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Happy 90th Birthday to Fr. Walter Gurgul, MIC

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By Terry Peloquin

To the delight of Fr. Walter Gurgul, MIC, his 90th birthday on Monday, Sept. 28, was noted by several Marians and their staff who delivered a birthday celebration to him at Kimble Farms Nursing Home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The party guests brought cake and balloons for their visit with Fr. Walter, who was brought by wheelchair to an outside patio. The assembly sang to him in English, Polish, and Latin. Marians in attendance included Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC; the recently ordained Fr. David Smith, MIC; Fr. Diego Maximino, MIC; Assistant Shrine Rector Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC;
Br. Alex Chung, MIC; and Br. Patrick, MIC. Staff members included Barbara de Jesus (Tomaszewska) and Ana Maria Posada.

Known for his lifelong devotion to Mary, Fr. Walter gives credit to his mother. "Mom nurtured in me a love for Our Lady that became the greatest spiritual influence of my life." He recommends to all to always "carry a Rosary, wear a scapular, or have a prayer card with you."

Born on a small farm in Belz, Poland, Fr. Walter had a simple, happy childhood that came to an abrupt end in 1939, when the Soviets invaded Poland. Despite a harrowing experience in a labor camp in Siberia, he escaped in November 1941, thanks to his mother, and was sent to attend grammar school in Nazareth and a Salesian high school in Jerusalem. In 1947, the British Protection Act expired, and Walter was sent to England where he continued his seminary studies. Walter was accepted into the Marian Congregation, arriving on Jan. 19, 1953, and he was ordained in Rome on July 4, 1960. "It was the most beautiful day of my life," he says, "because my mother was there to witness it."

His assignments included teaching and serving as headmaster for the Marians' school in Hereford, England, until its closing in 1986. Father Gurgul came to the United States in 1997, and he spent more than 20 years serving at the National Shrine and in other Marian ministries. Until last year, Fr. Walter heard Confessions daily at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

A staff member of the Marians' provincial office, Barbara de Jesus, chatted with Fr. Walter in Polish at his party. "He says that he is always praying for the Marian Helpers, and he daily remembers them in the Holy Masses he celebrates in his room," she said.

When Fr. Walter finally had to be wheeled back inside, he continued to offer the guests his priestly blessing. Barbara commented, "Father Walter continues to be an inspiration to the Marians and others as a shining example of a religious and a priest offering his life in union with Jesus under Mary Immaculate."

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