Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM

I was recently informed that a long time pastor of two parishes near my home town passed on to his eternal reward Tuesday evening.

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM was 93 years old, was the pastor of two parishes at the time of his death. This fact alone should be enough to tell you what kind of man he was. I imagine (though I could be wrong) that he was possibly the oldest active pastor in the Roman Rite, and if not, in the top 10 or so.

He has always been old. When I was born, he was a stone's throw from 80 years old. I've always known him to have a hacking cough, brought on by years of cigars I'm told, and a slow, shuffling gait.

One of his appeals as a pastor was his liturgical style. His liturgies were fast, but correct. He always had a homily, even if somewhat short, but always relevant to either the readings of the day or some pressing issue in the world. He didn't skip any non-optional parts of the Mass, though he did skip the optional parts, for instance the sign of peace. The altar was always just as it should have been, ready with chalice and pall and burse and veil, colored accordingly with the day. He was one of the few priests who made it a point to "care about the crumbs" in an obvious manner. He insisted on communion with altar servers holding pattens, and was always sure to clean them before stowing them.

He was also devoted to the sacrament of confession. For a while, he was the only priest in the area who had a regular, at least weekly, confession schedule. In addition, as Easter and Christmas approached every year, he always preached on the importance of making a good confession, at this time if at no other, and to reinforce that, he scheduled confessions daily, so nobody had an excuse.

Being a pastor in one place for nearly 40 years is quite unique. I bet he baptized, married, and buried at least someone. He most certainly has baptized grandchildren of couples he married.

Although the Church Militant lost a great pastor yesterday, the Church Triumphant will surely be gaining a great saint.

1 comment:

Helen said...

I was fortunate enough to grow up across the road from the church and from Father. He was a very tolerant and patient man, always answering our questions and explaining anything we wanted to know. He always had candy for us when we were kids, and opened the doors of the rectory for us on cold mornings while we waited for the bus. You're right--he always was old. Maybe that's why we always thought maybe he might just live forever.