Sunday, July 23, 2017

(191) Irene Kobak Surber (1931-2017).........She was ready to personally meet her Good Shepherd

Charles and Irene Surber
      The following are excerpts of the letter Irene wrote to her family, friends, and fellow members of the Secular  Franciscan Order a month before she died.  As requested, parts specifically addressed to her extended family are omitted.


My Dearest Charles and Friends:

My earthly pilgrimage has ended.  As my life drew closer to the 11th hour, I felt a need to share some final thoughts with those who have touched my life in so many meaningful ways and supported me along the journey HOME….I re-wrote this message several times…..this is my final revision.  I return to the ONE who fashioned the stars, wove the tapestry of the skies, crafted the universe with HIS word alone and created all of us in His Image and Likeness.

Countless graces and blessings energized my life of Faith, sustaining me through joys, questions, sorrows, doubts and challenges.  Believing that Jesus’ life, teachings and resurrection set us free, that we are a redeemed people, made it comforting to listen expectantly for the voice calling me HOME.  Like all faith-filled Christians, I realized life is a brief journey in which we walk hand in hand with life’s companions, reaching for the PEARL of great Price, trusting in God’s eternal promise.

As the years wore on, the lessons our dear parents, Joseph and Helen instilled were never forgotten.  We were raised in a home where prayer, Church attendance, Mass, the Holy Eucharist, religious practices and expressions were of primary value.  Ours was a faith-filled Catholic Christian home.  Mom and Dad set an example to the best of their capability and understanding.  What a joy to be seeing them again, meeting our deceased relatives and above all……meeting our Grandparents for the very first time.

Religious life added a rich spiritual and social dimension on the Journey affording innumerable opportunities for spiritual and professional growth and guidance…..As we know, vocations are nurtured in a family setting.  We were not short on encouragement.  We grew up being challenged and reaching for the IDEAL!

I was accompanied on my journey by members of the Secular Franciscan Order.  They provided the companionship, challenge and Franciscan spirituality that filled my heart and enlivened my spirit.  We walked the journey with freedom and fraternity, inspired by the example of our dear St. Francis and St. Clare.

I can never thank you enough for all your love and generous FORGIVENESS.  I beg you to remember me in prayer and ask you to rejoice with me.
And like the repentant thief, I beg YOU, Lord Jesus, for mercy and forgiveness.  I pray that I am worthy to hear Jesus’ reassuring words:

(Luke 23:43)

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd (John10:11)
EULOGY (Delivered at Irene Kobak Surber’s Funeral at St. Louis Church on July 17, 2017)

       As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister since 2009, I had the opportunity to know Irene well.  In fact it was Irene who encouraged me to volunteer for that ministry and my wife Jaga joined me.  It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to her in Holy Communion every Sunday, to pray with her, and to help her in a little way for her encounter with the Lord in eternity.

I was supposed to minister to Irene, but she ministered to me more than I did to her.  She placed great value on the Eucharist and she did a lot of spiritual reading.  She was faithful to her Catholic Church to the very end.  She kept coming to Sunday Mass until only a couple of months ago when it became practically impossible since she was dependent upon oxygen.  Even then she would assist at Mass via EWTN television and we would complement that by bringing her Holy Communion.

Irene never bore any children of her own, but over a career of some 40 years she was like a mother to hundreds if not thousands of children, most of whom were developmentally challenged.  She recognized their great dignity, created according to the image and likeness of God.   She loved them dearly; she saw their potential; and helped to make them productive members of society.  In retirement she visited the aged as a volunteer in nursing homes in the area.  She was a Third Order Franciscan and emulated St. Francis as well as St. Clare.

Irene was a Pollyanna type, always positive, encouraging, kind, and patient.  I really appreciate her encouragement of my writing.  I never heard her make any disparaging remark against anyone. 
       One priest commented that “Those who die of cancer die like saints.  That statement is certainly true in regard to Irene.  She was ready.  She taught us how to live and she taught us how to die.  She confronted her cancer with faith and courage.  Irene did not give up; she really wanted to take care of Charlie and did not want to leave him, her extended family, and friends, but was completely resigned to the will of God with great trust in His Providence……..that no matter what, it would all turn out for the best in the long run.  Each time I saw Irene, there was a certain joy and peace about her……..even a joyful expectation of eternity.

