We mourn a good priest, good bishop, good shepherd and a good friend
At Hospice House of Lansing, late in the evening of Sept. 5, 2003, Bishop Kenneth J. Povish, the third bishop of Lansing, quietly slipped from this life into eternal life with God. In the days which followed his death, the people of our diocese gathered to mourn and to celebrate a good priest, a good bishop, a good shepherd, a good friend to the Church in mid-Michigan. Bishop Povish’s funeral Mass was celebrated on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003, at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing.
Part of what made our time with Bishop Povish so special was that we got to know him in so many different ways. One way many of us looked forward to each week was his column in The Catholic Times, “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” As I have sat reflecting on the blessing of having been able to know and work with Bishop Povish, I couldn’t help but think that the title he chose for his weekly column was also a kind of motto for his life.
The Way. There was a gentle spirit about Bishop Povish. From the way he took time to visit with young and old alike to the way he cared for and enlivened our diocese during his 20 years of service as our bishop, Bishop Povish always tried to share with us a very Christ-like way of living.
Even as his cancer took its inevitable toll on his body, his mind and spirit seemed even more life-filled and life-giving. In October 2001, Bishop Povish preached our parish mission at the Catholic Community of St. Jude. It was among the last parish missions he ever offered. As we began the mission with the weekend Masses, we celebrated the sacrament of the anointing of the sick with the gathered community. Even though he had had an awful week, Bishop Povish readily anointed those who came to him – even though he was likely more ill than those with whom he shared that sacrament. That was his way.
The Truth. Bishop Povish was a gifted preacher and writer. Each time he put pen to paper or sat down at his trusty typewriter, the stories would come pouring out. Yet Bishop Povish did not share stories just for the sake of telling them. He shared them because they revealed truth about God’s love for us, shed insight on Christ’s sacrifice for us and lifted us up in the Spirit, so that we might come to know God in a deeper, more personal way. The truth of the Gospel could always be found in a Povish story.
The summer after my first year in seminary I had the privilege of driving Bishop Povish to the airport in Detroit. During the 40-minute drive there – and during a similar sojourn upon his return – I was a captive audience. There were stories about life as a young priest; stories about growing up as the only son in a Polish-American family; stories about his love for the people of our diocese; even a story about why he found it necessary to keep polishing his facility with the Polish language. Each story had a point, and each story pointed to God. Bishop Povish, the legendary storyteller, had a love for the Truth.
The Life. That was what it was all about – not just the earthly life he shared with us, but the new and transformed life he now shares with God. The way and the truth point to the life. This was perhaps never more evident than during the years following his retirement. Freed from the administrative burdens that are part of the life of any bishop, he could do what he loved most – be a priestly bishop among God’s people. During the nine years of his illness, he showed us how to offer our own suffering for the sake of others, how to be patient in endurance, how to laugh when it hurts and how to find blessings in the midst of distress. He showed us how to love. He showed us how to die. He showed us how to live – for one another and for God.
Thank you, Bishop Povish, for sharing with us the way, the truth and the life. And so our journey in FAITH continues.