24 April 2009

In Memoriam: Father Frank Houdek, SJ; June 16, 1935-April 23, 2009

In lieu of any personal blog entry at present, the following was the parish announcement of Father Frank's death from our pastor, John Kasper, osfs. A picture of Frank, I hope, will be forthcoming. For now, the only one I have is from the day of my perpetual profession. On that day Father Frank (right), as he always did, proclaimed the Gospel from memory. I am so privileged to have known and worked with him for the past several years. He was a fine priest and a man of integrity, deep compassion, and gentleness, a true Christian: the finest things I can say about anyone with such a vocation. We are all feeling an incredible loss (not least, given the quality of Frank's life and ministry, a loss for words) and we hope in the resurrection.

[[It is with great sadness that I announce to you the death of Father Frank Houdek, SJ. Father Frank was a Jesuit for fifty-seven years and has been part of our St. Perpetua Parish since 1991 as Sacramental Minister, while he served as a theology professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. Father died of cardio-renal failure after struggling with failing health for the past several months. Until the very end though he made ministry his primary goal and focus. Even when it was difficult he wanted to be at prayer with the community and to preside at the Eucharist. His last celebration was at our parish Lenten Penance Service in March.

To look at the walls in Father's room is to look at hundreds of books in his personal library on scripture, theology, spirituality and Church history. Those books include the one he wrote, Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1996. Father Frank held a master's degree in theology from St. Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a Ph.D. in classics as well as a Ph.D. in Philosophy, both from UCLA. He taught at the University of Detroit and the School of Applied Theology at Berkeley and was an assistant professor of historical systematics and director of M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies) programs at the GTU/Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley. He was a nationally known retreat director and spiritual guide.

For all his higher education and scholarly background Father Frank was a down-to-earth guy, making the gospel come alive for us in his preaching and teaching. His intimate knowledge of the scriptures allowed him to proclaim the gospel without needing the printed text. Like the early Christians who shared the Word through oral tradition, Father Frank had committed the gospels to memory. His standard operational procedure of opening most homilies with a joke created anticipation for his hearers. As the joke began you wondered what in the world it had to do with the scriptures. He cleverly drew a thread from the joke that led to the key point of his homily - a point that often challenged and always inspired. He caught your attention with the joke, but more importantly, he uplifted you with his message.

As a spiritual director and counselor Father offered his wisdom and insight to many parishioners and others who sought his guidance. He was a faithful companion in prayer to people who were seeking a deeper relationship with God and a closer walk with Jesus. Our sympathy is extended to Father's two sisters from Ohio, Harriet and Jeri, and his two nephews from the Bay area, Phil and Joe and Joe's wife Kathy, as well as his colleagues from the Berkeley theological community, his longtime friend, Dr. Penny Pendola, and the many friends and parishioners who looked to him for support and guidance. I will greatly miss Frank's friendship, his assistance with our parish liturgy and the personal support he offered me as pastor and fellow minister of the Gospel.]]

In sympathy,
Father John Kasper, OSFS

Father Frank's life will be commemorated in prayer as follows:

Sunday, April 26 at 4:00 p.m.: Rite of Reception
when Father's body will be brought to St. Perpetua Church.
(Throughout the late afternoon and early evening there will be visitation at the church.)
5:00pm Rosary
6:00pm prayer with members of the GTU community

Sunday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m.: Vigil
including scripture, song and words of remembrance. (There will be an informal reception with refreshments in the hall following the Prayer Vigil.)

Monday, April 27 at 11:00 a.m.: Mass of Christian Burial
followed by a reception and refreshments on the hillside plaza behind the school.

Monday, April 27 at 3:00 p.m. Interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette. (Those attending the burial will leave the church and reception about 2:15 to drive to the cemetery.)