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The Murder of Father Gulas
AFIRE IN the rectory of the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church had claimed the life of 69-year-old Father William Gulas. By the time I arrived, the blaze had been ...

THE MURDER OF FATHER GULAS

Reverend Dean Kavouras, Chaplain

Cleveland Division Safety Forces Federal Bureau of Investigation

AFIRE IN the rectory of the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church had claimed the life of 69-year-old Father William Gulas. By the time I arrived, the blaze had been extinguished, and the Fire Investigation Unit was just beginning its grisly work. These special servants of God do what detectives have always done, they speak for the dead. In Cleveland, fire fatalities are treated as homicides until proved otherwise. And why was I there? Part of my duties as a fire chaplain is to remind firemen “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 KJV).

Nothing was right about the scene. A daytime fire in a church office, a priest who didn’t smoke—no good reason for it all. The firemen found trauma at the back of the priest’s head; the fire had not accomplished the masking of an obvious murder. Even though it was a crime scene, I knew enough about Roman Catholicism to understand they would want to anoint the body, so was able to arrange the “when and where” of said rite. The anointing priest was from Poland, had worked with the deceased for three years, spoke broken English, and was terribly distraught. Though my helmet clearly said, “Chaplain,” I don’t think he realized I was a clergyman. When I made that clear he relaxed, and seemed to find reassurance from the presence of a fellow pastor.

Then he asked me, almost as a plea, would I pray with him and be with him as he anointed the remains? I said yes. I reminded him from Psalm 103:15–17 that, “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting” (NKJV). Together we went into the deceased priest’s office for the anointing ceremony. It was a sacred moment as parishioners, firemen, and coroner’s personnel reverently bowed their heads, prayed the Lord’s Prayer, and listened to brief words of comfort from the Gospel.

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Two days later they had their suspect, a Franciscan brother. One can’t help but wonder why anyone would murder a fellow human, especially a man who’d taken vows to honor God. It’s one thing to say you honor him—another to have God in your heart.


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