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Native son retires in Stuttgart, but will stay close to roots

Msgr. John Janesko recently celebrated 57 years as a priest

Published: June 20, 2009   
Courtesy Sara Proctor
Msgr. John Janesko laughs during a potluck celebration at Holy Rosary Church in Stuttgart May 31. The party honored his retirement and the arrival of Msgr. Jack Harris as pastor.

STUTTGART -- In 1952, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen appeared on the cover of Time magazine, Pius XII was pope and a young man, John A. Janesko, followed in the steps of his older brothers and was ordained a priest by Bishop Albert L. Fletcher.

His two older brothers were diocesan priests, while two sisters became nuns.

Msgr. Janesko, who recently celebrated his 57th anniversary as a priest, retired as pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Stuttgart and Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Slovak April 15.

Msgr. Janesko, a Slovak native, will remain at the Holy Rosary Church rectory, where he has spent so many years.

Msgr. Janesko, 84, served Holy Rosary Parish for 32 years in two stints, from 1972 to 1980, and from 1985 until this year, he said. Over the years, he has seen the children grow up into adults and have children of their own.

"I baptized them, now they are married and I am baptizing their children," Msgr. Janesko said recently as he sat in the church office, cane in hand.

Msgr. Janesko said he especially enjoyed the children and ministering to the sick.

He recalled how as Mass ends, after he genuflects toward the altar, the children meet him in the aisle of the church and escort him on the way out.

"Father always has candy at the back of church," Msgr. Janesko said with a smile.

Children at the parish school always enjoy when Msgr. Janesko comes in, arms loaded with boxes of donuts. But not as much as he enjoys seeing the children.

Msgr. Janesko said he always tells parishioners that he loves them. They are like family, he said.

Msgr. Janesko and his family lived near the Slovak church and he attended Catholic school there. He recalls serving at Sunday Mass.

He credits his parents, John and Susan, for the vocations in his family.

"There were seven of us in the family," said Msgr. Janesko, who is the last living sibling.

A brother, Michael, died when he was 2 years old. Msgr. Janesko followed his brothers, Msgr. Louis and Father Francis, into the priesthood. Two sisters, Sister Mercia and Sister Alice, became nuns. Sophia Janesko looked after the family as a motherly figure.

The family ran a country store near the church and had a 160-acre farm.

"They were so close to the faith and they certainly encouraged us," Msgr. Janesko said of his parents. "They were always so active, in the parish and in the school. Dad was always in the forefront. That inspired me. Too, I would see a young priest saying Mass and I would say, 'That is what I want to do.' In fact, I even practiced saying Mass at home sometimes."

Msgr. Janesko served in several parishes, including Our Lady of Good Counsel in Little Rock, St. Joseph in Tontitown, St. John in Engelberg and St. Michael in Cherokee Village. He went to Holy Rosary in 1972, was transferred to Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton and returned to Holy Rosary in 1985.

He took over the parish where he grew up in Slovak in 1998.

"I was happy to be back in Stuttgart. I had spent so much time here," he said. "It is just like being home."

In addition to the faith of his parents, there have been a number of major influences in his life that have kept him energized, Msgr. Janesko said.

"My life of service, the Mass, administering the sacraments, especially to the people, helping the sick, the wonderful feelings I receive," he said. "I love the Mass, the Holy Spirit and the sacraments kept me going as Our Lord worked through me for the people in the parish.

"My brothers influenced me too as far as Father Louis was the oldest in the family. My oldest sister Sophia took care of mom and dad, and she married in her later years. She was just like a mother to the rest of us," he added.

Msgr. Janesko said he has always enjoyed parish work.

"I love the people," he said. "I tell them after every Mass, God loves you and I love you too. I always tell them how much I love them. There is another thing; I especially have a place in my heart for children."

Msgr. Janesko graduated from St. John Seminary in Little Rock and was ordained on May 31, 1952.

Even though he is retiring, parishioners will still be seeing Msgr. Janesko.

"The bishop was kind enough to let me stay here in the parish, instead of going to St. John (Manor, the diocesan home for retired priests in Little Rock)," Msgr. Janesko said. "I will stay here and live here at the parish with Father (Jack) Harris. That makes me feel good to know that I am still so close to home in Slovak.

"Even though I am retired, I am here to help in any way I can," he added.

A potluck was held May 31 at Holy Rosary's parish center following Mass to honor Msgr. Janesko on his retirement and priestly anniversary. The potluck also welcomed Msgr. Jack Harris, the new pastor. A community reception followed.

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