Father James R. Bajorek, 58, a former pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish in Wallingford, died April 3. Father Bajorek was also a former pastor of several Philadelphia parishes.
Born in Homewood, Ill., the son of LaVerne (Czapiewski) Bajorek and the late Robert Bajorek, he attended Holy Cross School, Euclid, Ohio, and St. Joseph High School, Cleveland, Ohio, before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
He was ordained May 17, 1980 by Cardinal John Krol at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, and his first assignment was parochial vicar at Holy Martyrs in Oreland followed by faculty of St. James High School in Chester. He was spiritual director in the college division at St. Charles Seminary 1987-1997. He then served as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Philadelphia, and in 1998 was appointed pastor of St. Carthage; in 2000 pastor of the twinned parishes, St. Ignatius of Loyola and Our Mother of Sorrows, and in 2003 pastor of St. John Chrysostom where he served until 2011.
Although cancer took him at a relatively young age, he had a full and interesting life. As a seminarian, three of his summers were spent working at a brewery in Germany, and over the years he ran no less than 19 full marathons, according to Father Stephen J. Dougherty, a good friend and prayer group companion from his seminary faculty days. “He ran five marathons in San Francisco, and also marathons in Philadelphia, New York and Boston,” he said. “Jim was a real gift. He was a human being but a real spiritual guy and that’s what made him special. He was a man of prayer in the monastic tradition.”
Father Bajorek, he said, “was an introvert who could function like an extrovert. He needed time and space to pull back.”
Jean Mulcahy, a St. John parishioner, said his illness came as a shock because he was the picture of health and always careful about what he ate. As a priest, “his homilies were well thought out and clear,” she said. “He was very reserved, but very spiritual and had a great smile.”
Father Bajorek’s cancer, which was discovered after a seizure last year, forced his retirement from St. John Chrysostom. While being cared for by Madeline Bialecki, another friend from his former prayer group, he lived nearby and was in constant touch with the parish. He knew his condition was terminal, but his philosophy was, “We don’t face death and die as if we don’t believe in something,” Father Dougherty said, and in March on his birthday he asked that an e-mail be sent to all his friends: “58 is great, thanks for walking this journey with me.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated Father Bajorek’s funeral Mass at St. John Chrysostom Church on April 10. Concelebrants included Msgr. Thomas M. Mullin, Fathers Peter J. Welsh, Jerome Wild, Karl A. Zeuner and Father Dougherty, who as homilist quoted from St. John Chrysostom: “Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they were, but now are with us wherever we are.”
In addition to his mother, Father Bajorek is survived by his brother, Michael, and his sister, Patty Kettle. Interment was at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Springfield.