Top: Fr. Szlezak officiating at a wedding at St. Stephen of Hungary in New York; with part of his church garden in Fairfield, CT; bottom: with parishioners at St. Stephen.
Good-Bye to Father Emeric Szlezak, OFM (1917 – 2019)
Fr. Emeric Szlezak, OFM, a professed Franciscan friar for 79 years and a priest for 74, died on March 16 in St. Petersburg, FL where he had lived since 2005. Fr. Szlezak was 101 years old and the longest living friar in the history of Holy Name Province.
Fr. Szlezak was born on Dec. 17, 1917, in Budapest, Hungary, to Kálmán 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, NY. He was received into the Order of Friars Minor in 1938 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, NJ, where he professed his first vows in 1939. Fr. Szlezak made his solemn profession in 1942 and in 1944 was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Amleto Cicognani at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC.
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, CT, where he served for 19 years. In 2005, Fr. Szlezak retired to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, FL 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.
The funeral Mass was held at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery on March 22nd.
May he rest in peace!