Rochester native Father Bernard J. Nowak, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., died June 5, 2008, at the age of 87.
Father Nowak was born in Rochester on May 11, 1921. His family attended Rochester’s St. Stanislaus Parish, of which his maternal grandparents were one of founding families, said Father Adam Ogorzaly, pastor of St. Stanislaus. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School in Rochester, Father Nowak went on to attend St. Francis College in Burlington, Wis., before completing his seminary training at St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, Ark.
He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse on May 31, 1952. He returned home to say his first Mass at St. Stanislaus on June 8, 1952, Father Ogorzaly said. He then spent the better part of the next four decades ministering to Catholics in the La Crosse Diocese. During that time he served at St. Mary Parish in Wausau, Newman Catholic High School, St. Peter Parish in Stevens Point, St. Patrick Parish in Mauston, St. Mary Parish in Cluster and St. Ladislaus Parish in Bevent.
Father Nowak returned to Rochester after his retirement in 1991 and began assisting at St. Stanislaus and St. Rita Parish in Webster. After a few years he scaled back his responsibilities and stopped saying Sunday Masses at St. Rita, but continued helping out at St. Stanislaus, Father Ogorzaly said.
“To the end he was very active, very helpful,” he added.
Father Ogorzaly said he appreciated the older priest’s wisdom and experience, and often sought his counsel when dealing with problems that arose within the parish.
“He always wanted to help. He was a very good priest, very faithful, very devoted,” Father Ogorzaly said. “I called him ‘Good Father’ because he was very good.”
Father Nowak was as generous with his money as he was with his time and wisdom, Father Ogorzaly said, noting that the priest always bought Christmas presents for the parish staff, and he always carried dollar bills to give to the altar servers.”
“He was very generous, a good-hearted man,” he remarked.
Father Ogorzaly notified the Diocese of La Crosse after Father Nowak passed away, and in response the Wisconsin diocese’s leader, Bishop Jerome E. Listecki, penned a letter to Father Nowak’s friends and family. He expressed his gratitude for Father Nowak’s years of generous and fruitful service in the Diocese of La Crosse and offered prayers for the priest and all those who supported him.
“Father Nowak’s dedication to his priesthood and service to the Diocese of La Crosse is an example to all of a priestly life led in persona Christi,” Bishop Listecki wrote. “Your community has lost a true friend, and our diocese has lost a good priest, and yet God has received a faithful servant.”
Father Nowak is survived by his sister-in-law, Mary Nowak, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brothers and sisters-in-law, Edward (Onolee) Nowak, Leo Nowak and Frank (Lorraine) Nowak.
Father Nowak lay in state at St. Stanislaus on June 8, 2008, 56 years to the date after he celebrated his first Mass there. Bishop Matthew H. Clark presided at his funeral liturgy at the church the next day. Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester.
Donations in memory of Father Nowak may be made to St. Stanislaus Church, 1124 Hudson Ave., Rochester, NY 14621.