The death of Fr. Steve Palinkas
Just after midday, Sunday, 31/12/95, we got word that Fr. Steve had died of a heart attack during the morning. It seems he was just about to say his second parish Mass, had made the Sign of the Cross to begin, then simply fell to the floor with a massive heart attack and died. Everyone called him "Fr. Amamas" i.e. Fr. Happiness. No matter what happened, good or bad, he would always say "Amamas, amamas!", "Rejoice, be happy!". He was born in Czechoslovakia, in a place that became Hungarian during the war, and later became part of the Czech Republic. In 1965 he escaped from Communist Hungary by getting approval to go to Switzerland for a "holiday". He then continued on to Rome. Here he was given a temporary Vatican passport (because he couldn't use his Communist one) and asked to be sent to our mission in Zaire. In 1979 because of worsening malaria he asked to go to Australia to work with migrants. He now travelled on a U.N. document. In Australia he became an "Aussie". In 1984 he tried Zaire once again but because of the malaria soon had to go to Europe for treatment. Then in 1986, as his health picked up he asked for a PNG appointment to Mt. Hagen because of the mild Highland climate. But, even in Hagen the recurrent malaria returned and stayed with him, affecting him most in the mornings, but he never complained.
Because of his chubby build, flowing white beard, and his happy nature he was often called "Fr. Christmas" at Christmas time. At other times he was "The Holy Father of Togoba" (his mission station). He always liked the joke. Steve was 64 when he died. He will be missed very much by his people who at one time wanted to "buy" him from the Bishop so that he would never be transferred. In the funeral Mass in the parish, the church grounds were packed to overflowing - it seems like the whole of Togoba had come for the farewell.
In an interview he once gave, Steve said that the Lord had got through to him in Zaire when he was alone and when he was finding life hard: "I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your heart and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus."
After quoting some of the above he repeated in Latin: "Dominus enim prope est." And with a twinkle in his eye he added as he pulled his Rosary from his pocket: "And Maria enim prope est" - ' And "Mary is very near" too!'
May Steve now rest in the joy of the Lord.