For immediate release
Contact: Jocelyn Thomas
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — March 19, 2019 – Fr. Emeric Szlezak, OFM, a professed Franciscan friar for 79 years and a priest for 74, died on March 16 in St. Petersburg, where he had lived since 2005. Fr. Szlezak was 101 years old and the longest living friar in the history of Holy Name Province.
A wake is planned for March 22 from 9 to 10 a.m. at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Church, 515 4th Street South, in St. Petersburg, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. The liturgy will be celebrated by Fr. David Convertino, OFM, of New York City.
Fr. Szlezak was born on Dec. 17, 1917, in Budapest, Hungary, to Kalman and Elizabeth (née Beck). He moved with his family to the United States in 1923. Fr. Szlezak attended Catholic grammar school in Brooklyn before enrolling in St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y.
He was received into the Order of Friars Minor in 1938 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., where he professed his first vows in 1939. Fr. Szlezak made his solemn profession in 1942and in 1944 was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Amleto Cicognani at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.
After completing theology in 1945, Fr. Szlezak’s first assignment was to St. Stephen of Hungary Parish on East 82nd Street in New York City, where he served for 42 years, until 1986. There, he ministered to the Hungarian immigrant community in New York City. After World War II and again after the Hungarian Revolution in the 1950s, he assisted displaced persons, refugees and struggling immigrants.
For 30 years, Fr. Szlezak gave weekly sermons in his native Hungarian language for a New York radio station that conducted a Hungarian broadcast. He also served as a chaplain to Catholic War Veterans on both the state and national levels and to local sheriff departments.
In 1986, he was assigned to St. Emery Parish in Fairfield, Conn., where he served for 19 years. In 2005, Fr. Szlezak retired to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, from which he traveled to Sarasota and Venice to celebrate Mass and offer pastoral care. He also served as chaplain to the Knights of Columbus, Council 2105, St. Petersburg.
In 2017, Provincial Minister Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, designated Dec. 17 – Fr. Szlezak’s 100th birthday – as Emeric Szlezak Day.
Fr. Szlezak is survived by a brother, Emery, and sister-in-law, Ann Marie.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
About Holy Name Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven entities in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. With ministries in 12 states along the East Coast, its nearly 300 Catholic priests and brothers serve in colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and a wide variety of social justice ministries, as well as in overseas missions.
The Franciscan Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.
Interview and photo requests should be directed to Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.