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October 25, 2009

Father Waclaw Jamroz, 44, dies

Catholic New World staff

Father Waclaw Jamroz, pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish near Midway Airport, died Oct. 8 in the parish rectory at 4810 S. Laramie Ave., of self-inflicted injuries. He was 44 years old.

Jamroz became pastor of Our Lady of the Snows in August 2004. Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, vicar for the area that includes Our Lady of the Snows, described Jamroz as a “very dedicated priest” who visited the sick and anointed the dying with a particular sense of pastoral care.

After only two years at Our Lady of the Snows, Jamroz began a ministry to the Spanish-speaking of the parish, and Bishop Garcia- Siller described as “remarkable” his ability to work in two cultures that were not his own.

His close friend and fellow priest, Father Antoni Bury, pastor of St. Bruno Parish, 4751 S. Harding, said Jamroz had many friends and communicated very well with all types of people.

“He was a kind priest and his parishioners loved him,” said Bury, who said he believes Jamroz’s friendliness explained why he enjoyed his work in communications.

Cardinal George presided at Jamroz’s funeral Mass Oct. 14.

When a person dies at their own hand, those left behind struggle with pain and loss — especially if the person who dies is a pastor.

“It really devastates the parish,” said Father Charles Rubey, who founded Catholic Charities’ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide 31 years ago. “People wonder, is it something they could have done that caused it.”

In some ways, Rubey said, parishioners react in a manner similar to family members of others who commit suicide, wondering if they missed signs or could have done anything to prevent it.

Rubey attended Jamroz’s wake Oct. 13, and said he saw many people — Spanish speakers, Polish speakers, others — looking dazed.

“It reminded me of sheep without a shepherd,” Rubey said. “This man was their leader.”

To cope with the crisis and heal, Rubey said parishioners must understand that their pastor’s death was not their fault.

“The big thing is that obviously, this man, their pastor, suffered from mental illness, and they were not aware of it, and he may not have been aware of it,” Rubey said. While Rubey is aware of a handful of priests who have killed themselves over the past decades, he doesn’t think they are more or less likely than anyone else to commit suicide.

“We priests are as wounded as anyone,” he said.

A native of Piatkowa, Poland, Jamroz was ordained a member of the Order of the Salvatorian Fathers in 1992. After earning a masters degree in theology, Jamroz was assigned by the Salvatorian Fathers to their Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Merillville, Ind.

Between 1993 and 1996, in addition to his work at the shrine, Jamroz was involved in several broadcasting efforts aimed at the Polish-speaking community. In December 2005, he was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Chicago. During his time in Chicago he served at St. Camillus Parish on South Lockwood Avenue, St. Symphorosa Parish on South Austin Avenue and Our Lady of the Snows Parish.

Jamroz is survived by his father, a brother and a sister in Poland and a sister in Germany.