The Rev. Frank Bach, who worked for decades in Spokane as a Catholic parish priest, monsignor and tireless advocate for the poor, died Saturday.
Hundreds of priests, parishioners and those who knew him through his work at Catholic Charities gathered Thursday at St. Mary Catholic Church to say goodbye.
Bach was also well known for his support of the Christmas Bureau. “He was an all day, every day volunteer at the Bureau for five decades,” said Catholic Charities director Rob McCann.
Bach was born in 1930 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest in 1956 and came to Spokane, where he started out as an assistant at St. Ann Parish. He served at many parishes over the years, including St. Mary, and served as the assistant director of Catholic Charities for a year before serving as the director from 1965 to 1978.
He created the Catholic Charities Housing Bureau in 1972 and began to work on low-income housing projects. The work continued after his retirement, and, in 2013, Catholic Charities opened Father Bach Haven, an apartment building located near the House of Charity designed to offer housing options to the homeless.
McCann said the modern Christmas Bureau was designed by Bach, and by then-Bureau co-chair Sally Quirk. Even after Bach retired in 1997, he continued to volunteer in the community, including at the Bureau.
“It was a very remarkable life of service,” said former Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, who helped lead Thursday’s funeral Mass. He had known Bach since 1948, when the two were in seminary together.
“He’s been sort of an icon in the community for his outreach to the poor,” Skylstad said.
Fittingly, the psalm response between the first and second readings during the Mass was “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
During his homily, Skylstad made note of the phrase the crowd had sung several times. “Frank heard the cry of the poor,” he said. “He not only heard that cry, but he did something about it.”
Bach began to decline physically and mentally about two and a half years ago, McCann said. He visited Bach every day, but he wasn’t alone. There was an army of people who wanted to visit, he said, until it came to the point when McCann had to create a schedule for Bach’s guests. “So many people wanted to come,” he said.
Skylstad was among those visitors. “I saw him almost every day,” he said. “He was a good friend.”
As Bach’s dementia became more advanced, he sometimes wouldn’t recognize people, but he was always aware of how the Gonzaga basketball and Notre Dame football teams were doing, McCann said. “Those were his two passions other than his faith,” he said.
In the last week or so of his life Bach was unable to speak. “He was ready to go home to God,” McCann said.
The Christmas Bureau is hoping to meet its goal of raising $525,000 to pay for the food vouchers, toys and books handed out to those in need. New donations of $10,890 have pushed the year-to-date total to $437,546.40.
There’s only a few days left to raise the additional $87,453. Pay Pal donations must be made by Tuesday to allow time for processing and donations by check must arrive by Wednesday. Any donations received after that will be credited toward the 2018 Christmas Bureau.
Jim and Maggie Randall donated $8,000. “Your efforts for the people in need for Christmas is very much appreciated,” they wrote. “We are proud to be able to support such an important charity in Spokane.”
Richard and Carol Hendershot of Spokane donated $1,000, as did Vickerman and Driscoll.
Gary and Linda Williamson of Spokane contributed $200. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150.
Chris Powell and Ruth Reynolds donated $115 in memory of their parents, Bill and Elaine Reynolds and Hazel Powell.
Dan Crittenden of Spokane gave $100, as did an anonymous Airway Heights donor. Mary Stohr and Craig Hemmens contributed $100. An anonymous donor sent $100. Becky Kramer of Coeur d’Alene donated $25.
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