We would like to thank Joe Bullick, Historian, for inspiring this project.
It is respectfully dedicated to him, and those within the story who graced Father George’s journey.
When reflecting on his long life, Fr. George Palick says that he has seen the hand of Divine Providence writing the story all along. And what is “Divine Providence,” according to Father, it is simple: God’s love. His life is interwoven and inspired by prayer, i.e., communion with God, which has guided his every step.
“My parents were John and Mary Palick, and my grandparents were Baba & Zedo Palick and Baba & Zedo Bujnovsky. Baba & Zedo are the Slovak words for Grandma and Grandpa. I knew all of my grandparents except for Zedo Bujnovsky. My grandparents came from Slovakia around 1900, and my dad was born in Kosice, in Slovakia.
Being Slovak is part of who I am. The community that I grew up with in the city of Reading, PA, was all Slovak, as was my parish where I received my early formation, St. Cyril and St. Methodius Catholic Church. This is where I was baptized soon after my birth in 1924. Kresny and Kresna Shurilla. (Kresny and Kresna are Slovakian for Godmother and Godfather).
For Slovaks, holy days are particularly special. We had Easter traditions consisting of my mother baking paska, nut, and poppyseed rolls, and Christmas traditions of baking many Christmas cookies.
I was blessed with wonderful, God-fearing parents. My mother, Mary, was born in Reading, PA, around 1900, and again, my father, John, was an immigrant from Slovakia. My parents met in Church activities at St. Cyril and Methodius. They married in their early twenties. They had their first child, Johnny, around 1920. He died in a tragic accident at the age of two. Then I was born, on May 29, 1924, followed by me sister, Helen. I am six years older than Helen.
My sister, Helen, and I were not close when we were growing up, but we became very close in our adult years: 20 years old and after. We shared many things in our life: psychology, chemistry, and religious interests. Helen grew up to study chemistry in college and worked in a laboratory in a hospital. Her husband, Brian, was a physician.
My dad was the manager of an A&P store. “A&P” stands for “Atlantic and Pacific” Grocery Stores. At that time, there were grocery corner stores, this is before there were supermarkets. After working at the “A&P” Store, he worked at the Columbia Shear Works where he polished metal which would be made into shears for cutting grass. My mother stayed at home, raising us children.
My childhood home was at 348 Pine Street in Reading, PA. My home had a parlor, dining room, kitchen, and a small back porch and a cellar. I was given the chore of scrubbing the kitchen floor by my father. Another responsibility I had as a child was, on Saturday mornings, to deliver baskets of fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market. People would give me a nickel, a dime, or even a quarter! That was a lot of money back then.
My grandmother, Baba Bujnovsky, lived with us for awhile. My mother took cake of her. I remember my grandmother’s infected leg. It was not a pleasant sight. My mother took care of this. Years later, my Zedo Palick also came to live with us.
My dad rented out a kitchen and a bedroom upstairs. I remember two men who lived there. One of them taught me to play the violin. Some time later a mother and child lived there, and later a husband and a wife. The husband introduced me to an exercise book by Joe Banomo, exercises which I incorporated into my life. He also got me some music books when I was playing the trumpet.
As I was growing up, I would often stop in at G.J. Auto Supply Store. My Uncle George and cousin George were owners. My cousin, George, was a big influence in my life. I had many talks with him, and he expressed a genuine interest in me; he was a profound listener. I would work there over the summers when I was in high-school. I was also employed at the Mohican Market in the delicatessen department during high-school.
Generally speaking, my childhood was happy. I made friends with Donald and Doris Showalter, my neighbors. I was also close with my two cousins: Johnny Samsel and Johnny Currin. We had lots of fun playing games in the street in front of our home. There were few automobiles at that time.
Growing up, I enjoyed reading books which I would get from the library. I remember sitting on the front porch on the swing engrossed in the books. I also enjoyed going for long walks in the woods near my grandmother Bujnovsky’s home.
Religion played an important part in my formative years. I remember making my first Holy Communion and my Confirmation. I chose the name “Joseph” as my confirmation name, after St. Joseph. In third grade I became an altar boy and served Mass for our school Masses. I remember one of the sisters asking me if I ever considered about becoming a priest. I answered, no.
