This past Friday, our parish lost our pastor, Fr. Frank Bussmann. Late on Thursday night, after spending Thanksgiving with his family, Fr. Frank headed for home. He only managed to get about ten minutes down the road before he suffered a massive stroke behind the wheel, causing him to crash his car. Luckily, no one else was hurt in the accident. He was rushed to the hospital, but little could be done for him. The next day, surrounded by family, Fr. Frank passed away.
To call this a shock would be putting it mildly. He was in relatively good health. There was nothing obvious to any of us that would indicate that our time with him was running short. But, if the readings at Mass these past few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be prepared, as we cannot know not the day or the time we will meet the Lord.
I am going to miss Fr. Frank. He wasn’t the priest who had hired me at the parish, but he and I started there on the same day, along with our parish secretary, Linda. I truly enjoyed working with him. He was gentle and non-confrontational, almost to a fault. As John, our deacon, said about his style, “He was the type of shepherd who preferred to work on the edges of the flock, rather than plow into the middle and risk scattering the sheep”. This was absolutely true. When I took over the high school Confirmation program, I had wanted to include in it a policy that would remove a candidate from the program if they missed too many sessions. He wanted no part of a policy like that, as he thought it might chase some of the teens away for good. He was a kind and generous man as well, often giving money from his own pocket to those who came to the door asking for assistance. He was understanding, too. As a father and grandfather, stemming from a marriage earlier in his life, Fr. Frank knew well the day-to-day challenges of trying to balance work and family life. He was always ready to give those of us with families the space and time we needed to juggle everything well. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me and to our family.
The thing that kept Fr. Frank moving forward in his life, though, (in addition to his family, of course) was his strong and steady faith in Christ and His Church. As with most things, he didn’t talk about his own personal faith much; it was just a regular and intertwined part of who he was. Almost no one else knew that after daily Mass was over and nearly everyone had cleared out of the church, Fr. Frank would spend a few quiet moments sitting near the tabernacle. He would, though, share with the school kids phrases and practices that had helped him integrate faith into his daily life. At the funeral yesterday, Fr. Frank’s son Josh Bussmann, shared one of these phrases with us: “Hold your face to the light, even if you can’t see it.” Fr. Frank had included this saying in a letter to his son, but we in the parish and school had heard it before, many times. He often circled back around to it in his homilies. Fr. Frank wanted us to know, wanted everyone to know, that while we don’t always see the “light”, (God) the light is always there. God is always there. That belief guided Fr. Frank in his life and kept his faith strong.
We will miss you, Fr. Frank. Thanks for everything. Please pray for us as we will be praying for you.
(This post will serve as our Jesus, Justice Joy article for this week. I couldn’t really choose one of those categories to focus on. Fr. Frank exemplified all of them.)