What that middle initial in my dad’s name could mean

June 14, 2015
by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Last month in celebration of Mother's Day, I shared my brother Joe's reflections about our mom, Veronica Paprocki. In anticipation of Father's Day, I want to share with you some reflections from the homily that I gave at my dad's funeral on Dec. 16, 1997.

Dad's full name was John H. Paprocki, Jr. Dad was known as John, not Jack, not Johnny, and, although as a child and as a young man he was called "Junior," it was a name he never really liked, seeing to it that his own son John Leo would not be a "Junior." John, Dad's baptismal name: the name of the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord. John, the name of the beloved disciple close to the Lord at the Last Supper, who remained with Mary at the foot of the cross. That was Dad: often sharing at the table of the Lord and, especially in the last years of his life, sharing in the suffering of the cross of Jesus.

Paprocki: a noble Polish name. Dad was proud of his ancestry and of his father's profession. He took up pharmacy and carried on the work of Paprocki Pharmacy which his dad had begun in 1919 and which he continued when his dad died in 1947. He would also take up the banner as president of the St. Casimir Parish Holy Name Society, which Grandpa founded. Moreover, Dad was a loyal American, having done a tour of duty in Europe while serving in the Army during World War II, and continuing for years thereafter as a member and commander of the Catholic War Veterans, St. Casimir Post 1399, and as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Mount Vernon Post 2796. And so it was fitting that during his life he would serve as president of the Polish American Pharmacists Association: proud to be Polish, proud to be an American, proud to be a pharmacist, and proud of the name of Jesus.

The most puzzling part of Dad's full name, though, was that enigmatic middle initial – H. Dad himself admitted that he was never really sure what his middle name was. His birth certificate said Henry, but somehow during his Army years it became Harry. Then again, his baptismal record showed "Hieronymus," which in Latin starts with an "H," but in English translates as Jerome, so maybe he was really John J. Paprocki!

Perhaps it's just as well that he was never really sure what his middle initial stood for, because we can use that "H" to describe all kinds of things that stood for Dad. First of all, we can rule out a whole list of things that would clearly not describe him: he was certainly never a hard man, or harmful, hateful, or hurtful. Nor was he hasty, hectic, or hurried. While he was clearly not a heretic, neither was he a hermit. He was not hollow, or a hypocrite, and he definitely would never want ever to have anything to do with hell.

On the other hand, there is a whole bunch of words beginning with "H" that do fit:

May God give us this grace. Amen.

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