NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Rev. Eugene Francis Gorski, C.S.C., 82, died Saturday (January 3, 2015) at Holy Cross House.
Watch Fr. Gorski's Funeral Mass
Eugene Francis Gorski was born January 7, 1932 to Eugene Gorski and Frances (Palewicz) Gorski. A native of Chicago, Ill., he graduated from St. George High School as Valedictorian of his class. From the University of Notre Dame, he received a Ph.B. (magna cum laude) in Finance, with the equivalent of a major both in finance and philosophy. At the same University of Notre Dame, he pursued graduate studies and was granted a Master of Music degree (with a concentration in music theory). He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1955 and was sent to Rome, Italy, where he was ordained priest in 1960 and granted the Licentiate in Sacred Theology by the Pontifical Gregorian University. He pursued further theological studies at the Institut Catholique de Paris where he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology (maxima cum laude). From 1972-1980, he taught at the University of Notre Dame as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology; and for two years, he was Resident Director of Notre Dame's Program in Angers, France. He returned to Notre Dame where he taught in the Department of Theology until 1995.
In addition to his full-time academic work, Father Gorski served, for a number of years, as rector of two Notre Dame student residence halls Howard and St. Edward's. In 1980, Notre Dame accorded him the John "Pop" Farley Award for distinguished service as rector. The award stated, "At Notre Dame, as priest, rector, professor and cantor, he has been cheered for his professional yet personal ministry. Twenty five years ago, this complete rector of Howard Hall walked the boards of Washington Hall, as Cyrano, and declaimed: 'when I make my sweeping bow at heaven's gate, one thing I shall possess at any rate, unscathed, something outlasting mortal flesh, and that ismy panache." Father Gorski was also given a Special Presidential Award. In 1995, he was appointed Vice President for Student Affairs at King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA. After completing that position in 1999, he returned to Notre Dame where he again taught in the Department of Theology.
Fr. Gorski had extensive travels in Europe and Asia, including experiences in the sacred Hindu and Buddhist areas of India. He also spent a semester participating in Zen training in the SanUn Zendo, Kamakura, Japan.
Fr. Gorski was preceded in death by his parents Eugene Gorski and Frances (Palewicz) Gorski and his sister Dorothy Moloney. Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday (January 11, 2015) at Moreau Seminary, followed by a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The funeral mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Monday, January 12, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will follow at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, IN.
Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at donate.holycrossusa.org.
Wake Eulogy byRev. NicholasAyo, C.S.C.
My first encounter with Gene Gorski was in May of the year 1955, if I recall the date correctly. Gene was starring in the role of Cyrano de Bergerac, a delightful play in which his performance received rave reviews. I thought I would never see anything as well done on stage ever again. To this day, one hears that his performance is still the best male actor performance in the history of Notre Dame Theatre. I would mention Cyrano to Gene from time to time over the years, and he would reply with some theatrical mimicking: "I was a star." And to this day, I thought he was.
I finally came to know Gene personally in Rome. I was a second year student and he was a first year student. Our classes were taught in Latin, which was difficult enough. About Thanksgiving of my first year, I finally could understand the Latin lectures without much difficulty. The real difficulty was the final exam, a ten-minute oral exam upon which the grade for the entire year depended. Understanding spoken Latin was one thing, speaking it quite another. Gene and I sat together every day on the fifteen-minute bus ride to the Gregorian University. It was the common practice to practice our spoken Latin with each other both in the coming and the going to classes. We were like toddlers learning to walk, but we were learning to talk. Lots of laughs, and at the end Gene and I were very good friends.
After ordination, Gene was off to graduate school in Paris. It took him many years to finish his degree, and back home there was a sense he took too long and that the good life of Paris was all part of the delay. I think Gene was a perfectionist, a trait he learned from Fr. Art Harvey, who directed plays at Notre Dame for many years and who coached Gene in Cyrano and other endeavors. Everything in Fr. Harvey's play was to be done to perfection. Dress, make-up, lighting, blocking, articulation, and all else were to be just so. I think Gene wanted to write and speak perfect French, and that took time. His dissertation at the Institut Catholique took time. As a result, Gene got a slow start at Notre Dame. He taught until age 80, however, and he was the last of a breed. The full-time rector who taught a full load of classes was an honorable tradition at Notre Dame for Holy Cross priests in the earlier years of the university. Gene was the last one to do that. Rectoring is now a full-time job, and teaching a full load a full-time job.
Gene was rector of Howard Hall for many years. Every summer a group of its graduates would come back to Notre Dame for a reunion with Gene and each other. They clearly had bonded and remained fast friends over many summers. Gene delighted in them and they in him. When Howard Hall was converted into a women's residence hall, Gene led the not-so-happy men of Howard Hall to St. Edward's Hall where he took up the task of rector once again. Gene directed the hall like he was directing a drama on stage. There was a right way to do everything, and he strove to find it. In short, Gene was never far from Cyrano. Gene was a man of the theatre. His classes were prepared to perfection. The Sunday evening class on World Religions was well attended, and Gene prepared audio-visual aids of every kind. NO detail was left to chance. He dressed for class with class. I admired his wardrobe.
Gene also served for some years as cantor in the Basilica at Notre Dame. He commanded a stage presence, and his voice was always impressive and never off key.
In his later years, Gene ran into some problems with stress, with sleep disturbances, and with some alcohol abuse. He came out of treatment with a determined commitment to meditative prayer. Often, I would find him alone in the Corby chapel. Having taught World Religions for many years, Gene became proficient in the meditative techniques of Zen Buddhism. He traveled this country and the countries of Asia to attend workshops, conferences, and retreats in that tradition of contemplation. He belonged to a group here in South Bend that regularly met for contemplative time together.
Let me try to summarize my appreciation of Gene Gorski, whom I liked so very much. He did not just play Cyrano. Gene was Cyrano. In the play, Cyrano is unattractive to women because of his very big nose. His friend is courting the woman that Cyrano loves, but his friend is tongue-tied. Cyrano writes all the love-letters for him, and she falls in love with the soul of the letter-writer, who remains unknown to her. Gene had the soul of a poet; he cared ever about the true, the good, and the beautiful. Sometimes Gene was referred to as the Polish Prince. He did have the panache of Cyrano, but as a prince he could be over-bearing and all too opinionated. In that regard he was Cyrano, whose heart was better than his appearance.
In the last months of Gene's life, we would sit together mostly alone in the TV room to watch the evening news, followed by Chris Matthew's "Hard Ball" talk show. Here was news as entertainment. We knew the spin; we muted the advertisements; we laughed with this common refrain: "There is something wrong with our culture." Looking back now, I understand why Gene stayed on watching low-level TV long after I threw in the towel. I did not understand then. Gene was too tired and already all too sick.
By chance, Gene was taken to Holy Cross House in very bad shape and I was recovering there from open-heart surgery. I had the privilege to sit with him and try to absorb the mystery of his life and now his death. He was given five months to live. Noisy oxygen equipment was pumping away in his room, and all I could think of was life in an iron lung for five months. He did not have the energy to make it out of bed to the bathroom. Gene was reconciled with his death, much more than I was. Five months became, five weeks, than five days, then five hours. The Holy Cross community at Holy Cross House assembled for the last anointing of Gene. The room was filled to capacity and folks were out in the corridor. I must say Gene knew how to make his life dramatic, and even his death. He was Cyrano to the last. Most of all, he was a Holy Cross religious and priest to the last. He was my dear friend to the last, and I do sorely miss him, much as I do admire his life and his courage in his dying. May he rest in the peace of eternal life in the Communion of Saints before the face of God.