Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Do you know someone who’s grumpy, angry, and upset all the time?
Do you know someone that’s been dealt a bad hand and chooses to sit and sulk and be negative and mean about their lot in life?
Do you know someone who thinks their only salvation is a government program?
Do you know someone who, despite not being terminally ill or very old, still wishes that he/she was dead?
Sadly, I know someone in each category.
Maybe they need some inspiration in their lives. All they needed to do was turn on their TV sets during any of the last three games of the NBA Finals to see little 7-year old Gina Marie Incandela of Orlando, a victim of autism, confidently, happily sing the national anthem in front of a sellout crowd and a national TV audience. The little girl smiled, curtsied, and blew kisses during those truly touching scenes. It was impossible, I submit, to witness this beautiful young girl in song and not be moved.
This past Sunday when I attended Sunday Mass to usher, the parade of visiting priests at St. Anthony’s continued. I had never seen this rather old-looking feeble man who needed a cane to maneuver. Yet he impressed by his delivery and the way he celebrated the Mass.
Come homily time, he positioned himself on a stool right behind the main altar. The priest sermonized with an ease and comfortable flow while still being reverent. He joked about admiring the architecture of our magnificent church during the Responsorial Psalm. The humor was that he knew he could take a moment to soak in the beauty because this being his second Mass of the day at St. Anthony’s he knew when the Responsorial Psalm was happening.
Obligatory polite laughter.
And then came the jaw-dropper.
Out of nowhere.
I really can’t tell you most of what he said to lead up to what followed. But after that rare infusion of humor in a Sunday homily, the visiting priest stunned with this:
“Look, I’m dying. I’m dying.”
“Oh, we’re all dying,” he continued. “I’m just dying faster than most of you.”
If anyone thought this was a plea for sympathy, they were quickly and sadly mistaken.
With a smile and almost laugh in his voice, he proclaimed, “I am thrilled to death to be a priest!”
Father Robert Joseph Switanowski has every reason to question his fate and ask God, “Why?” Switanowski has a rare heart disease that is slowly sapping his life away. Yet there he was, at 10:00 Sunday, offering his second Mass of the morning.
I stood just a few feet away from Father as he distributed Holy Communion along that long Communion railing at St. Anthony’s. He could have sat it out, or just stood and distributed Communion to churchgoers in a straight line. With obvious pain in his face, having trouble breathing, Father walked along the rail, cane in hand, with an altar boy on one side, a Franciscan on the other while he reached into the chalice and lovingly picked out each host.
At the end of each Mass, as the priest, deacon and acolytes process to the rear of the church, the first person they see is usually me, prepared to hand out weekly Church bulletins. I told Father what a wonderful job he did, and he managed, though it wasn’t easy, a difficult, “Thank you” thorough a huff and puff.
Despite his deteriorating health, Father Switanowski refuses to let go of his vocation. His attitude is refreshing, remarkable, amazing. He deserves a special blessing from heaven for the inspiration he provides. This man of the cloth has every right to let doubts determine how he lives the rest of his days. Instead, he humbly, devotedly, willingly has decided not to give up.
God be good to this very fine man. You can read more about Father Switanowski in the Catholic Herald.