The Rev. Richard G. Laszewski, 89, a Stevens Point native, died Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, at the Maryknoll Residence in Los Altos, Calif.
A Funeral Mass was held Friday, Feb. 17, at the Maryknoll Chapel in Los Altos, Calif., followed by Christian burial in the Maryknoll Society Cemetery.
Memorial services will also be held at Maryknoll headquarters in New York and in Stevens Point during March.
Memorial donations in his name may be made to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, PO Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545.
Rev. Laszewski was born Feb. 22, 1922, in Stevens Point, where he attended St. Peter Grammar School and Glinski Public School. He graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Orchard Lake, Mich., in 1944. He studied for three years at St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Mich. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1950 and a master’s degree in theology in 1951 from Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, N.Y.
He was a Maryknoll priest for 60 years. He spent most of his 60 years of mission service ministering to the people of South America. After his ordination on June 9, 1951, he was assigned to the Pando region of Bolivia, where he worked among the isolated communities in the tropical rain forests.
Traveling by boat and on horseback, he visited the different settlements, including those of the Chama Indians along the rivers of the Pando Vicariate. It was in this remote jungle river community that he developed a lifelong interest in medicine and cooperatives. He taught the basics of first aid and cooperative production to the people of the Beni.
During 1959, he returned to the U.S. and worked in the Maryknoll development department in Chicago, Ill., followed by a year at Maryknoll College in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Rev. Laszewski returned to South America in 1960, ministering in Peru until 2004. As assistant pastor in the Juli Prelature, he served on the Juli Mission Band and traveled to parishes in the Altiplano to administer sacraments to the Aymara people. He established two institutes for Rural Education (IER), one in the Altiplano and one in the city of Huacho on the desert coast. The IER provides men and women with courses in agriculture, animal husbandry, leadership and the social teachings of the church.
After 19 years in Huacho, he was invited by the Yanesha people, who live in the jungles of central Peru, to set up an IER for their communities. A revolution forced him to change plans.
He was next assigned as pastor of La Merced Parish in Iscozacin, where he dispensed medicine and helped the people with a project to raise and market shrimp. He retired in 2004 and moved to the Maryknoll Residence in Los Altos, Calif.
Survivors include one sister, Velma Laszewski, Milwaukee; and one brother, Stanley, Wausau.
He was preceded in death by four sisters, Catherine Barnsdale, Alice Mason, Eleanor Guidinger and Theresa Morrison; and five brothers, Henry, Ambrose “Buddy,” Anton “Bobby,” Joseph and James.