Memories of Father George

Two weeks ago, my fourth child was baptized by Father George Majka, the priest who married me and my husband. After the baptism he hurried off to pack for his yearly vacation–his one luxury, as far as I can tell, and a much-deserved one. He flew to the Dominican Republic, where he went scuba diving and drowned.

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As my husband commented, he was just moving on to his eternal vacation, that place of “light and refreshment” he had earned by over thirty years of sacrifice as a priest. I was also reminded of what my father said when Mother Teresa died: bad news for us, but good news for her. I’m very happy for Father George, and I’m convinced he’s in heaven already, and his body is whole again and he’s free from his suffering.

Father George was in terrible health. He was a very large man with breathing problems, and he had to stop and rest after climbing just a few stairs. You could see what a great effort it was for him to make it through the Mass. In spite of this, he never took shortcuts. He gave beautiful sermons every week, sang every hymn, and only sat down to deliver his sermon once that I can remember. I remember being heavily pregnant in the heat of the summer and often sitting down in the pew to rest, but feeling ashamed when I noticed that Father George never took the easy way out: he said each Mass reverently and thoughtfully, on his feet, even though it was obviously difficult for him to even stand.

Father George loved singing. His regular speaking voice was a bit high and unimpressive, but when he sang, a deep and powerful voice took over. He sung the hymns like he meant them, and you could tell he enjoyed them–you could always hear him whistling them after Mass. He had a unique way of picking hymns: he picked whatever directly corresponded to one of the readings, especially if it had a direct quote from the Bible passage. This led to a lot of weird hymns being selected, but it really drove in the theme of the readings. He would even cherry-pick verses: “We will sing hymn number 405, verses 1, 3, and 5.” When we picked “Alleluia, Alleluia, Let the Holy Anthem Rise” for one of our wedding hymns, he requested that we skip the second verse, which “doesn’t really do anything for me. But the third verse really sends me!”

Rest in peace, Father, and pray for us to be as strong and dedicated as you!

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