Brother Henry L. Kolbok, OFM
He was a gentle friar and a holy man of faith. Leonard was born to Leonard Kolbok and Julia (neé Saletnik) Kolbok. Both parents were born in Poland and immigrated to the United States of America. Because his parents died in his early years, Leonard was placed in foster care for a short time before finding himself at the Children’s Home operated by the Felician Sisters. It was there that Leonard found a place to belong. The Felician Sisters provided the care and loving attention that cause Leonard to consider a vocation to the Franciscan way of life.
It was December 1951 that Fr. David Wyrzykowski, O.F.M. wrote to Fr. Theophane Kolinowski, O.F.M., Provincial of the Assumption of the BVM Province regarding “Leo” Kolbok. In the letter written by Fr. David he states, “We wanted Leo to spend his last Christmas with us. We thought it would be best for him. But Leo’s feelings were quite different. He told us that he thought Christmas in Pulaski would have been just dandy. We kept him here nonetheless. Now we are ready to start shipping him out. The Sisters wanted to give him a complete outfit as a post-Christmas gift.”
And so it was, Leo made the trip from the Immaculate Conception Home, Lodi, New Jersey to the Assumption BVM Monastery, Pulaski Wisconsin, arriving January 10, 1952.
Leo entered the novitiate at Queen of Peace Monastery, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on August 14, 1955, receiving the name “Henry.” In preparation for first profession Brother Henry wrote, “I want to join the Friars Minor for two reasons: first, to serve God, and second to save my soul. I want to live perpetually in the Order if it is God’s will.” And so it was. On August 15, 1956 Brother Henry made his first profession
As a simply professed brother, Henry’s first assignment was to St. Joseph Friary, Sturtevant, Wisconsin. There he was assigned to the maintenance crew. While engaged in this work he petitioned and was granted permission to profess Solemn Vows on August 15, 1959. From 1961 to 1963 Henry lived and worked at Lourdes Friary, Cedar Lake, Indiana with maintenance once again his main focus. The call came for Henry to return to St. Joseph Friary, Sturtevant. But after three years Henry was assigned to Assumption Friary, Pulaski where he shifted his energies from maintenance to laundry duty. After seven years in Pulaski, Henry was assigned back East. The transfer took him to St. Pius X Friary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His skills in the laundry were once again need by the community. While in Philadelphia, Henry had several opportunities to visit the Felician Sisters in Lodi, the very place where his vocation was born. These visits offer him fond memories of the care and concern given him by the Felician Sisters.
His final assignment brought him back to Pulaski where he worked in maintenance both in the printery and in the friary. He was one of the friars who saw the construction of the new friary and the demolition of the old friary. Henry was a trusted face to many of the employees of the printery and offered a kind smile and a helping hand to the people who worked in the printer as well as the friar community living there.
Henry’s health continued to decline as he aged. It became difficult for him to walk as well as take care of his personal need. In 2018, after discussing his options with his physicians and caregivers, he agreed with the decision to transfer to the Milwaukee Catholic Home As difficult as this move was, Henry was able to accept this move.
Once at the Milwaukee Catholic Home, Henry could be found wheeling down the corridors visiting the residents and offering that infectious smile of his. He came to know the residents, their families and friends. He endeared himself to many.
But his body could not sustain itself. Dealing with respiratory issues, his breathing became labored even with the addition of oxygen. It was on Monday, March 16, 2020 that the staff found Henry lying quietly in the arms of Sister Death.
Services and burial in Pulaski, Wisconsin.
May the soul of Henry and the souls of all the Faithful Departed, rest in peace. Amen.
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