If there is a scale of friendliness by which ghosts are judged, ours would certainly be the most docile, kind, watchful and serene.
His name is Boleslavs, and was known as “Father B” (for Baginskis). Father B was the priest that gifted us Camp Wandawega by way of its purchase nearly a decade ago.
Last weekend we hosted a memorial “mass in the grass” to mark his recent passing. A tree was planted in his honor. (A birch, a customary Latvian choice). People came from far and wide to pay their respects. Folks that hadn’t been to Camp Wandawega in decades arrived bearing casseroles, grandchildren and best of all- photo albums overflowing with memories. I sat with David’s Great-Uncle Stan to sift through an amazing “life album” his wife Rita had spent the last year assembling. Father B as a 25-year old priest, following him through a very full 95 years. (May we all be so lucky)
In stark contrast to the Religious Haven Father B built at Camp… it’s seedy past as a Bawdy house & speakeasy has been well documented. Murders, Suicide, all manner of illegal activity, for its first 40 years, “Wandawega Hotel” had drawn a bit of a sketchy crowd. There was a time that I worried about the karmic residue left by so many desperate souls, escaping to (our now home) to commit crimes of all sorts. (Much of it finally came to an end when the house Madame Annie Peck went to a women’s prison in 1942). My fears where put to rest when the church elders told me that every spring Father B would walk the length of the grounds, reading from his bible, sprinkling holy water, and blessing the entire property for a new year.
This is how we see our friendly ghost now.
His memory is celebrated every Sunday when we open our doors to sometimes hundreds or worshippers. Mass is no longer given in it’s native Latvian tongue, and many of the original Latvian congregation has since been replaced with locals from neighboring lakes. But Father B’s presence can still be felt every warm sunday when the church bells ring and the fish are biting.
May his soul rest in peace.
Father Baginskis in his homeland Latvia.
Father joined by Cardinal Mayer (then Archbishop of both Chicago & Milwaukee) blessing Wandawega when it was newly acquired by the church.
As a youth pastor in the early years.
With his family in his homeland in the Baltics.
Presiding over the marriage of David’s Great-Uncle Stan and Great-Aunt Rita.
Father Boļeslavs Baginskis, MIC, was born January 9, 1918, in Aglona, Latvia. After graduating from the gymnasium in Aglona, he joined the Congregation of Marian Fathers. Having graduated from the Major Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1942. In the first years of his priestly service, Fr. Boļeslavs worked as a vicar in Viļāni, which was followed by several months of service as pastor in the parish of Nagļi, in the western part of Latvia. As the German troops were leaving Latvia, there was an opportunity for the Provincial authorities to send Fr. Boļeslavs to do biblical studies in Rome. He studied the Scriptures atBiblicum University and completed this education by obtaining the degree of candidatus ad doktorem.
After obtaining his degree and being unable to return to his homeland, Fr. Baginskis was sent to serve in Brazil, where he taught the Scriptures at the Major Seminary for several years. Afterwards, his religious superiors transferred him to Chicago. With time, the parish of Our Lady of Aglona for Latvian emigrants and a religious house were established there. When the religious house in Chicago was closed in 2007, Fr. Boļeslavs Baginskis returned to Latvia and took up residence in Viļāni, where he undertook the functions of the house superior.
During the last months, Fr. Baginskis’s health was failing, and on Oct. 14, 2013, at 6:20 am the Lord called him to Himself. Father Boļeslavs was 95.