       Irene planned out every aspect of her funeral.  For the first time in my memory, has a laywoman been laid out at the front of our church.  We’re going to have a luncheon this afternoon; the hostess is really Irene and she has invited all of you with typically warm Polish hospitality, entrusting the Catholic Women’s Club and others to put it on.  At some of our Communion services with her, we would say the “Our Father” (Ojcze Nasz) in Polish.  You see, I’m Polish by marriage and proud of it.
Irene had a devotion to Mary, who perhaps interceded that she die on July 13, the 100th anniversary of the third and most prophetic apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.  The whole Fatima series will be on this blog.
In that apparition Mary reiterated her plea: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”  Indeed, Irene offered up her aches and her pains, the effects of chemo, and all of her suffering for that intention.
She united her cross with the Lord’s cross and offered it all up as a dynamic prayer for the Church, the missions, for our country, for a better world and for her loved ones.  God knows how much our country and our world need prayer.  The prayers of the sick and the suffering are most valuable and very effective.  Thus Irene was very productive until the moment she died.

Irene loved the image of the Good Shepherd and liked to imagine herself being a little lamb in His arms.  Her prayers to the Good Shepherd were surely answered as He gave her the strength to carry her cross and led His little lamb to eternity.  The Good Shepherd never sleeps.  The Good Shepherd is real.

Thank you Irene for all that you have done for us and the Church.  We love you.  Good-by until we see you again. I know that you will be waiting for us for one big joyful reunion in Heaven.  Let’s make sure that we all get there by being faithful practicing Christians with our lives……everyone of us!  I’m sure Irene will be praying for us along the way. 


Sunday Times-Sentinel (Gallipolis, Ohio) & Point Pleasant Register July 16, 2017

Irene Surber
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BIDWELL — Irene M. Surber, 85, of Bidwell, passed away on Thursday, July 13, 2017 at her residence.

She was born September 28, 1931 in Cleveland, daughter of the late Joseph A. and Helen Dentkos Kobak. Irene married Charles M. Surber and he survives her. She graduated from St. John's College and received her Master's Degree at Case Western University.

Irene was a member of Third Order of St. Francis as a sister of St. Joseph for 33 years, a member of St. Louis Catholic Church in Gallipolis, worked for Catholic Charities, worked in California at Director of Services for the Developmentally Disabled, worked for Tap Center in California along with Sister Mary Grace, and worked as a special education teacher for 30 years. A faithful longtime friend to Irene was Sister Mary Lou Wojtusik of Garfield Heights., she visited nursing home patients along with Ella Bokovitz for many years in the local assisted living facilities, played organ in the Catholic churches, enjoyed camping, walking, and various activities. She was a great conversationalist and had many friends.

Surviving are her husband, Charles M. Surber of Bidwell, five sisters, Wanda DiVencenzo, of Grafton, Mary Ann Bliss, of North Royalton,, Theresa (Kobak) Bird of El Sobrante, Calif., Christine Berger, of Avon, and Helen Smith of Horshoe Bay, Texas.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a sister, Sister Clementia.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 11:30 a.m., Monday, July 17, 2017 at St. Louis Catholic Church with Father Thomas Hamm officiating. Entombment will follow at Ohio Valley Memory Gardens. Friends may call 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the church prior to the mass. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the St. Louis Catholic Church building Fund. Please visit to send e-mail condolences.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

(190) OUR LADY OF FATIMA AT 100……..The Prophetic Apparition of July 13, 1917…… Hell and Back

        With great happiness Jacinta and Francisco Marto were looking forward to meeting Mary on July 13 at the Cova de Iria as she requested.  Lucia, however, filled with gloom and despair, resolved not to go, fearing that her pastor was right…….”the apparitions are the work of the devil”.  Believing the pastor, Lucia’s mother incessantly nagged her daughter and even thrashed her for lying.  On the contrary Ti Marto the authenticity of the apparitions. 

