By Loretta Fulton
Trumpets, a full choir, and a packed nave at Holy Family Catholic Church all attested to the significance of the Mass of Thanksgiving honoring the Reverend Monsignor Frederick G. Nawarskas on May 19.
But a comment from Bishop Michael Sis of the Diocese of San Angelo let “Father Fred” know exactly how significant the Mass was that honored the 50th anniversary of Nawarskas’ ordination to the priesthood. Sis expressed his gratitude to all the priests who had traveled long distances to participate in the Mass and to honor their friend.
“They are here,” the bishop said, “because of their love and respect for Father Fred.”
“Father Fred,” as Nawarskas is affectionately known by parishioners of Holy Family Catholic Church and others who know him, quickly turned the attention away from himself to the God he serves.
In his homily, Nawarskas thanked God for the opportunity to have served in four parishes in the diocese, including Holy Family, where he has been since 1996. He thanked God for the opportunity to have presided over 50 years worth of weddings and baptisms and the opportunity to have walked alongside parishioners “who have borne good fruit” in God’s kingdom.
“Today,” he said, “we celebrate God’s faithfulness in my life.
Nawarskas, 77, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, with a family of lifetime Catholics. His parents, Albert and Adele Mickunas Nawarskas, are deceased. A brother and a sister live in Cleveland.
Nawarskas was ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 1967, at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
His first assignment as a priest was to Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Angelo. He had never been west of the Mississippi River before venturing to San Angelo, a city he couldn’t even find on a map.
But he grew to love the people of the diocese of welcomed him and now wouldn’t think of leaving. He even has built a home in Abilene, where he will live when retires.
He has no idea when that will be, but whenever the time comes, he will be prepared for life’s next phase. At the conclusion of his homily on May 19, Nawarskas quoted the late Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat who served as the second secretary-general of the United Nations from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961.
Hammarskjold seemed to have had “Father Fred” in mind when he made his famous remark.
“For all that has been, I say ‘thanks.’ For all that will be, I say ‘yes.’”