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Kindness in the time of tragedy leads to a surprising outcome

 
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By Theresa Carson

In the summer of 2021, Father Bernard Latus SVD received a phone call that surprised him.

Father Latus, a Polish missionary working in Jamaica, heard from a Warsaw businessman whom he had helped four years earlier. In 2017, Antoni Przybysz and his wife had been vacationing on the Caribbean island when she suddenly died.

A representative of the Polish Consulate in Jamaica contacted Father Latus, who made the trip from the southern part of the island to the northern end to assist the grieving husband. Father Latus met him at the coroner’s office to assist with translations from Polish to English and to bless the deceased’s body before the autopsy.

The next day the priest traveled to get the body from the funeral home in Brown’s Town to the cremation site in Dovecot Cemetery. She had been cremated overnight. A police officer was assigned by Foreign Affairs of Jamaica to deliver the ashes and take the widower and his sister, who had traveled to Jamaica to help her brother, to the airport in Montego Bay. The siblings arrived back in Poland in time for a funeral the day before Palm Sunday 2017.

Before leaving, Mr. Przybysz, who managed a hotel on the outskirts of Warsaw, gave his address and telephone number to Father Latus. He invited the priest to stay at his hotel, but over the course of time, the two fell out of touch—until July 2021.

“I got a call from the hotel in Runaway Bay,” said Father Latus. “The gentleman came back to the same hotel and said he would like to see me. He said he wanted to celebrate Mass with me.”

As the conversation continued, the puzzled priest realized that Mr. Przybysz was now Father Przybysz. He told Father Latus that losing his wife became the beginning of his journey to the priesthood. However, the priest’s kind care for the family was not forgotten.

Recalling the phone call from 2021, Father Latus said, “I was baffled by the series of events. I could not believe what I heard.”

At age 61, the businessman completed his theology studies at St. John Paul’s Theological University in Cracow. He was ordained to the priesthood in Poland on Dec. 5, 2020. The following summer Father Przybysz returned to Jamaica to celebrate Mass with Father Latus.

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