“My good friend, Bishop Peplowski went to heaven on Friday. Last Sunday, I visited him last Sunday at McAuley Hospice in Buffalo. He was in the hallway on his lounger dosing off. I didn’t want to wake him but I whispered in his ear, “Bishop you have a visitor.” In a few minutes, he woke up and smiled “oh, it’s father.” Bishop was always a grateful soul. I looked around and saw other family members sitting next to their loved ones. Not much conversation, but people let their loved ones know that someone was near. I told Bishop that we prayed for him at Mass and he said, “that’s nice.” Not much conversation, he looked drained but his eyes perked up as he gazed at the TV across the hall. I asked him if he was in pain and he said, “No pain.” In past visits, I shared photos of our parish kids bringing toys to St. Nicholas and the Nativity Play. This time, I brought along a slideshow that showed the different seasons of the year on our farm. He gazed at the computer screen with its images of flowers and streams, deer and trees during the different seasons. Once again, he kindly whispered “that was very nice.”
Then I heard that lunch was on the way and I would stay to help him with his meal. The aide brought him his tray that had chicken, peas and noodles. Before he began to eat, he humbly made the sign of the cross across his chest and blessed his food. Bishop was a humble man who was grateful to God for his life and his ministry as a priest for 50 years. I handed the Bishop his fork and he said that he liked chicken. Very slowly he would take the fork and spear the bits of chicken meat onto his fork that found their way into his mouth. I asked him if he had a cook and he said the name of a Polish woman who would make him his meals in the rectory. He ate all the chicken and I said: “what about the green peas” and he said that he liked his vegetables so I gave him a spoon that made it easier for him to eat and he ate all his peas. I noticed on his meal ticket that vanilla pudding was circled but there was no pudding on the tray. Did he want dessert and he kindly said: I’m not fuzzy.”
I heard from his sister Helen that he was hallucinating and he told his sister that he saw his parents. He shared their names were John and Sophie and they had 13 kids in which he was the last living boy and the baby at 81. I brought communion and asked if he wanted to receive and with a smile he said, “yes.” With open hands, he took the host and then I anointed this gentle soul. What a privilege to offer a healing prayer that God would give him comfort and peace. A week earlier someone gave me healing waters from Lourdes. When I ask if he wanted to drink these healing waters, he said: “he prefer something stronger.” He was a man of joy and had a wonderful dry sense of humor. He made everyone feel special and accepted. I told him that the people of Holy Family loved him and prayed for him and were thankful for helping them reopen their parish after it was closed. He would smile and said tell them that “I love them.”
On the day of his resurrection to heaven, I happened to be outback crawling through a foot of snow taking pictures of winter scenes. Helen, his sister, called me to share that her brother had died at 4am on Friday morning with her at his side. I reassured her of your love and prayers. At that moment, I decided to take a few more photos and when I got back home put together a slideshow that expressed the pain in my heart losing such a good spiritual mentor. On my way to church, I cried tears and thanked God for bringing this man into my life and inviting me to serve in this parish as his gift to me. You see you are a gift and the Bishop was a gift to many families throughout the world for 30 years as Bishop of the Buffalo-Pittsburg Diocese and a priest for over 50 years. May he rest in peace and may we as a faith community continue his saving work.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and thank you for bringing Bishop into our homes and this community. For his priestly ministry, we give you thanks and may he rest in eternal peace.