Obituary: Father David Ziomek, pastor in Milton

Inevitably the first word that came to anyone’s lips at the news of the death of Father David Ziomek on Dec. 31 was “he was a holy man.” Surely a great compliment to any priest, indeed any Catholic.

David F. Ziomek was born in Taunton on Oct. 4, 1950. His parents are Julian and Martha (Kuszaj) Ziomek, he had one sibling who preceded him in death, Geralyn Ziomek.

He was raised in a strong Catholic home with equally strong influences of his family’s Polish heritage. He attended St. Joseph School and Coyle (now Coyle-Cassidy) High School in Taunton. Following his graduation from Boston College with a B.S. degree in 1972 he was granted a masters degree from American University in Washington, D.C. Fluent in Russian he went east and for a few years he was a tour guide in Russia. He wrote a book reflecting his experiences and his insights gained through them “A Christian View of Russia.”

He entered Blessed John XXIII National Seminary and was ordained for the archdiocese on May 21, 1994 by Cardinal Bernard Law at Holy Cross Cathedral. His first assignment was as a parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Franklin. At the time of his appointment to Milton in 2005, his former pastor, Father James O’Leary, currently pastor of St. Camillus in Arlington, commented that “he was a very holy man.” With others he repeated that phrase when he received the news of the death of his former associate.

On completing his assignment in Franklin he was named parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish, Wakefield in June 2000, where he remained until July 1, 2005 when he was named pastor at St. Elizabeth Parish in Milton.

Father Kevin O’Leary, rector of the metropolitan cathedral of the Holy Cross, and a seminary contemporary of Father Ziomek said “We all knew he was a holy man, even in the seminary. When I was next door in Lynnfield I heard from parishioners how much they came to like him and appreciate his holy life.”

Father Ziomek served only briefly at St. Elizabeth but his presence and impact were immediate. An example is a letter which he sent to The Pilot just five weeks before he died relating his parish and personal experience in the archdiocesanwide ARISE program. He was sincerely convinced that great grace was coming to his parish through ARISE. Moreover, he wanted to convey that he and the priests of Milton who were meeting regularly to share their own faith journey felt that “it called forth a ‘gut’ sharing of faith”.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley was the principal celebrant of Father Ziomek’s funeral at St. Elizabeth Church on Jan. 6, 2009. South Regional Bishop John Dooher and Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey and former auxiliary Bishop John Boles joined more than three score of priests concelebrating Father Ziomek’s funeral. Among the priests were archdiocesan vicar general, Father Richard Erikson; vicar for parish life and leadership, Father Thomas Foley; Father Kevin O’Leary, rector of Holy Cross Cathedral; Father James O’Leary, St. Camillus, Arlington and Father Michael Steel, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Marblehead (Father Ziomek served with each of these pastors in previous assignments). Also present were priest alumni, some classmates and others contemporaries of Father Ziomek, and present and former faculty from Blessed John XXIII Seminary, Weston.

The parish showed its love for their pastor by packing the church for the funeral Mass, surely a sign of compassion and support for his elderly parents who sadly buried their surviving child.

Following the funeral Mass, Father Ziomek was buried in his native Taunton in St. Joseph Cemetery.

With Father Ziomek’s Dec. 31, 2008 death, a record 36 archdiocesan priests have been added in this previous calendar year to the necrology. The previous record of 35 deaths in a year was in 1975.