BARLING — Father Henry Mischkowiuski celebrated his 90th birthday with as little fanfare as his friends and former parishioners at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling and Sts. Sabina and Mary Church in Jenny Lind would allow him.
Jacqueline Phillips hosted a small dinner party in her home Feb. 17 and an open house birthday card shower was held at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish Center Feb. 25. Too much attention can lead to “more time in purgatory,” he said with a smile.
St. Teresa of Kolkata, who led Father Mischkowiuski to become a priest who frequently gave retreats and celebrated Mass for the Missionaries of Charity in India, taught him that we are all “little pencils in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” In India, where he lived until he fled arrest by the Communists in 1991, and in the Diocese of Little Rock, he reflected God’s love as he served his people.
At his 50th jubilee in 2015, he said he was grateful to have the opportunity to continue to “work in God’s vineyard,” looking forward to spending his retirement as a resident priest in St. Mary Church in Mountain View.
“It was a very small parish where Mass was only held on Sunday morning. Of course, I said Mass every day and sometimes one other person would attend. I was surrounded by mountains and natural beauty, and although there were not many Catholics, I grew to know and love the people there.”
In 2021, Father Mischkowiuski transitioned to life at Mercy Crest Assisted Living Center in Barling, and although he no longer was a resident priest in a parish, in many ways his “vineyard” grew. Blessed with good health, he walks unassisted and is still able to drive locally. When concelebrating Mass, he relies on a cell phone, following the readings and prayers. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, his lips never stop moving as he recites the prayers of transubstantiation silently and reverently.
“My favorite memories of Father Henry are attending Mass when he is celebrating Mass,” Phillips said. “He is so very holy and reverent. The entrance antiphon on his 90th birthday was timely. ‘These are the holy ones … that seek the Lord.’ That is Father Henry.”
Phillips, president of West River Valley Deanery Council of Catholic Women, makes sure to invite Father Henry to all their meetings, where he concelebrates Mass and enjoys dinner with the group.
He concelebrates daily Mass at Mercy Crest with chaplain Father Joseph Chan and drives to Mercy Hospital Fort Smith to celebrate Mass each Thursday.
“Father Henry has always been great to my family,” Jo Marchese said. “Whenever we need prayers he’s there. He has prayed for healing for my husband Bob’s arm many times, and he now enjoys much more mobility. We look at Father Henry as a saint on earth.”
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