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Fr. Stuchlik went where he could help

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 7, 2010, at 12:08 a.m.

While he was growing up on a farm near the Marion County town of Lost Springs, something set Richard Stuchlik apart from his 13 brothers and sisters.

"He had some ornery streaks, but he was different," Ruby Scharping said of her older brother." He just had such a humbleness and caring about him. He was always a very caring kid."

While his siblings grew up to become successful farmers, engineers and company executives, Stuchlik entered the priesthood.

He was serving as pastor of St. Margaret Mary parish in Wichita on Friday when he died unexpectedly, apparently of a heart attack.

Those who knew him said the death left a void in the Wichita Catholic Diocese and St. Margaret Mary Parish, where he had been pastor since 2003.

Mary Samms, principal of St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, said her students were told of Father Stuchlik's death as they prepared to go home on Friday.

"They were just crushed," she said. "They knew there had been a medical problem, but we didn't tell them until the end of the day. They left crying."

Father Stuchlik had bypass surgery 13 years ago, Samms said, and he hadn't been feeling well for the past few weeks.

"I was supposed to take him for medical tests yesterday morning, but we never got there," she said Saturday.

When Father Stuchlik didn't show up for work Friday morning, his housekeeper went to check on him.

"The next thing I knew I heard sirens," Samms said. "I knew he was in trouble."

Emergency medical workers were unable to revive him.

Samms said the school will be closed Wednesday for Father Stuchlik's funeral.

Father Stuchlik was known around the school as a hands-on person, Samms said.

"The night before he passed, he fixed the toilet in the boys bathroom," she said.

"He liked to be a handyman around the school. That was his relaxation — getting to work in the school and the church."

During the summer months, Samms said, Father Stuchlik usually would take on a major project. It might involve weatherizing classroom windows or putting new Formica on desktops.

"We never knew what we were going to see when we came back from summer vacation," she said. "He always had had some surprise up his sleeve.

"The rooms just sparkled when he was finished. Our school is 55 years old, so it's hard to make it sparkle."

Father Stuchlik spoke fluent Spanish and was learning some Vietnamese, Samms said. That helped in a school where half the students are Hispanic and 30 percent are Vietnamese.

Scharping said that while he was in school, her brother was good with languages, along with just about everything else.

"He knew seven languages," she said. "He was always a very intelligent person ... He was trying to decide if he wanted to be a doctor or wanted to be priest. In the end he decided to be a doctor of souls."

Throughout his career, she said, her brother seemed to gravitate to places where he could offer the most help.

Before coming to St. Margaret Mary parish in Wichita, Father Stuchlik served for 10 years as pastor of St. Teresa parish in Hutchinson. During his career, he had several other assignments in the Wichita Diocese.

"With his education and his intelligence, he could have probably gone as high up as he wanted to go, but he always had the desire to be in the poor parishes," Scharping said.

A rosary for Father Stuchlik will be recited at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary's Cathedral, 307 E. Central. A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the cathedral. Graveside burial services will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the cemetery in Pilsen.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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