Quiet ministry covered all the bases
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Charles P. Andalikiewicz didn’t like people making a big fuss over him.
He was, as many remember him, a simple, quiet, spiritual man who had an enormous impact on many people.
Father Andalikiewicz, 78, died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., on April 2. He had been pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg since 2004.
“He celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination last year, and I think he really enjoyed it,” said Pat Richey, consultant for the archdiocesan office of ministry to the deaf and hard of hearing.
“But he didn’t want to be the center of attention,” she added.
During a recent Communion service at Immaculate Conception Parish, George Karnaze, president of the parish finance council, recalled the many souls Father Andalikiewicz touched during his 50 years as a priest.
“I said, ‘Think about all the individuals Father Charles baptized, married, anointed, absolved and counseled — how this one, simple little life of this one, simple little man affected so many souls in the church,’” said Karnaze, who is studying for the permanent diaconate in the archdiocese.
Friends and family have a kaleidoscope of memories about him.
He was both funny and fun to be around. Father Andalikiewicz was a quiet man with a subtle, wry sense of humor. His quips were delivered with a perfect poker face . . . and sometimes zinged right by some people.
Father Andalikiewicz also loved to travel — to the beaches near San Diego, the churches of Rome, the holy sites in the Holy Land, and the village of his ancestors.
He liked, as a younger man, to play handball and tennis, and to swim.
But most of all, Father Andalikiewicz loved being a priest and ministering to people. He had a good sense of where people were coming from. As a pastor, he was an efficient administrator and a first-rate counselor. His homilies were famous for being short and specific — in a word, concise. He managed parish finances well and was personally austere.
He loved his large, extended family, which eventually grew to include the deaf Catholics of the archdiocese, as well as his blood relatives.
He was very proud to be Polish and older parishioners were delighted to meet this priest from the old neighborhood who could still speak the mother tongue. And in addition to Polish, he could communicate in Russian, Spanish, and sign language.
He really loved his cat Max, who was an adopted stray. When Father Andalikiewiz walked in the yard, Max would follow him around. He even put Max’s picture on his golden jubilee program. While on trips he’d often say, “I hope Max is doing OK.”
Since so many people found his Slavic name so hard to pronounce, he acquired a nickname derived from the first and last letters of his name: Father A to Z. He accepted it, as he accepted so many things, with good humor.
Father Robert Hasenkamp, now retired and living near Lawrence, got to know Father Andalikiewicz when they were both newly ordained priests teaching at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan.
“He was very concise and clear about what he wanted and didn’t want, and he had a very dry sense of humor,” said Father Hasenkamp. “He was a wonderfully engaging person once you got to know him.”
Father Andalikiewicz grew up in a very traditional Polish immigrant family and parish in the Russian Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan., said Father Gerry Sheeds, who grew up with him. Father Andalikiewicz loved the church and wanted to be a priest from the time he was a young boy. “A lot of us looked up to the guys who were ordained from our neighborhoods, and we just thought that’s what we ought to do, and we did it,” said Father Sheeds. “We were surrounded by churches, so that is where a lot of vocations came from.”
Father Andalikiewicz was very supportive of other priests and a dependable friend, said Father Sheeds.
“The thing I think I enjoyed about him the most was that he would accept me for who I was, and that he was a close friend,” said Father Sheeds. “And in so much he was always there for the good times and bad times, like when my mother died. He was the first one to say, ‘I’ll take the rosary,’ things like that.”
Father Andalikiewicz had a wide range of pastoral assignments, including ones in the inner city, booming suburbs, and small country towns. His legacy includes the founding of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, but there was more.
“I think the big thing was just how many people he ministered to who no one knew anything about,” said Father Frank Krische, a retired pastor living in Topeka. “He had a quiet ministry.”
Father Andalikiewicz was good to his family, said Betty Scherer, a niece. Her mother, Annie, raised him after their mother died.
“My parents were both deaf, so they were not worldy, not knowledgeable except about their world,” said Scherer. “Father Charles would sometimes take us out on trips and instruct us about things our parents couldn’t. Every time my mother had to go have another baby, he was the one who’d watch us while she was gone.”
Whenever someone in the family had a question, concern or problem, or needed the sacraments, they turned to Father Andalikiewicz.
A big part of Father Andalikiewicz’s ministry was to the deaf and hard of hearing. Sister Ann Albrecht, CSJ, recruited him after learning that he had been raised since the age of eight, after his mother died, by an older sister who was deaf.
She discovered, however, that he didn’t know the specialized signs for religious concepts and actions, so she had to teach him. Subsequently, Father Andalikiewicz celebrated a weekly Mass for the deaf for almost 30 years.
“I know he was very proud to be the chaplain for the deaf,” said Sister Ann. “When he went to other parishes, he continued to minister to deaf people. He had great respect for the deaf community, and they loved him because they knew that he’d be there for them.”
He had a wonderful understanding of deaf culture and a sense of calm and simplicity that helped him adapt, said Richey.
“[When] plans didn’t come off, Father Charles would just smile and say, ‘This is God’s way; let’s go on. Calm down. God will make it happen,’” said Richey. “He made it easy to do my job.”
The legacy of Father Andalikiewicz is built of living stones — the family, friends, parishioners and fellow priests he loved and served. He truly was, for them, everything from A to Z.
“He was true to himself,” said Father Sheeds, “and faithful to the priesthood.”