My dad took me to 10:30 AM Mass every Sunday morning at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic Slovak Church. After Mass, he took me on a wonderful walk. We would walk down Sixth Street to the Schulkill River. We walked over a railroad bridge which had a wooden plant in the center of the rails. On the other side of the river, we continued our walk and eventually returned home to a wonderful meal prepared by mother.
I attended Sts. Cyril and Methodius Slovak Elementary School for grades one to eight. We attended Mass every day before classes. We had two grades in our room. I liked school and when sister taught the other grade I was interested and listened instead of having a study period. I got good grades. I enjoyed playing softball at recess.
I later attended Southwest Junior High School. I loved my classes and my teachers. Mr. Weidner, my science teacher was such a good teacher that I couldn’t wait to get to his classes. Because of him, I became a chemical engineer. Mr. Borrelli was director of our band. Miss Lumbach was my homeroom teacher. Miss Norton was my English teacher. When we wanted us to learn a rule of grammar she would print it in very large letters on the blackboard, e.g., “PUNCTUATE,” “QUOTE.” Miss Strohecker was my biology teacher – an excellent teacher. Miss Unext was my typing teacher.
I attended Reading Senior High School. I remember Miss Hicks very well. She was an excellent geometry teacher. Mr. Newpher was my trigonometry and solid geometry teacher.
I had a wonderful man as band director in high school: Mr. Fred Cardin. I played the trumpet. I and two other trumpet players were selected to play a fine selection: “Triplets of the Finest,” at a radio show, “The Amateur Hour,” in New York City after hearing us audition in our hometown. This recording played throughout the country! One of my favorite selections from the recording is this stirring Irish piece, “In the Gloaming.”
Mr. Chardin directed the marching band. We marched and played at all of the football games. We also participated in the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania. At that time, I never would have realized that I would be going there as a student.
Miss Runyan was my senior year English teacher whom I think recommended me for a senatorial scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, which I received.
In September of 1942, I enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. In my sophomore year, I joined the naval reserve and was assigned to continue my chemical engineering studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
After graduating from university with a degree in chemical engineering, I entered the navy. I was assigned to midshipman school at Columbia University in New York City. After three months of intensive study, we graduated at the Cathedral of St. John Divine in New York City.
My next assignment was to the Naval Supply School at Harvard University in 1945. This was a two month assignment, after which I was assigned to Commander of Fleet Activities in Yokuska, Japan, which is near Tokyo. I served two years there in Japan as Flag Secretary to an admiral. I had many beautiful weekend trips to Tokyo and one trip to Atami with my good friend, Bob Weber. Bob was a lietunant commander in the Supply Corporation. I lived with him, Fr. McCoy, and Lt. Commander Caldwell in a beautiful Japanese officer’s cottage. Fr. McCoy and Fr. Poznanski and were a privilege to meet. They were our naval chaplains, and their example helped to inspire me to become a priest. I also had three Japanese boys: Kusano, Mori, and Tunajuichi, who took care of our home for us.
After my military duty, I returned to the states and was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. I served in the US Navy from 1943-1946. After my active duty, I was active in our local VFW in Reading, PA. There, I enjoyed playing in the Drum & Bugle Corp of the local VFW. I also attended meetings as an officer of our youth group at the VFW.
With the help of the GI Bill, I attended the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA in 1946, and received an MS Degree in chemical engineer in 1948. The GI Bill was a big motivation and help for me to receive my master’s degree.
After I received my master’s degree, I went to work at Blawnox Construction Company in Pittsburgh, PA, as a chemical engineer. It was during my two years of employment there that I became conscious of my religious vocation. I became conscious of my vocation as my prayerlife intensified.
I then entered the seminary at Notre Dame, in the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a teaching order. I had one year of novitiate at Moreau Seminary on the Notre Dame Campus, after which I was assigned to the Holy Cross House in Washington, DC, for four years to study theology.
