When a Priest Commits Suicide

This tragic news broke earlier in the week:

More than 200 mourners gathered Monday at a Cudahy church to remember Father Jan Kieliszewski, who was found dead Sunday morning at nearby Nativity of the Lord Parish.

The Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office ruled Kieliszewski’s death a suicide, according to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Archdiocese spokesman Julie Wolf said the priest had been ill for a couple of weeks.

But Wolf said she knew of no other circumstances that might have prompted Kieliszewski’s suicide, such as a disciplinary action or investigation. And his name does not appear in the thousands of pages of sex abuse documents released by the archdiocese as part of its bankruptcy earlier this month.

“There’s nothing, nothing in his file that would explain this,” Wolf said. “It was a complete shock to everybody.”

The archdiocese issued a statement that was read at the Mass, adapted in part from the writings of theologian Ron Rolheiser. It said: “Our wounded loved ones who fall victim to suicide are safe in God’s hands, safer by far than they are in the judgments that flow from our own limited understanding.”

A blogger who lives down the block from the church writes:

Here was a person, a priest, who daily had the sacraments right at his disposal, who held the Eucharist right in his own hands! How could that suicide have possibly happened? I don’t know, and I never will know.

What I DO know is that no one is immune from losing hope, even to the point of taking one’s own life. The priest that committed suicide was actively involved in his parish and known by his parishioners for his kindness and humility. He was loving and lovable. Yet, for whatever reason, he was unable to hang in there. The same could happen to any of us, if we aren’t vigilant. It’s not what we do on the outside; it’s what we do on the inside that makes the difference.

I invite you to join me in praying for the repose of this priest’s soul, and for the souls of all those who have committed suicide. I also invite you to frequently make an Act of Hope, so as to fortify yourself and your loved ones against despair.

Act of Hope

Oh my God, relying on your infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen.

Prayer for People Who Have Committed Suicide

Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, we understand that Thy fifth commandment, “Thou shalt do no murder,” includes self murder. But in Thy divine mercy, we beg Thy forgiveness especially for (name), who have been so confounded by the pressures of this life that they felt there was no way they could continue. Grant, we beseech Thee, that they be forgiven their terrible sin and accepted into Thy divine providence, and that they may come to understand Thy ways and Thy nature. We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

The catechism adds:

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives…

If you can spare a prayer, offer one up for this priest and all those who love him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…


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