Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Share your story!

Father Steve Tokarski was an amazing child of God. One of his greatest talents was his grace -- listening and understanding people from all walks of life. Only God knows the entire impact Fr. Steve had on all of us. How did Fr. Steve impact your life? Share your story here.


  1. I'll never forget when Haley and I wanted to chat with Fr. Steve about creating a Young Adult group. While we really had no good reason to be, we were very nervous about pitching him this somewhat church-changing idea. Fr. Steve sat there and listened, and listened, and listened. When we finished talking, he said he loved the idea -- and in fact two other couples had expressed interest in creating a similar group. There are so many reasons to love Steve - but the reason I love him most is how he was so inclusive of everyone - white/black, straight/gay, Christian/atheist. Steve made everyone feel special and loved. Today we mourn the loss of our pastor and friend and celebrate the fact he is in a better place - still listening and still loving. We love you, Steve and will miss you tremendously.

  2. Of the many things about which I marveled in regard to Fr. Steve was his gift for listening. Full attention paid to the person which whom he engaged. In groups. Oh my – the same listening…and then when the time seemed perfectly right he would take all the loose comments, concerns, questions, suggestions and weave them together into a beautiful tapestry. I will miss his wise counsel, keen mind and unconditional love. Kathy McCleary

  3. I never really understood the practice of saying “peace be with you” after the Lord’s Prayer until today, October 5th.
    Fr. Steve having died on Tuesday hit me with such an impact, as I could never imagine, it was unbearable. He had been there for me before even my closest friends could have. Living as a military brat I was shuffled from city to city, and then moving to Billings when I was seven, my family began going to St Pius X. This is where I finally had a stable church; it became a home to me through my 1st communion as a youth to a high-schooler then finally to a college student. Throughout these times Fr. Steve was there.
    His sermons echoed through my mind long after my family left the double doors of the sacred space. Words of acceptance and knowing God’s love stayed with me as I struggled with whom I was. Speaking with him as I spiraled down and thought of suicide and his words of courage and strength brought me back to the light.
    Then here I was in Missoula, with no family nearby to cry on as I mourned this great man. Sitting in my seat at Mass on Campus with my church from Missoula I wiped away tears as I remembered my seat in the pews of St. Pius X the innumerable times I heard Fr. Steve speak the same words. Then as we spoke the Lord’s Prayer I held my companions hands a little tighter, needing their support.
    Fr. Jeff said, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace…” usually a time for hugs from family and dear friends, or shaking hands with our family in Christ. Yet, as I stood there, I tired to keep my tears silent and held inside. However from everyone I was offered hugs and consoling faces; each person spoke, “peace be with you”. I understood what it meant. It meant that this family in Christ I forged in Missoula was wishing peace upon me at this trying time.
    Fr. Steve was a great man and he taught me to love myself and know that God loves me as well. His words will forever stand out in my mind and soul. His teachings helped me find a family in Missoula I can turn to now. Now many tears have been spent on this man, and rightly so. Washington Irving wrote, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not markers of weakness but of strength. They are messengers of unknowable grief, and unspeakable love.” Rest in peace Fr. Steve you will be missed and remembered fondly.
    Jan Bents

  4. Father Steve has been the greatest teacher and leader for me in my faith as he was for countless others. Through his many sermon's and his kind words he taught me so many things love and acceptance, grace and gratitude. I never leaned on Father Steve more than I did at this time last year. In the matter of a month, my father was diagnosed with cancer and my son who was 1 and 1/2 needed to go Denver for open heart surgery. My father died the week before my son's surgery and as I was trying to grasp my life spiraling out of my control I called on Father Steve. As he did so well with everyone, he listened to me and my husband talk about everything, our fears, the details of what had and would happen... all the while he smiled at our son as he ran around Father's office checking things out. After a while he pulled out his Bible and read some passages to us, I should know them specifically but was I too emotional at the time and remember listening to the words so intently I don't remember anything other than they were exactly what I needed to hear to allow me to put my trust in the Lord and the talents of the doctors who were about to stop our son's heart, fix it, and then have it start back up again. After reading from the Bible he prayed over us and our son. I will never forget how amazing it felt to give myself so completely to my trust in the Lord. I left with a feeling that I trusted in my God more deeply than ever. Father Steve told me that day that He would never give me more than I could handle. By the grace of God thru Father Steve I have a faith that is deeper and more steadfast than I even knew was possible. All of the people, and there were so very many, who were blessed to know Father Steve are better people because of him. I am grateful I was able to know him and honored to call him my pastor and my friend. Although he is gone his legacy will live on, for the grace he taught us all will live on and be passed down thru generations. Peace and Love, Becky Williams

