Fr. Blase Karas, OFM1930-2017
Edward Karas was born in Milow, Tarnopol, Poland on June 5, 1930 to Thomas and Felicia (Zygmunt) Karas. He was baptized on June 10, 1930 at Choroskow Kopyczynce, Tarnopol, Poland.
Blase began his elementary education Szkola Powszechna in Karaszynce, Poland in 1937. His education was interrupted in 1940 during the Russian invasion of eastern Poland when Edward and his family were deported to a Siberian labor camp in the region of Novosibirsk where they remained for the next two years. In a short summary of his life, he wrote in 2005:
After two years in Siberia we were released and allowed to move out of the Soviet Union. Our exit from Russia was without food provision. We crossed Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the port of Krasnowodsk on the Caspian Sea. We crossed the Corner of the Sea to Iran near Pahlevi. That is where our mother, Felicja died in 1942 September 3.
Edward himself arrived quite ill and was hospitalized for two months in Teheran. After regaining his strength, Edward rejoined the family who next journeyed to Pakistan and Kolchapur, India where they stayed for four years. Edward was able to continue his elementary and secondary school studies in Kolchapur.
Through the efforts of Fr. Francis Pluta, the director of the orphanage, Frs. Isidore Cwiklinski, OFM and Theophane Kalinowski, OFM, arrangements were made to bring 16 of the boys from the orphanage to St. Bonaventure High School in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Later, expressing his gratitude to the Province, he wrote to Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM,
I clearly remember when in June 1947, I and a bunch of 16 orphans were so warmly received by the Franciscans of the Assumption Province. Fr. Izidore and Fr. Michael came to San Francisco to meet us on the ship, Marine Adder, that brought us from India as refugees. The Lord has been good to me.
The young men were sent to Lourdes Friary, Cedar Lake, Indiana, for one year to learn English. Edward then entered St. Bonaventure High School, where he completed his secondary studies in 1950.
Edward entered the novitiate and was invested with the Franciscan habit on August 14, 1950, at Assumption BVM Friary, Pulaski, Wisconsin, where he was given the religious name “Blase”. He completed his novitiate and made simple profession on August 15, 1951. Blase made his solemn profession on August 15, 1954, in the hands of Fr. Theophane Kalinowski, OFM, at St. Francis Friary, Burlington, Wisconsin. Blase began theology at Christ the King Seminary, West Chicago, Illinois, in 1955. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1959 by Bishop Martin McNamara.
Blase returned to Assumption BVM Friary for his first assignment where he served as the assistant editor of Miesiecznik Franciszkanski and Kalendarz Franciszkanski as well as the assistant to the Third Order Commissary. His was later appointed the Secretary, Procurator and Director of the Third Order, with residences at St. Mary of the Angels Friary, Green Bay and Christ the King Seminary, West Chicago.
In 1971, Blase moved to an inner-city ministry living with the poor of Chicago in the Gospel Brothers fraternity. He remained in this ministry until starting a sabbatical at the University of Steubenville in 1984. After his sabbatical, he returned to Chicago to live with the Rivo Torto Community begun by Fr. Gus Milon, OFM.
In 1989, Blase opened The Anawim, a house that provided temporary shelter for homeless Polish immigrants in Chicago. In an appeal asking for support he wrote:
I have a dream of opening a house, of forming a community of volunteers and of those homeless men who seriously desire to pull out of that quagmire of street life. I am particularly concerned about those who, having been hospitalized or having gone through a period of detoxification, are being released, but have nowhere to go, except back on the street – they need an alternative.
Blase continued his ministry at The Anawim until 1993 when he responded to the call of the Order to serve in Russia. After a period of orientation and classes to learn Russian, he was assigned to Novosibirsk, Siberia – a land that was not foreign to him. During his days in Novosibirsk, Blase worried about The Anawim community that he had left behind. Needing to leave Siberia periodically in order to renew his visa, he was able to return to the United States to visit The Anawim to provide leadership and direction. Citing the pressures of serving as a pastor in Novosibirsk and health problems, Blase asked to return to serve community at The Anawim in 1999.
When his health and memory began to decline, Blase transferred to Queen of Peace Friary, Burlington, Wisconsin, in 2013. From there he moved to Milwaukee Catholic Home, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when his health declined further. Despite hisfailing memory, Blase continued to play the harmonica. A lasting memory of Blase will be the 2016 Christmas party for the friar residents of Milwaukee Catholic Home. Blase pulled out his harmonica and began to play Polish Christmas carols to the delight of those present who joined him in song.
Blase died on February 15, 2017, at Milwaukee Catholic Home, Milwaukee, in the 86th year of his life, the 65th year of his religious profession and the 57th year of his priesthood. He is survived by a sister Stanislawa Swiestowski (Sussex, England), sister-in-law Irene Karas, nieces, nephews and the brothers of the Assumption BVM Province.
Visitation will take place at St. Clare Church, Wind Lake, on February 20, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. The Funeral Mass will becelebrated at the St. Clare Church at 11:00 a.m. with Fr. Edward Tlucek, OFM, presider and homilist. The burial will at the Provincial Cemetery in Pulaski, Wisconsin, at a later date.
May the soul of Blase, and the souls of allthe faithful departed, rest in peace.
_--Written by Andrew Brophy, OFM, Secretary of the Assumption BVM Province.