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Beloved pastor remembered for his kindness

 
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Father Jerzy “George” Gawlik SVD, 66, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling, died May 29 at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Ill., due to complications of COVID-19.

“He was a kind and good friend and a good priest who was dedicated to his job,” said Father Casimir Garbacz SVD, who has known Father Gawlik for more than 20 years and will deliver the homily at the funeral Mass. “He loved his parishioners, and they loved him in return.”

Aneta Switala, a parishioner and secretary for the Society of the Divine Word Chicago Province Annuity Program, echoed that sentiment. In the Polish tradition, children receive the Sacrament of Penance before First Communion. As a teacher at the parish Polish School, Switala recalled how her students gravitated to Father Gawlik for confession.

“He was very kind and always smiling,” she said. “Everyone loved him. All of the children wanted to go to confession with Father Gawlik. They cried when asked to go to someone else.”

One of Jozef and Maria (nee Grabowski) Gawlik’s two sons, Jerzy Gawlik was born in 1954 in Brzozowice-Katowice, Poland. He entered the Divine Word novitiate in Chludowo, Poland, in 1974 and professed vows two years later. After ordination to the priesthood in 1981, Father Gawlik’s religious superiors sent him to Ireland to study English.

A year later, he set out for the Philippines, where he served as a missionary in Abra, a region about eight hours north of Manila. In 1989, Father Gawlik returned to Poland to study for his licentiate in spirituality at the Catholic University of Lublin.

Upon completing the degree, he was sent to the Institute of Religious Formation (IRF) in St. Louis to prepare to serve as the formator and prefect at the Divine Word Mission Seminary in Nysa, Poland. He also served as formator in the Divine Word Mission Seminary in Pieniezno and rector and novice director of the Mission House in Chludowo.

In 2004, he was assigned associate pastor of St. Joseph the Work parish in Wheeling. In 2016, he succeeded Father Michael Bonner SVD as pastor.

Father Gawlik is survived by his brother Antoni, sister-in-law Malgorzata Gawlik and their four children: Katarzyna, Beata, Rafal and Pawel.

To comply with archdiocesan and State of Illinois COVID-19 directives, attendance at Father Gawlik’s funeral Mass will be limited to a small number of people. A live stream of the Mass will be available at 10 a.m. on Friday at: https://youtu.be/hei5hXN2xLg. He will be buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Father Gawlik’s name for the care of retired and infirmed Divine Word Missionaries to: Society of the Divine Word Chicago Province, P.O. Box 6038, Techny, IL 60062-6038.

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