Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 1999
Communism affected Becs deeply
Fr. Henry Becs: Communism affected Becs deeply
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father Henry Becs, the Latvian anti-communist activist and priest who served parishes in Alberta for 35 years, died of heart complications May 3. He was 84.
Sister Dolores Schroeder, his caregiver for the past year, described Becs as a "faithful servant of God and his people."
Becs was also a "kind" and "wise" man who showed a remarkable dedication and commitment to his priesthood. "Mass time for him was very important," Schroeder recalled. "He saw the Mass as the centre of his priestly life."
Becs said Mass five days a week at the convent of the Daughters of Wisdom since he retired to Red Deer in 1987.
"He had a sense of humour but it was covered with a sense of seriousness," noted Schroeder.
She said Becs never forgot his background in Latvia and suffered as he recalled his life under communism and Nazism and the deportation of his family to Siberia, where his father died.
"Last year the memory of his father came to haunt him. He couldn't understand why his parents were so mistreated. I could feel his anger."
In his 1992 autobiography, Here I Am, he strongly denounced Soviet communism, which occupied his country.
"The communist idea was just to destroy!" he wrote. "They destroyed Latvia physically. They destroyed Estonia and Lithuania. And they destroyed their own country too, as we know now."
In the preface to Becs' autobiography, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil called the priest a "remarkable person" called by God to be a priest to promote God's kingdom on earth.
"Those who know Father Becs are struck by his sense of peace, his acceptance of God's will, his quiet courage and his abiding love of people."
Becs lived in his own apartment in south Red Deer and drove his car until a year ago. During the past year he walked with the help of a cane.
Schroeder took him shopping once a week and Becs enjoyed it, although he seemed perplexed that people would think he was married to the nun.
"She is not my wife, she is my nurse," he once told a security ward who asked him what kind of car his wife was driving.
After many similar incidents, Becs decided to take the bull by the horns and one day out of the blue he approached Schroeder and told her jokingly, "Sister, let's get married. After all, everybody thinks you are my wife."
Schroeder replied, "Oh father, then we will be the talk of the town."
Becs was born in Latvia Jan. 28, 1915 and studied theology at the University of Riga, Latvia. He was ordained a priest March 25 1943 at Aglona, Latvia.
Following his deportation to Germany by the Nazis in 1944, he served as chaplain in the American and English zones in West Germany from 1943 to 1949. Then he moved to Italy to study at the Gregorian University in Rome.
He came to Alberta in 1952 to serve as assistant pastor at Barrhead in the St. Paul Diocese. He later served as pastor at Jarvie and Venice, and joined the Edmonton Archdiocese in 1959.
Over the next 28 years, Becs served as pastor in numerous parishes, including Vegreville, Olds, Stony Plain, Hardisty, Galahad, Viking and Innisfail. He also served as chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital in Edmonton and as assistant pastor at the cathedral for a brief period in the early 1970s.
Becs was to be buried May 7 at Innisfail, where he served for six years prior to his retirement and where he has numerous friends.