Friends recall Father Dosh’s pro-life advocacy, pastoral acumen, laugh-filled dinners

| February 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

Having known Father Mark Dosh for 40 years, Mary Ann Kuharski said it was “a privilege” to be with Father Dosh when he died Feb. 1 at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Holy Family Residence in St. Paul.

He was 85 and had served as an associate at St. Charles Borromeo from 1978-1980, where Kuharski and her husband, John, are members.

“We’ve been doing vigil with him for two weeks,” said Kuharski, who has been active in the pro-life movement and founded Prolife Across America in 1989 with Father Dosh’s encouragement. “It was a beautiful passing, very peaceful. We were saying the Divine Mercy [Chaplet], another gal and I, over his bed. It was like he had a big release and sigh, and went on to our Lord. That was beautiful.”

Father Mark Dosh

Father Dosh has been an important friend to the Kuharski family since the 1970s. He spent a lot of time at the house and got to know the Kuharski children — seven biological and six adopted.

“He was there for baptisms and Communions and graduations,” she said. “We went to the lake cabin, and he’d have Mass at the cabin for our family.”

Her introduction to the man many of his devoted parishioners called a prayerful priest came after he arrived at St. Charles. She had been very active in the pro-life movement, joining and, in some cases, leading organizations like Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Birthright and Human Life Alliance. She also was doing political writing to garner support for the movement that began with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

“I was doing some political rag of a paper telling people how to vote, and he was just assigned an associate at St. Charles parish,” she said. “He rang my doorbell and said, ‘How do you do?’ When I opened up my hand, he had a twenty dollar bill, and he said, ‘Keep writing the truth.’ So then, he started coming over for dinner and playing cards and games with my kids.”

That kind of relationship came throughout his parish ministry, which included 16 years at St. John the Baptist in Excelsior, from 1997 until 2013, when he retired from active ministry.

Longtime parishioners Howard and Joan Johnson got to know Father Dosh through weekly dinners at their home, which continued to the time when he moved into the Little Sister’s residence several months ago.

“Basically, it was downtime, and we’d watch murder mysteries,” Joan said. “He loved Poirot, Miss Marple [both created by mystery writer Agatha Christie], all those kind of things. It was dinner and lots and lots of laughs, and then a murder mystery.”

She noted that he was assigned to the parish by Archbishop Harry Flynn to help navigate members through what she called “a very rough time.” She said he “laid down a good, strong foundation” that focused on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the lives of the saints. “Those were his pillars.”

“He thought he would only be there for 18 months,” she said. “But… the parish just loved him. He was the right man at the right time. He became very close to a number of families in the parish.”

St. John parishioner Ed Van Pelt recalled how, just weeks into Father Dosh’s assignment, he called and invited himself over for dinner. Ed and his wife, Lisa, were taken aback, but they gladly accepted. Father Dosh then continued coming over, and Ed became a parish trustee. Father Dosh went on to preside at the weddings of the three Van Pelt children who have gotten married, and he would have attended a fourth this summer.

“He embraced us, our family, completely — really became part of our family, as a shepherd, as a spiritual leader, as a father, as a grandfather,” Ed Van Pelt said.

The 16-year assignment in Excelsior was the longest for Father Dosh, who grew up in south Minneapolis and attended St. Helena. He later went to now-closed Nazareth Hall College Seminary in St. Paul, and then studied at the American College in Louvain, Belgium, for six years before his priesthood ordination in 1958. He then served at St. Helena for two weeks before going to Rome for further studies.

Upon his return in 1961, he served as an instructor at the St. Paul Seminary until 1978 and then took the assignment at St. Charles. After leaving St. Charles, he served as pastor of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake until 1993, when he went to the archdiocesan mission in Venezuela from 1993-1997 before ministering at St. John. He also took on the role of exorcist in the archdiocese.

A priest who asked Father Dosh to be his confessor thinks the time in Venezuela had a profound impact on him. Father Joseph Johnson, pastor of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, said Father Dosh gave away everything he had — literally.

“Father spent most of his money on other people; he was always giving money to families that he knew were in need,” Father Johnson said. “That’s how he spent his salary, giving [away] thousands and thousands of dollars. Whenever a paycheck came in, most of it went right back out to help other people.”

He also gave generously of his spiritual gifts, Father Johnson noted. Among them were humility, simplicity and “great holiness.”

Father Scott Carl of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity was planning on preaching the homily at Father Dosh’s funeral Mass. But, he currently is in Rome. Instead, he emailed a few of his recollections on Father Dosh to The Catholic Spirit.

“I would guess we had well over 150 meetings and I am grateful for his patience,” Father Carl wrote. “He would have been in his upper sixties when we began and I was in my mid-twenties. He listened to me sort through the significant transition from seminary life to priesthood. It was like he would hold the bike steady as we were taking the training wheels off for me to live priesthood. I knew he was there and I could call him if need be even between appointments.”

The two had one last meeting in December, right before Father Carl left for Rome.

“The Lord blessed me with one last brief conversation [with Father Dosh] about abandonment,” Father Carl wrote. “He made reference to a chapter to which he had referred numerous times over the years, ‘The Triumph of Failure.’ I knew that he was experiencing the Lord’s paschal mystery in a new way; that chapter makes clear the triumph of failure through Jesus’ Cross.”

Father Dosh was known to spend hours in a eucharistic adoration chapel. Kuharski said she would hear the shuffling of feet, then turn around to see Father Dosh making his way to a pew. But, he never wanted to draw attention to himself. Quite the opposite.

Father Johnson, who was with him nearly every day during the last two weeks of his life, said many people came to his bedside saying either they would miss him or would look forward to seeing him in heaven someday.

“He said, ‘Don’t think of Dosh, think of Jesus.’” Father Johnson said. “Then, he said, ‘Jesus is everything. Jesus wants to save everyone.’ Father Dosh was transparent that way. It was never about him. It was all about leading you to Jesus.”

A visitation will take place 4 p.m. Feb. 5 at St. John the Baptist in Excelsior, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. and an all-night vigil beginning at 7:30 p.m. A vigil also will take place at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 6 at St. Charles, followed by the funeral Mass 10:30 a.m. celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.


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