that my province sent out a few minutes ago:

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of our brother Fr. Richard A. Tomasek, S.J., who was called to eternal life on August 6, 2011. Dick died at St. Camillus in Wauwatosa, WI, after a long struggle with cancer. He was sixty-eight years old, a Jesuit for fifty years, and a priest for thirty-eight years.

Born in Waucoma, Iowa on June 18, 1943, Dick attended grade school and high school in Waucoma and in Lawler, Iowa, before entering the Society at Jesuit College, St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, on August 14, 1961. During his studies he earned a B.A. in philosophy and letters from St. Louis University, an M.Div. from Weston School of Theology, and an S.T.L. in Christian Spirituality from the Gregorian University in Rome. Dick was ordained on June 2, 1973, in Waucoma, Iowa, made tertianship in 1978-79 in Ranchi, India, and pronounced his final vows on August 15, 1980, at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea.

Dick's fifty years as a Jesuit were full of good ministry in many places. He was a teacher - of Latin as a regent at Marquette High in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of theology at Marquette High (1974-1978), of English at Sogang University (1979-1982), and again of theology at Creighton Prep in Omaha, Nebraska (1982-1991). He served as an associate pastor on several occasions. Above all, he touched the lives of many, many seminarians in his role as director of spiritual formation at the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio (1996-2004) and the North American College in Rome (2004-2009).

Dick had a gift for making friends of those to whom he ministered. He traveled well, handled foreign languages well, and made the most of modern media to stay in touch with the many people he helped journey through life. Even when his cancer appeared and he was forced to return from Rome to care for his health, he managed a final year of parish ministry in Tucson, Arizona before settling in at St. Camillus to prepare to pass to the Lord he served so faithfully.

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