Three weeks ago our pastor finally went to the hospital after feeling poorly for weeks (actually months, but we didn't know it). All during Holy Week he looked and sounded awful, laboring to breath while reciting prayers. He told us it was bronchitis. During his two weeks in the hospital we were told he had pneumonia. A week ago Friday we learned he had cancer. This morning the parishioners of St. Colman of Cloyne in Farmington Hills, Michigan lost their shepherd when Fr. Norbert V. Kendzierski passed away in the arms of a close friend.
We celebrate the Ascension of the Lord this Sunday. It is the second time we hear of Jesus physically leaving his disciples, the first being with his death and burial. In a certain way, with the passing of Fr. Norbert, I think I have a better sense of what the apostles were feeling when Jesus left them. I was hit with a deep sense of loss, loss of a spiritual leader, loss of a friend, with the news this morning.
In 2001 when Fr. Norbert came to bless our house after we moved to the neighborhood from Atlanta, my wife wasn't Catholic and I was just another parishioner, attending Mass a little more frequently than just Christmas and Easter. Not long afterwards I started attending Mass regularly. Over the years I began to humbly serve the parish through a variety of roles. I got to know Fr. Norbert better as a result of this service. Fr. Norbert also became my wife's first pastor when she joined the Church a few years ago. In 2010 Fr. Norbert presented me with a prayer book with daily prayers similar to, but not as daunting as the Breviary. The inscription reads, "Michael, Perhaps this will guide your way. With affection, Fr. Norb"
I open the church tomorrow. Although it will be dark and empty when I first walk in, like all the other times over the years, tomorrow will be different. In a way it will be like the apostles seeing the empty tomb of Jesus. Our spiritual leader and a friend will be gone from our midst.
God bless you Fr. Norbert. You will be missed.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.