  5. I remember going thru the RCIA program and all the many questions I came up with and Father Steve always answering my concerns with just the right scripture. He was able to comfort me in ways I can't explain in many of life's situations. He comforted me when I was grieving the loss of a relationship and help point me in the direction of joining in more in my church activities. We had so much fun a Halloween night at the church when he dressed up as the unabomber and I have such a cute picture of him and my kids as they laughed and played that night. That is how I will remember him - a very special Father who not only touched my life but made a difference to me and my children's life. And may Peace be with you Father Steve, and all your family and extended family. Love always - Tana Re

  6. Father Steve and I were friends. We were in a fellowship group that met once a week for a number of years with Mike Webster, Kemp Wilson, Bill Mattix and Ted Schuman. After Mike died and we lost Kemp, our group kind of disbanded. But Steve and I would still meet on occasion for lunch and we attended sporting events together and through the years came to know one another well.

    We talked about family, sports, politics and spirituality – probably in that order. We shared lots of laughs, some tears and we exchanged books. I have to say, however, that it was always a challenge for me to find books I had read that I felt might be intellectual enough for Steve. And, I am sure that it was equally difficult for him to find books that were simple enough for me.

    Although he was extremely disciplined and structured in his personal and professional life, he was also very much a free thinker and open minded. And he was very comfortable in his own skin and in his beliefs. He was never argumentative and always respectful of other opinions and other faiths.

    He could be emotional at times and that always took me by surprise. His eyes would well up with tears when he spoke of things important to him – the poor and vulnerable or stories of answered prayer. It always gave me great comfort to know that he had such a strong faith. To have the most intelligent person I had ever known be such a believer strengthened my faith.

    Before I knew Father Steve, I assumed that the difficult part of his work was dealing with death and funerals. But that was where he felt most needed and where he could make a difference. And, it was also in that setting that he gained faith. I know that because I asked him on numerous occasions what it was that gave him faith. His answer was always consistent. And it was vintage Father Steve – simple but very profound. It was being around grieving families after the loss of a loved one. Often people would relate to him stories of a spiritual connection or presence they felt with the loved one. It allowed them to feel that the person was at peace and was with God. Steve heard those stories enough that he knew it was real.

    When I visited him in the hospital in his final hours, I couldn’t help but think of those many conversations we had about that exact setting. Although he was not coherent, he was calm and serene. He truly did appear to be at peace. And I know our friend is with God.

    One final comment: Being involved in the selection of his successor was very important to Father Steve. He wanted to know that St Pius would remain progressive and not return to the fundamentalism of pre Vatican II. If we are to honor Father Steve in any way, I would hope that we can respect those wishes.

    Dave Rigg

  7. I remember Fr. Steve at St. Joseph in Great Falls. He started bringing over students from Central to play Folk Masses. There was once in a Sermon (back then) and mentioning seeing Alice's Resterant. In later years he was my vocation director when I was thinking about a vocation to the priesthood. And one of the lasting memories was he was my TEMPUS teacher for Christlogy. He will be greatly missed but I know that his gifts will leave on in others. Thanks Fr. Steve!

  8. As I was reflecting on Fr. Steve this morning I remembered the way he often started his prayers when praying with others, "Loving God..."

    When I heard this phase for the first time, probably the first year he was at St. Pius, my ears perked up. "Loving God..." I wondered if I really believed this. Finding out how I felt about a "loving God" energized my spiritual life, transformed my thoughts and prayer, helped me view God universally and opened the door to true compassion.

    A powerful start to prayer from a wise leader.

    Thank you, Fr. Steve.

  9. The children of St. Francis Intermediate school created loving - and fun - placements with messages regrading Fr. Steve. Through a child's eyes grief can have peace...for example one simply said: "I hope you have a good time in heaven." I imagine he is.

  10. The following is a link to my blog where I reflect about Fr. Steve. He and I recently were traveling on a journey. His ended sooner than anyone ever wanted. I loved him very much. I will miss my friend.


