Love is the Key - Remembering Frank Dopek

Last week we lost a valuable member of our parish staff. Frank Dopek, who served St Paul in our maintenance department for almost two decades, passed away prematurely. He was diagnosed less than a month ago and after a brief treatment he succumbed to his illness. This has come as a tremendous shock to all of us. St Paul of the Cross parish and school will never be the same. All of us have lost a bit of sunshine.

Frank was a good man. He believed in the goodness of people. He served humbly and quietly as he expected no recognition. He wanted to make people feel good. A staff member said to me, “He was always ready to help. If I needed something to be done, I called on Frank.” He loved to give compliments to anyone he met. When we published the news on our Facebook page, almost a hundred people commented. Invariably everyone pointed out how kind and friendly he was. One school mom wrote, “He was good for my self esteem.”

Personally I always enjoyed interacting with Frank. He loved to laugh and to joke around. For Frank, SPC was his life. When he was ill, I called him a couple of times. Even though his voice was feeble and he could hardly talk, he said to me, “Father, I want to come back to work.” He loved this place. As I reflect on his life, I feel inspired by this simple, humble man. He understood what it means to live a happy life. When we come to the end of our lives, it does not matter whether we were the president of a country or the CEO of a multinational, whether we had a huge stock portfolio or owned beachfront property in California. What matters is how great an impact we had on others. I can say without hesitation that Frank had a huge impact on this community.

When I was a young seminarian, I saw someone die for the first time. I was a freshman in college and we were playing a cricket match against the faculty. Fr Joe Murphy, our rector, was the captain of the faculty team. Either team could have won that day. But as the game was nearing an exciting finish, Fr Murphy collapsed in front of 600 students. As I watched the scene in horror, questions began to rise up in my mind. A period of intense questioning began that day. I withdrew from people and began asking myself, “What is the meaning of life if we are all going to die? Why am I studying physics, and why am I pursuing the priesthood? What is the use of doing anything at all?”

Those dark days of intense questioning lasted about two months. Then one morning as I was shaving, I got a simple insight that I have held on to all my life. It is this. By the time we reach adulthood, all of us carry our burden of pain. All of us have experienced hurt, sickness, broken relationships, betrayal, loss, and pain. If I can lighten the burden of someone else, then my life has meaning. If I can wipe away a few tears from the faces of others, then my life has made an impact. Love is the key. If we can love genuinely, then our life has meaning. Love is the secret to happiness and contentment. This is the lesson that Frank teaches all of us. Mother Theresa once said that life is not about doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Giving love to others is not complicated. Yet it can be challenging. Paul wrote memorable words about love that many Catholic brides like to use for their wedding. Here is an abbreviated version of Paul’s hymn to love:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Linda Ellis wrote a poem called “The Dash” that I use in my funeral homilies. She insists that the little dash that separates the dates of our birth and death is what really matters. In the poet’s own words:

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth...

And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own; the cars... the house... the cash.

What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

I know that Frank spent his dash very well. Often he held the church doors open at many funerals. Now all those people are opening heaven’s doors for him.

Please pray for Frank and his grieving family.

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

Mass Schedule

Monday - Friday

8:30 am - Upper Church


4:30 pm (vigil) - Upper Church


7:30 am - Upper Church

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9:30 am - Gym

10:30 am - Upper Church

12:00 pm - Gym