Those two words come to mind every New Year’s Day and just the sound of them brings a smile to my face and surely to the face of anyone who knew him.
Charlie Rokosz was Father Charles Rokosz, Catholic priest.
When St. Joseph’s church in Duryea was closed for good a few years back, I joked with Father Rokosz, pastor of St. Joe’s and two other Duryea parishes at the time, that I was considering buying it and starting my own religion.
“Hold off on that idea,” he responded without hesitation. “When Sacred Heart closes we’ll be offering buy one, get one free.”
And when St. Mary’s church in Avoca was about to be merged with Saints Peter & Paul, Father Rokosz proposed a name for the new parish: Saints Peter, Paul and Mary.
My family particularly loved this adorable man because my mom served as his cook and housekeeper when he was pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hughestown from 1984 to 1991. That love only grew when he delivered the homily at Mom’s funeral mass.
Father Rokosz pinned the nickname “The Prince” on my brother Bobby, which as the youngest of five children by nine years, he truly was. He called my infant son Michael “Squitch” because he was always fussing and rarely slept at night.
One Sunday morning during an oppressive summer heat wave, Father Rokosz stopped to chat with my Aunt Dorothy after mass at Blessed Sacrament and when she complained about the heat, he said, “You don’t have to tell me. I can’t wait to get out of these panty hose.”
That was Father Rokosz. He’d disarm you with his wit so he could win you with his faith.
He was a gentleman, a gentle man, and a most pious and beloved Catholic priest.
Father Rokosz died in July of 2012 leaving everyone in Duryea, in Hughestown and in the Ackerman household in tears. More than seven years later, I still think of him often. Especially at the start of each New Year.
Father Rokosz’s New Year’s Day blessing at mass in 1996 is about as perfect as I can imagine and I’ve mentioned it every year since.
“In the New Year,” he told the congregation at Blessed Sacrament, “may you be blessed with enough prosperity to remain humble.”
Imagine a nation where everyone enjoyed enough prosperity to remain humble.
Now that would make America great again.