  11. This too Shall Pass....

    I used this expression for a creative writing class assignment to honor a long time friend of mine who passed into eternity last week on Wednesday. He was still working while being treated for a rare cancer. However, complications took over his health and strength. I was not able to attend the services because I was fishing in Idaho. I kept thinking about him and remember most his consistent expression in the face of most any conundrum. He would pause for a minute give a gentle sigh and say in a quiet voice, “ this too shall pass.” He was my boss at St Pius X Parish for many years as well as a spiritual mentor and good friend after I left for other adventures.
    I reflect on the words... This too shall pass... really is about anything in life, nothing remains the same, change is the order of life. When we cling, we are missing the moments of change, the vast possibilities of change that present themselves to our lives. We know we are stuck yet can’t perceive that it is our self doing the sticking, like walking on fly paper as we cling to what we knew even in the face of change that has already happened. Our minds won’t let go, won’t open up to receive the new, take chances, believe in more, begin again. Death is like that, it comes as such a shock in the finality of its reality that our change meter can’t monitor it fast enough. Our emotions simply slip into denial of its actuality.
    For years I have quietly said in the face of many circumstances “this too shall pass”. I have found that many times just acknowledging that reality loosens the cling, slightly releases the suction cup hold I have and allows me to breath. Waiting for the “this” to pass also brings about some startling opportunities otherwise I would of missed due to the cling to what was therefore unable to notice what is... right in front of me and behind the passing of the this.
    I actually believe that he in his own way said that during that last day, he knew he was dying. My friend Shelly told me he was actively dying. I said to her, yes He would do that, he would engage in it to the best of his ability and believe totally in the expression he spoke so often that “this too shall pass... would he be speaking of cancer, or death as we know it. Would he be speaking of the passing of this life into a new life we as humans can only speculate about until we are on that passing ourselves.
    This expression holds a special place in my heart as I continue to use it as a legacy to a dear friend and amazing person.
    The only issue I have with that saying is that the good things, the good this’s also pass ever too quickly. My belief in the goodness of life reassures me that more good things are coming my way.

  12. Steve was probably the best man i've ever known. He was a great father figure for me growing up while in High School in Great Falls, and was certainly the most influential man in my adolescents. He had such a clever way to point out my self absorption. He was a great friend, a trusted companion and an unwavering spiritual advisor. We traveled many trails together in Montana in the Beartooth, Bob Marshall and let's not forget our bug infested trip on the Missouri River. For almost 6 years we never missed a chance to climb a new mountain or present ourselves with new challenges (usually i was challenged, and he barely broke a sweat). I learned so much from this man...about just about everything (even learned how to drive a stick on his yellow VW Rabbit!). That poor clutch.

    He was such a great friend, that I was torn when I was engaged to be married on whether he should be our Priest or my Best Man. So, I called him up and asked what his opinion was...he quickly said, "oh, I've married lots of friends...but, I've never been the best man" And, so it was, he flew out to Ohio and best man he was.

    We stayed in touch much less frequent over the past 10-15 years. Visited Billings with the family a couple of times...even did a hike with my wife Leslie...oh, and let me quote my wife "Joe, he is going to slow down, right!?" No, anyone who knew steve knew he NEVER slowed down. We always exchanged Christmas Cards/letters. Mine was always typed - his was always handwritten...that was Steve. Personal to the core.

    We shared an e-mail about 4 weeks before his passing. I want to share a portion of it that personifies Steve: "Meanwhile I continue to work full time here in the parish and really love my ministry. It's ironic that at the time of my life when I most deeply find meaning and joy in ministry I'm aware that I won't be able to continue this a whole lot longer unless there's a dramatic turn around with my cancer.
    God writes straight in crooked lines, as they say."

    I never thought that would be my last exchange with Steve...i had already mapped out our family vacation to Montana in June 2012 to visit an ailing friend. I will always regret I didn't get that final goodbye, but I know because of His Grace we will indeed meet again and it will be wonderful.

    I will miss you my friend. You were like no other, and I wish I had told you that more often.

  13. Fr. Steve taught me High Scool english in Great Falls Montana in 1973. He changed my life by talking to me not at me,by asking for my what was in my mind not what my pen could spell. He taught me that english is the art of communication something to help us tell stories and explain.

    I wrote him for the first time just six months before he passed. His response was as expected tankfull and warm. I am so sad to say that my attempt to recontact him was met with the news of his passing.

    I will send my message through prayer and remember his message of faith.

    Jerry Carnahan

  14. Still cant spell, Thankfull not tankfull.