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Rev. Msgr. Michael F. Swalina

Deceased: 2012-01-21


Seminary Graduation Year: 1971

Msgr. Michael F. Swalina, Fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church on January 21, 2012. Loving brother of John (Barbie) Swalina, Ann (Tom) Wilson, Teresa Swalina, and Anthony Swalina; beloved uncle, great uncle, cousin, and friend. Mass of Christian burial will be 11:00 A.M. Thursday January 26, at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 610 W. Ripa.┬áVisitation, Wednesday from 5 – 7 P.M. at the church. Interment in Resurrection Cemetery.

For those who desire memorial contributions may be made to: Respect Life Apostolate, 20 Archbishop May Dr., St. Louis, MO 63119.

The early years.
He was born in St. Louis at the old St. Anthony Hospital, the first son of Joe and Julia (Michaelree) Swalina. The family made a move to Pennsylvania where Dad worked at coal mining. During that time our brother John was born. Our mother missed her family here in St. Louis and told dad it was time to go back. And back they came. They lived in a small house behind mom’s sister’s family, Mary and Bill Ebenreck.

From there they moved to Jefferson Barracks where we attended St. Bernadette School. Mike was a typical big brother, one minute teasing you, the next minute helping you with your homework. He was always the pride of our mother and father. We made the big move to our home on Buckley Road. Mike went to Bishop DuBourg High School at that time, working after school at St. Matthias as an assistant janitor. Mike was always home for the evening news, which meant mom would turn off The Three Stooges so he could watch Huntley and Brinkley. As the younger siblings we didn’t find that much fun. Looking back we all admire how smart he was. He graduated valedictorian in 1963 from Bishop DuBourg.

The logical next step.
“It was not you who chose me, says the Lord, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (Jn 15:16)
Our mother and our grandmother, Margaret (Sullivan) Michaelree, were strong influences in Michael’s religious formation. Although younger, we understood the commitment Michael was making and he was the pride of his family. Michael left us to begin his seminary studies at St. Meinrad in Indiana for the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese. There he graduated magna cum laude. With his grades and the wisdom of his bishop he was chosen to complete his studies for priesthood in Rome at the North American College. At that time travelling to and from Europe to the states was expensive so it was a hard time for us, but especially for our mom to have Mike gone for almost 4 years. We looked forward to weekly air mail letters on onion skin paper that Mike would write squeezing words on every inch of space. (Youngsters this is way before email, texting, and cell phones! Even an international phone call was too expensive.) Mike was able to travel some in the summers throughout Europe and the Mideast, where he mastered many other languages.

There are times when things happen that words are hard pressed to describe. That is what it was like to attend Michael’s ordination at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in December 1970. The beauty, the solemnity, the holy love that we his family witnessed, felt, treasured are never to be forgotten. For our mother it was probably one of the biggest moments of her life. The pride and love she had for Michael spilled forth in her joy for all of us to share and relish. We were so fortunate to be there and then for Michael to show us Rome and Assisi in Italy, travel to see Switzerland (to visit a family of a Swiss Guard that Michael had befriended in Rome). Then on to England where we visited the parish that Michael had worked in over a summer. (There the English housekeeper and our mom exchanged recipes; Mike later did the metric conversions for measurements.)

And all the rest.
Michael came back to the United States after completing his education in Rome. I guess this is what would be called his public life. His first parish assignment was at St. Henry’s in Charleston, MO. For mom and the rest of us we had to share him with a bigger family and it is one that he loved greatly. He was special to us and to his diocese, so much so they sent him back to Rome to work on and eventually receive his doctorate in theology. He came back again to Missouri where he spent time in parishes in Portageville, Springfield, and New Madrid. While he was here in Missouri he travelled many a highway from parishes back to home in St. Louis. His siblings had grown up. He married some of us, and baptized our children. We had many a backyard BBQ with him, full of fun and memories. He spent a lot of time taking our mom to visit with her sister and brother-in-law, Catherine and Rich Hoffman. Mom and Aunt Catherine were close and Mike knew (as did Uncle Rich) how much being together meant to them. I know they had many good times down at the Lake.
Again though he loved pastoral life he was called to bigger things and his diocese proudly sent him back to Rome to work under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was hard for Mike to be away from family for so long, and it was hard on our mother. But again, the pride she felt for her son, working in the Vatican saw her through any loneliness for him. I am sure that there are many complete strangers here in South County that Mom stopped in Dierbergs or Famous Barr to tell them about her son the priest that was working in Rome. Mom passed away while Michael was in Rome and it was devastating for him not to be here with her at the end.
Eventually he was able to come back to Missouri and take up his pastoral duties. I believe parishes in New Madrid, Poplar Bluff, and Lebanon. Again he came up to St. Louis for visits and now had more nephews and nieces to play, teach, and laugh with. In fact some older nephews and nieces were marrying and having children. Mike enjoyed the title GREAT uncle and lived up to it fully.

He made one last trip to Rome this time accompanied by his nephew, Joe Wilson in December 2010, to celebrate his 40th anniversary as a priest with his fellow classmates. It was an amazing trip for both, but on Mike it was quite physically taxing. He came back with and experienced other medical issues that made him decide to retire. He spent his last year here in St. Louis before it all got the better of him.

He was an inspiring, smart, funny, wise, foolish, kind, generous, humble, holy man. He taught us all so much. He spent 41 years a priest, serving God, his diocese, all the people with love. For his family he spent those 41 years marrying, baptizing, and confirming (Tom Wilson, his brother-in-law at an Easter mass about 38 years ago.) He has done funerals for his parents, aunts, and uncles. He has been our strength and brother.