Celebrating a century

Holy Family celebrates centennial, remembers longtime pastor
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by Sister Barbara Mayer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — An important part of Holy Family Parish here was absent in the body, but present in the spirit, for its 100th anniversary Mass on Sept. 7.

Longtime pastor Msgr. Heliodore Mejak had spent months gathering photos, newspaper clippings and other materials for this anniversary, but he died on Dec. 25, 2007.

Parishioners Carol McCarty, Jean Keller and Bernice Anzek picked up where he left off, however, and continued planning for the celebration as well as compiling a centennial history of the parish that is nearing completion.

Many at the Mass shared fond memories of Msgr. Mejak.

“I loved Monsignor Mejak,” said Emma Dragosh, 96, the oldest parishioner. “I frequently baked bread for him and brought him dinners. He loved povitica.”

Although the parish has only about 140 families on its rolls, more than 400 people were present for the anniversary Mass — some from as far away as Florida and Washington state.

“My mother [Mary Gergick] was the organist for many years, and my grandparents may have been the first couple to be married in the church in 1908,” said Don Gergick, from Orlando, Fla.

Msgr. Mejak’s priestly service to the Slovenian national parish spanned 63 years — more than half of the parish’s existence. Succeeding the only pastor many parishioners had ever known has been a test to administrator Father Peter Jaramillo, SSA, but one he is passing with flying colors.

“Father Peter is a very caring, spiritual priest, and he has encouraged us to keep our culture and traditions,” said Anzek. “He’s very welcoming and the people have embraced him 100 percent.”

The main celebrant and homilist of the anniversary Mass was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. The concelebrants were: Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher; Father Jaramillo; native sons of the parish Father Ron Livojevich and Father Ron Cornish; Msgr. Michael Mullen; and Father Gerald Sheeds.

In his homily, the archbishop recalled how a small group of Slovenians asked Bishop Thomas Lillis for their own parish in 1907, but the bishop denied their request due to their limited funds. Undeterred, they raised funds, purchased land, and recruited a priest to serve them.

Under the leadership of Father Joseph Kompare, the Slovenians began building their church, with the bishop’s approval, in 1908. Under Father Kompare’s leadership, the parish became affiliated with the Diocese of Leavenworth in 1910.

“God’s grace has been powerfully present during the past 100 years,” said the archbishop. “It is important to preserve the memory of those who have gone before, but the most important part of the history of Holy Family is in the thousands of children who were baptized and received the Eucharist, the hundreds of marriages and the thousands of people who have heard the word of God in this church.”

“The mission today is the same under different circumstances,” the archbishop continued. “We need to pass on the gift of faith to our children and grandchildren. . . . We must recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ, to proclaim the Gospel to the world today.”

Among the guests of honor were: Sister Barbara Markovich, OSF, provincial vicaress, who served as principal of Holy Family School from 1978 to 1984; Sister Jimene Alviani, OSF, who taught from 1986 to 1992; representatives from the Sisters, Servants of Mary; Little Sisters of the Poor; Little Sisters of the Lamb; and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.

Recognition was also given to parishioners who pursued religious vocations: Sister Julia Glokoski, SCL, choir director at Holy Family; Sister Daniel Kaizar, a Sister of St. Francis of Christ the King, who taught at Holy Family School; Sister Frances Yarc, OSB; and Sister Ann Zager, OSB.

A reception was held, following the Mass, at the Jack Reardon Civic Center in Kansas City, Kan.

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