Schuyler Stupica, A Student Speaks, Fr. Bacik
Farewell to Fr. Bacik
I remember how I felt when I first received the news that Corpus Christi’s beloved pastor, Fr. Bacik, was retiring. For a while, I couldn’t really process the new information. My mind was incapable of imagining a mass without Fr. Bacik. It was all I had ever known. I couldn’t picture a Sunday mass without him there to give the homily, without him standing by the door after Mass to smile and shake everyone’s hands on their way out. Looking back, I suppose it was not that I was unable to picture these changes; it was simply that I couldn’t bear to.
My family has been attending mass at Corpus Christi University Parish since I was in kindergarten. Right from the start we were welcomed into a strong community of faith. I love the large windows that allow sun to stream in the church, and the way the seats are arranged in a circle with the altar in the center. The music has always been absolutely beautiful. Piano, guitar, violin, flute, tuba, clarinet, trumpet and percussion combine to produce songs that are uplifting and vibrant. Members of the choir combined with an actively participating congregation make for a resounding chorus of song.
And then, of course, there is Fr. Bacik. Even when I was too young to fully appreciate the homilies, I remember him making the whole congregation laugh. Now that I am older, I always reflect on the homilies Fr. Bacik gives during mass. He is an intelligent and engaging speaker, and has a wonderful way of reaching out to all people, no matter their age or background. I believe each member of the congregation feels as if he is talking specifically to them. Fr. Bacik’s homilies make the readings relatable, and give us concrete ways to apply the Bible’s teachings to everyday life.
Additionally, it appears as if Fr. Bacik knows practically everyone in the congregation by name. After Mass, you can always find him standing by the door, shaking hands, giving hugs, and talking to people on their way out. He has watched my sister and I grow up as we come to shake his hand almost every Sunday, and I can imagine he is just as shocked as I am about how quickly time has flown. It seems like just last week he was helping me prepare for my First Communion. It seems like yesterday that I was standing in a candlelit church during my Confirmation–one of the most moving and powerful nights of my life. Now, I am fifteen and he is leaving Corpus Christi.
I can honestly say that Fr. Bacik has been one of the most influential people in my life. I admire him for his wisdom, and for his devotion to the faith. He makes me feel safe and loved when I am at church. I love his caring and open heart, and I see him as a true model for what it means to live a life of faith. Now that I know Fr. Bacik will be leaving soon, I have a stronger appreciation for him now than I ever did before. Missing Mass due to out-of-town volleyball tournaments really bothers me, because I know that there are only a precious few left. When I am at church, I can’t help but think about how so much of what I love about my church community is going to change in the absence of this one amazing man.
If I thought the pain of saying goodbye to my beloved priest couldn’t get any worse, I was wrong. I soon found out from reading an article in a local paper that our bishop chose not to accept the offer from Fr. Bacik to continue as pastor beyond his retirement age. When priests reach the age of 75, they are only allowed to continue presiding at a church if they receive an invitation from the bishop. When I read this news a few months after I found out Fr. Bacik was leaving, I was heartbroken. It made no sense to me why someone should retire when he was still, if I may use the expression, ‘at the top of his game.’ I was angry, and, never being one to stand for even the smallest bit of injustice, I began to brainstorm ways to avoid the inevitable. I thought of starting a petition and encouraging members of Corpus Christi to write letters. Instead, I settled for writing this article. My hope is that it will help me reflect and come to terms with the loss of a talented and inspirational man of faith.
However, I know that my religion encompasses more than my admiration toward Fr. Bacik. Even after he leaves Corpus Christi, I will still appreciate the beauty and tradition of the Mass, and will continue to explore and grow stronger in my faith. I believe in the values of the Catholic Church, and will let my religion guide me through the rest of my life.
Finally, perhaps there is no way around having to say goodbye. If we must accept that June 24th really is going to be his last Mass, I want to take this time to thank and recognize Fr. Bacik for his incredible service to God and to the people of his parish. Thank you for bringing my faith to life for me. Thank you for the inspiration, the love and the memories. I wish you success and happiness as you begin a new chapter in your life teaching at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Even if your physical presence is no longer at our Mass in Toledo, you will always be a huge part of Corpus Christi. I know I will never forget you as my first and favorite priest.