My seminary days at Notre Dame were memorable. The University Campus contained two large lakes which were available for walking, praying, inspiration, and recreation. A high point of my seminary days was on Sunday morning when we sang in the choir at Mass at Sacred Heart Church on the campus.
At seminary in Washington, DC, we had summer school at Holy Cross Camp in Deep Creek, Maryland. The beautiful lake and surroundings were not only inspirational but areas for delightful recreation.
I was ordained to the priesthood in Bridgeport, Connecticut in June, 1958. I celebrated my first Mass at my home parish, Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Reading, PA. Also, my 25th and 50th year anniversaries were celebrated there.
My first assignment was to teach chemistry, math, and religion at Notre Dame High School in Chicago, an all-boys school. Being a teacher in was a big incentive for me to deepen my knowledge of the fields that I taught. I taught there for 11 years. There were some students that left a lasting impression on me. One student in my geometry class I remember. Terry was a very talented young man, the top student in my class. I thought he had a vocation to the priesthood. But God had other plans for him.
I had different experiences in the places I taught. In my eleven years teaching at Notre Dame High School for Boys, I never saw a tear on a boy’s face. At my next assignment, Sacred Heart High School for Girls, I saw tears almost every day especially when someone received a low grade. But, I found that both boys and girls were interested in chemistry and did very well.
Sacred Heart High School was located in East Liberty in Pittsburgh, PA. During the ten years that I taught there I lived at the rectory of Sacred Heart Parish. I also served as assistant pastor there and offered daily Mass, and Mass on Sundays and heard Confessions on Saturdays. Sacred Heart Church is a very beautiful and inspirational building. There is a very large stained glass window at the entrance of the Church. It depicts events in the history of the Catholic Church in America. The floor of the sanctuary is likewise outstanding. It has the map of the United States in beautiful stone.
After my teaching assignments, I became a parish priest. It was a deep spiritual and joyful experience for me. My first assignment was assistant pastor at St. Philip’s Church where I served for two years, after which I became pastor of St. Matthew Church Slovak Church in the Southside of Pittsburgh. During my years at St. Matthew’s, we renovated the church, rectory, school, and convent. We organized a vibrant youth club and also maintained a Holy Name Society and an active Christian Mothers Group. At various times, we would have a beautiful performance of our Slovak dance group: young children dressed in traditional Slovak clothing, danced, and sang traditional Slovak songs.
Next came assistant pastor at St. Joseph in Mt. Oliver for two years. When I was assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s, one of our seminarians were going to be ordained in Rome. Father Bill Hausem organized a plane load of people from the parish to fly to Rome. During our stay there, Fr. Hausem arranged for us to concelebrate Mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel. It was around 1990 and was very inspirational. After Mass, he met each one of us personally and gave us a rosary.
My last twenty years was spent at St. Fidelis Church in Lyndora, PA. I became good friends with the pastor, Fr. Murphy, and another good priest friend was Fr. Ed Murray.
As a priest, I went on vacation with my friend, Fr. Ed Murray. We went to historic areas like Gettysburg, PA, and Williamsburg, Virginia. Other vacation visits were to Mount Vernon and Monticello.
I was also good friends with Fr. Tom Smith, Fr. Bill Cheetham, and Fr. Bill Hausem. One thing special about my friendship with these priests are that we were able to read spiritual books together and then get together to discuss them.
I retired from active duty as a priest in 2017, for reasons of age. I then moved to Marian Hall in Pittsburgh, PA, before moving to Vincentian Home.
Fr. Murphy often visits me at Vincentian Personal Care Home, where I am now living in Pittsburgh, PA. Here I am blessed to continue to perform various pastoral duties, such as anointing of the sick, the sacrament of confession, officiating at memorial services for our deceased members, and spiritual counseling.
I still am an avid reader, and I love several genres: biography, spirituality, and history, among others. I love to sit outside and meditate on the beauty of God’s creation. I love to sing in our resident choir, attend Liturgy, meet friends, participate in Book Club, yoga, trivia, and more. I am joyful, and grateful for the opportunity to grow and to meet new people, such as Kay Bayly, and some of her children: Joy, Mary, and Carol.