Emeric Szlezak Ministers to Hungarian Immigrants

Roy Gasnick, OFM Friar News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Emeric Szlezak, OFM, recently attended a meeting of the Eastern Association of Hungarian Priests, a group of 12 priests, on the U.S. East Coast and Canada, at the Basilian Monastery in Matawan, N.J.

Emeric made the two-day April trip to report on matters dealing with Hungarian immigrants in the United States and Canada.

He was asked to do this because, since 2005, Emeric has ministered to a Hungarian community at the Church of the Incarnation in Sarasota, about 50 miles south of St. Petersburg, during the October-to-May snowbird season. Emeric hears confessions before Mass and has had three baptisms and three funerals in this Hungarian community of approximately 120.

Reporting to the Hungarian Conference of Bishops

The pastoral care that Emeric gives to his Sarasota Hungarian immigrants will be reported back to the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference, and also reported to the Holy See when the bishops make their ad limina visit to Pope Benedict XVI.

Emeric made an official report recently about his ministry to these Hungarian immigrants. The Hungarian Bishops’ Conference had commissioned the newly-ordained Bishop Francis Cserhati as its representative to Hungarian immigrants in the United States and Canada as well as to the priests who were caring for them.

Though Emeric knows the weighty importance both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI placed on the care for immigrants, Emeric thinks more locally than globally. “These Hungarians needed a priest. I was free and able. So I went,” he said.

Presiding, Praying, Engaging at the Friary

Although 90 and retired, Emeric is also fully involved in friary activities, presiding at the Eucharist, leading community prayer, giving an occasional day of recollection, cleaning up after evening meals, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions in local parishes, especially at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa.

And if that were not enough, Emeric is also involved with the Catholic War Veterans (CWV). Though not a veteran himself, he has been involved with the organization since 1954, when he was asked to volunteer as chaplain, then later, as national chaplain. He has been active ever since, attending two to three meetings every year. Though he is no longer chaplain, he is on the CWV’s national board.

He is also an ex officio member of the St. Sebastian Award Committee which each year singles out a member for the award given for outstanding service to veterans in hospitals and/or in parishes, community affairs or public office. Emeric will travel to Alexandria, Va., May 16 to 17, to select this year’s award-winner.

Roy, a former director of the Province’s Communications Office, is on staff at St. Anthony’s Friary in St. Petersburg.