Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Some are close friends, and some are the kind you might not see for months and then pick up where you left off. I lost a different kind of friend last week. He was my Pastor, my Priest. In 1989, I was in a Lutheran Church. Our pastor took an offer in another church and we were left without a pastor for several months. At the time, I was going through some problems and felt adrift without anyone to help me. Losing our pastor was devastating. I also lost a special relationship with a friend, and my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack all within a 6 month time period.
I was asked if I was interested in singing in the choir at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Amarillo, Texas. I was immediately drawn to the music of the liturgy, the prayers, and the reverence the people portrayed when they entered the church to worship God. I felt like I had been lost and had found my way home. Monsignor Tash, known as Father Tash to most, was a gifted pastor. He was charismatic in personality and gifted in speaking to a congregation. I spent many masses with Fr. Tash. I was either singing in the choir, or acting as cantor (songleader) for the congregation. Over the years we also did several weddings and funerals. I saw a man who was bigger than life, but who gave of himself in his time, his compassion and sometimes, out of his pocket. He was sometimes autocratic, expecting to be in charge, but was a loving man, giving hugs and kisses to all of his parishioners. He was careful to be proper, keeping his emotional distance when needed, but gave of himself freely when it was needed. I remember a time before I joined the Church, that he counseled my son who was going through a bad relationship. I was so impressed that he was willing to help my son despite the fact that neither of us belonged to his congregation.
You could describe Father Tash as an A-type personality. He had a full-time job at St. Anthony’s hospital as a chaplain and later in administration as well as kept his duties as Priest for St. Thomas. As priest, he would celebrate mass every morning, and 4 times on the weekends. He taught an adult sunday school class for a time and was a fascinating teacher. One year the choir went on a trip to Rome and Fr. Tash acted as tour guide in parts. We were privileged to sing in many Churches and Cathedrals in Italy and in one, Father had to ‘go back in time’ and say a latin mass. I was able to sing in the Vatican. The entire trip was a once in a lifetime experience.
Father kept busy in his spare time, golfing, bowling and creating amazing needlepoint artworks. His needlepoint became a yearly tradition. He would create something new each year for Christmas and allow the Altar Guild to raffle it off to support their ministry of caring for the Church. He was the only priest for St. Thomas, being its founding Father. I knew him for almost 23 years. In later years, when I no longer sang in the choir, we became email buddies, passing on political items, items about the Catholic Church, cute cartoons, or petitions. It was a simple way to stay in touch.
He was a prayerful man, though very private. I once saw him walking the church grounds praying the rosary and realized his did this each morning before daily mass. He was a dynamic personality and was the kind of man you thought would live forever. A six-week illness preceded his death. We celebrated his 50th anniversary of his Ordination as a priest with his funeral mass. He was 77. I am a better person having known him. He will be missed.
- Hundreds pay respects to Monsignor Joseph Tash (amarillo.com)
- Tash, beloved St. Thomas pastor, dies (amarillo.com)
- Msgr. Joseph Tash, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Amarillo, has died BY BOBBY CERVANTES (amarillo.com)