As we mourn the recent passing of one of our chief patron founders, Fr. Frank Bach, I find myself going through almost 20 years of memories of him. One of the things I remember most was the day that Donna Hanson passed away and the visit I got from Fr. Bach as I started my first day trying to fill
her shoes. He, who was the director of Catholic Charities before Donna and builder of the modern day
Catholic Charities, told me something very simple.
He said, “Rob, you need to remember that once in a while, somebody’s got to be willing to take a risk for the poor. Don’t ever be afraid to take risks. If you don’t, Catholic Charities will fade away.”
Fr. Bach always took a risk for the poor and vulnerable. He was the first to even attempt to build Catholic Charities housing and the first to take the leap into resettling refugees and providing services to immigrants. Did you know he built Catholic Charities Community Centers all over Spokane, that became so large and successful, they eventually were turned into their own non-profit organization, now known as SNAP? He also had the vision to intentionally connect Catholic Charities to each and every parish in the Diocese.
No chance Catholic Charities was going to fade away under Fr. Bach, who remained a lifelong member of the Catholic Charities Board!
But what Fr. Bach really loved most (other than Notre Dame football) was being a parish priest. He wanted his parishioners to lean on him, celebrate with him, and count on him for help. He just loved being a priest. He loved the many parish communities he served over so many decades. My fondest memories of him do not necessarily have to do with Catholic Charities at all; rather they are personal memories like when he married my wife and I, and all the Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter dinners he spent at our home, and all the trips we took together to warm, sunny places. Those are the memories of a truly great parish priest who extended his compassion and friendship to me and my family.
Even in his last years, Fr. Bach was always teaching me something. As his health failed, his humor and
his heart and his desire to teach others never did. For much of the last three years of his life, when I saw him nearly every day, he would want to take a walk. When we set out, he always took my hand in his.
Now if you knew Fr. Bach you knew he was not a “hand-holding as we walk” kind of guy. But neither
am I, and he knew that. I think he was teaching me to take another risk, which I happily did! As his
health declined, he always wanted his rosaries in his fingers, wanted to pray, and found a way to crack
a joke when you least expected it. That’s the real legacy of this incredible parish priest and phenomenal Catholic Charities leader.
He will be missed, but his spirit and footprint on this organization will live forever!
Present & CEO, Catholic Charities Eastern Washington
Comments are closed.