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Father Bart Pax

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Mass of Christian Burial for Franciscan Father Bart Pax, who turned St. Mary of the Angels Parish in New Orleans into a refuge for victims of Hurricane Katrina and dedicated himself to rebuilding the flood-ravaged church, was celebrated July 29 at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard.

Father Bart Pax (Courtesy photo)

Father Pax died July 23 at the age of 67. He had been hospitalized for months from complications following surgery and was recently moved to St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati.

A native of Celina, Father Pax joined the friars of St. John the Baptist Province in 1959, made solemn profession in 1963 and was ordained in 1968. The first 17 years of his ministry were spent in pastoral work at missions in New Mexico and Arizona. From 1986-1992, he was director of Cursillo, a program for spiritual renewal, in Cincinnati and served on the friars’ pre-novitiate formation team from 1992-1993.

His next assignment, his longest and last, was as pastor of St. Mary of the Angels in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. An activist for neighborhood reform and social change, Father Pax was a leading member of All Congregations Together, a coalition of congregations dedicated to empowering communities to work for reform in drug enforcement, the police force, building inspection and public housing. Its success has received national recognition.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 and floodwaters engulfed the Ninth Ward, Father Pax and fellow friars sheltered nearly 100 neighbors in the parish school building. Months after the water receded, while he was also waging a quiet battle against cancer, Father Pax kept a one-man vigil in the parish, coordinating the rebuilding and reopening of St. Mary of the Angels.

Father Pax is survived by six brothers, Franciscan Father Ulric Pax, of Gallup, N.M.; Francis Pax of Coldwater; John Pax of Camden; Mark Pax of Versailles; David Pax of Celina; and Marvin Pax of Wapakoneta.

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