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Monsignor Sawher, A Great Soul

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The sudden death of Monsignor Sawher was a great grace to the Archdiocese of Detroit. Monsignor Sawher was a close friend whom I came to know very personally since I came to live in Detroit about nine years ago. My simplest description of Monsignor Sawher is to say that he was a great priest. He was a holy priest, a dedicated priest, a priest whose death is a great loss to the archdiocese.

While offering Mass as concelebrant at Assumption Grotto, I often met with the Monsignor and came to know him well. He was exceptionally reverent in offering the Holy Sacrifice. From this I learned how dedicated he was to the Holy Eucharist as the Sacrifice of the Mass. From the sermons he preached, I learned how fervent he was in practicing devotion to Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament and how zealous he was in encouraging the reception of Holy Communion.

When I suggested that he should have his biography written and published, he hesitated on the grounds of not being an accomplished writer. After I persisted he consented to begin the book written by an accomplished writer. Not long before his death he came to tell me that the biography was finished. It is to be published in the near future. It will be a treasure to his deep faith and tender zeal for souls and his unswerving loyalty to the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

I distinctly remember the first time I met Monsignor Sawher. Immediately, he struck me as being the kind of priest that understood what it means to be a priest. In the years that I have known him, I have not seen him dressed except in the priestly garb. He spoke as a priest, dressed as priest and behaved as a priest. His deportment was always priestly.

When he offered the Holy Sacrifice he was careful to pronounce all the words distinctly and reverently. He chanted the melodies with extreme care. His sermons were models of priestly decorum.

In my own half century in the priesthood, I have come to know many priests. I can honestly say that Monsignor Sawher was a model and I can recommend to others that the Catholic Church today needs priests like Monsignor Sawher. His priesthood was an inspiration to the young and educated men to follow.

If a Catholic in any age is going to reach sanctity, he must have priestly models to imitate. He must see men who behave like priests. He must see men who act like priests. My hope for the Archdiocese of Detroit and for the United States is that we will have, what we so desperately need, men like Monsignor Sawher who are priestly priests. This means they must see men who are living their priesthood, which means living lives of sacrifice, as the example of Jesus Christ the Eternal Priest.

My prayer is that Monsignor Sawher will be an inspiration to countless men throughout the nation. St. John Chrysostom is warrant for the statement that, “the priesthood requires a great soul.” Monsignor Sawher was a great soul. May he rest in peace.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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