Fr. Michael Komechak, O.S.B., curator of Benedictine art collection, dies of cancer
September 2, 2009
Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
When Edward Komechak’s parents were looking for a Catholic high school he could attend, a relative directed them to St. Procopius Academy in Lisle. Komechak would spend the next 63 years as a member of the Benedictine community as a student, monk, priest, educator and art curator.
Komechak, who took the name Michael upon his profession of vows in 1955, passed away Sunday, August 30, following a nearly yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. Fr. Michael was 77.
“Michael was a unique individual who was fully dedicated to his priestly vocation and his love of the world of art and architecture,” said Abbot Hugh Anderson, O.S.B., former chancellor of Benedictine University. “Whatever he did, he did with flair, with enthusiasm and with depth of knowledge.
“Michael singlehandedly beautified the Benedictine campus by displaying throughout campus the art he had collected,” Abbot Hugh added. “The art collection is a source of beauty and a source of education for all who pass by.”
Born in Gary, Indiana, on August 19, 1932, Komechak came to Lisle as a high school freshman in 1946. After graduating from St. Procopius Academy in 1950 and from St. Procopius College in 1954 with a major in philosophy and education, he entered the monastic novitiate.
Following his profession of vows on June 22, 1955, Father Michael studied theology at St. Procopius Seminary and taught English and journalism at then St. Procopius Academy. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1959. That same year, he became head of the English Department at the Academy and advisor to both the student newspaper and the yearbook.
Studying during the summers, he earned a master of arts degree in literature from the University of Notre Dame in 1961. In 1965, Abbot Daniel Kucera selected Fr. Michael to oversee the planning and the construction of the new St. Procopius Abbey church and monastery. The building has since won numerous awards including a 25-year award from the National American Institute of Architects “for the best designed building for its enduring excellence.”
From 1965-1975, Fr. Michael served as a residence hall counselor and taught in the English department. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee in 1978 and became chair of the new Fine Arts department at the College. He helped to develop the fine arts program while accumulating a vast and richly diverse art collection, which now numbers more than 3,700 pieces.
Fr. Michael remained the art curator of Benedictine University even after he left the classroom, and delighted helping employees select pieces for the decoration of their offices. For more than 20 years, he led art history tours of select sites around Europe, and the fruit of his experience was made available to parishes and other groups in slide lectures on great pieces of art.
Fr. Michael served as judge at numerous art fairs and was the abbey photographer for many years. From 1968 to 2005, he was editor of the Abbey News Review. He took all the photographs, wrote all copy and designed the pages. The Abbey News Review morphed into a magazine that is now called The ClereStory and which is edited by Fr. Becket Franks, O.S.B.
Diagnosed in early 2009 with pancreatic cancer, Fr. Michael said, “I’m doing the same things I’ve always done, but I’m more conscious of what I’m doing…I’m taking each day as it comes. I have been blessed and happy with everything I’ve done, and I am grateful for so many events in my life.”
On May 30, 2009, Fr. Michael celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination at St. Procopius Abbey Church. More than 500 friends, relatives and people who he had served at the parishes throughout DuPage County attended the Mass and a reception.
At that time, the Alumni Association Board announced the establishment of the “Fr. Michael Komechak Award” which will be presented to a select individual “who provided distinctive and exemplary service to the University by contributing to the education of Benedictine students to prepare them to become responsible citizens and community leaders.”
The inaugural award was presented to Fr. Michael.
A wake and reception for Fr. Michael will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 4 at St. Procopius Abbey Church. A Funeral Mass and Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 5 with interment at the Abbey Cemetery on the campus of Benedictine University.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, email@example.com or visit ben.edu.