Monday, June 2, 2008

Death Of A Priest

The weekend obituary informs us of the death of Msgr. Edmund Sviokla, formerly Fr. Sviokla of St Thomas Aquinas parish. When he came to St Thomas parish in the early 1960s, he organized a marching band for the local youth under the auspices of the Catholic Youth Organization, or CYO. It was just in time to catch the wave of baby boom children who were filling the streets from the Arborway to Franklin Park. Bands, drum corps and drill teams from Rockland to Gloucester marched in parades and competed in CYO contests on summer weekends.

Fr. Sviokla hired top-notch instructors for the band, which led to a quick rise to success in competition. His own role, as "spiritual advisor," was more complex. He was a combination of father figure and army general, loving but stern. He was playfully referred to as "The Pope" by the children, and his large car known as "the Popemobile." When the Archdiocese decided to move him from St Thomas to another parish, protests and petitions from Jamaica Plain caused a rare stay of the order.

Like other priests and ministers before him, Fr. Sviokla stood out from churchmen of his time - he affected the lives of literally hundreds of children, who now live with fond memories of those special days. He didn't have a school named after him, like Ellis Mendell of Boylston Congregational, a library, like Msgr. Connolly of Blessed Sacrament, or even a traffic overpass, like Msgr Casey of St Andrew's, but he will be honored in the memories of those of us whose lives he touched.

Bless his soul.


  1. Through St Thomas', Crusaders, school ensembles, civic ensembles and orchestras all over, I still practice every day - at the least for fear Father would walk by the window (I'm on the second floor, about his shoulder-height) and ask, "hey, I hope you're keeping your chops up!"

    It wasn't a band.

    It was Sviokla's Conservatory of Music.

    Someone should pull together a reunion. It was an amazing flourishing of art in almost no time flat - like what from 1963 to CYO Championships in 1968? Wow.

  2. The lead music director was Al Tobias

    and the guys who did the preps and juniors was Joe Wayshack (spelling?)

    They both could have played at Symphony Hall or the Circus with equal aplomb.