Msgr. Demkovich is honored on his retirement after four decades as pastor at Passaic parish
By CECILE SAN AGUSTIN
PASSAIC - The happy work of a parish priest." For Msgr. John Demkovich, that is the sentiment that describes his grateful calling to the priesthood for the past 46 years.
On Aug. 15, the Feast of Assumption, Msgr. John Demkovich retired as pastor of St. Mary's Assumption Church here after serving there for 40 years. The 120-year-old parish community began as a Slovak parish to minister to those immigrants settling in the area and now also serves the city's Spanish-speaking population.
A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated Sept. 18 in St. Mary's Church to allow parishioners, friends and brother priests to thank Msgr. Demkovich, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1965, for his four decades of dedicated service to the parish. Bishop Serratelli was main celebrant of the Mass with Msgr. Demkovich, Bishop Emeritus Rodimer and priests from across the diocese as concelebrants.
While Msgr. Demkovich is retired from "active ministry" as a pastor, he is in residence at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Clifton where he will celebrate Masses in Slovak and English there. He will continue to serve in the diocesan Tribunal and as director of the diocesan Mission Office and the diocesan Pilgrimage Office. He will also continue to be a presence at St. Mary's where on the first Saturday of each month, he will continue to celebrate a Healing Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Serratelli said, "We are very grateful for God's gift, God's witness given to us through the Church and given to us through the ministry of his priests and today, most especially to this dedicated and zealous priest - Msgr. Demkovich."
The bishop said, "In his preaching of the Word, in his devout, fervant celebration of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the daily celebration of Mass; in his prayers and works of healing and charity; in his work at the Tribunal and his apostolate for the missions, God has used Msgr. Demkovich to share his own life with us. To God we lift our hearts in praise for the ministry of such a good, dedicated, prayerful, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard.
Following the Mass, Msgr. Demkovich thanked the St. Mary's community and all those present at the Mass. "Thank you so much for being here," he said. "Just for loving the Lord, for loving the priesthood enough to be present. I could never imagine when I was ordained a sight like this in seeing so many of you especially looking back at my struggle to be ordained. I came to Passaic 43 years ago first serving at Holy Trinity and then coming here and it doesn't seem that long. I stayed here and I think I did what I was sent to do and that was to serve the Slovak community. Now there are only five people here that speak Slovak and I was sent when there were about 170 people that speak the language. It has been a grace. I thank all of you here and God bless all of you."
After the Mass, a reception was held at the parish hall. At the reception was Elizabeth Gallardo, a longtime parishioner at St. Mary's. "I'll always remember his spiritual guidance and his homilies especially in the way he would explain the Gospel and his teachings. A memory I have of Father John was when he invited me to be a Eucharistic minister. All I can say to him is, 'Peace be with you,' " she said.
Peter Bakarich, a parishioner of St. Mary's since 1975 and head of the parish council, was also at the Mass to honor Msgr. Demkovich. "Father John always showed a good example of a hard-working priest. He was always there for my family," he said. "When we would have relatives who were sick, even though they weren't parishioners of St. Mary's, he would go visit them making the extra effort. All the best to him as he continues his ministry in a different way."