        On the morning of the 13th, Lucia still had the same confusion and doubt.  But when it was time to leave for the Cova, Lucia felt a strange prodding and her fears and doubts suddenly disappeared.  Joyfully, she went to the house of Jacinta and Francisco to see if they had left yet.  She found them in tears because they would not go without Lucia.  Their tears were transformed into joy, when Lucia said:  “LET’S Go!” and off they went happily moving through the crowds of people that jammed the way to the Cova.  It was slow since so many asked them to ask Mary for special personal favors.

        Lucia, the leader, led the rosary.  Then she cried out:  “Close the umbrellas (against the sun); Our Lady is coming!”  The sun turned hazy and there was a refreshing breeze on that hot day.  The crowd was silent.  Ti Marto testified that he saw a greyish cloud over the holm oak.  He heard a hum, but did not hear a word.  With the abounded love of a mother bending over her sick child, the beautiful lady engulfed the three children in her immense light and rested her loving eyes on Lucia, who could not speak for joy.
        Mary instructed them:  “Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war; for only she can help you.  Continue to come here every month.  In October, I will say who I am and what I desire and I will perform a miracle for all to see, so that they believe.”  Lucia told her of the case of a sick person who wished to be taken to Heaven soon.  “He should not try to hurry things.  I know well when I shall come for him.”  Apparently, Our Lord wanted him to be better prepared to die as Mary implicitly condemned euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide.  Mary reiterated the need to offer up suffering, misfortune, irritations, prayers, rosaries, weekday Masses, etc.  “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners; and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary I offer this sacrifice to Thee.”’
        Then came a terrifying experience for the three children.  Mary let them see hell.  Lucia described “a sea of fire, and immersed in that fire were horrendous looking creatures (devils) and souls with human form, as if they were transparent black or bronze embers floating in the fire……amidst wailing and cries of pain and despair that horrified and shook us with terror.”  As Mother Angelica, the spunky founder of EWTN once told the hell deniers:  “you’ll believe it when you get there.”  Satan worshipers don’t know what awaits them.  May we have a healthy fear of hell, especially when we drift away from God and are lax in following Church teaching as our Sunday obligation.
Our Lady then explained: “You have seen hell ---where the souls of poor sinners go.  To save them God wills to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.  If people will do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.  The war is going to end.  But if they do not stop offending God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI.  When you see a night illumined by an unknown light (January 25-26, 1938 – Google Fatima Storm) , know that it is the great sign that God gives you, that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.  To forestall this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.  If they heed my requests, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace.  If not, she shall spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated; in the end, my Immaculate Heart shall triumph……and some time of peace will be given to the world.......Do not tell this to anyone.

After this third apparition, the three children had a greater resolve to pray a great deal to save souls from hell.  They yearned more and more to be left alone to say their prayers and make sacrifices for Our Lady, but whenever they would go out in the town, crowds of people would gather to ask them all kinds of questions, many of them of the stupid variety.  Some were devout, but many were curious and anxious to pump them for the secret with gifts to find the sensational. Some even came to laugh and make fun of the children. 

Even relatives and neighbors ridiculed them, called them names, and even smacked them.  Lucia’s family was the worst of all, especially after crowds would trample on the family vegetable garden: “When you want to eat, go and ask that lady.”  Newspapers reported the apparitions with scorn and distortions, accusing the priests of setting up a “factory of miracles”.  The children pitied them all for their lack of faith.  Thus they would take back roads to avoid the crowds.  When people came knocking on their doors, the children would hide.  Clearly, the apparitions were a great joy, but also a great cross to bear.  The children had a lot to offer up for the conversion of sinners and they did it joyfully.

Jacinta’s father. Ti Marto kept an open mind as he mulled over the facts to find the truth while protecting his children.  He was thinking and praying, waiting for God to direct his course of thought and action.

The children learned some short prayers that gave them consolation: “My God, I love you” and Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation”.  Jacinta said: “I want to tell Jesus that I love Him so much!  When I say this to Him, it seems that I have a fire in my heart.  I love Our Lord and Our Lady so much that I never get tired of telling Them that I love Them.”  If we can develop only a fraction of their intense love for Jesus and Mary!  We shall see that in August, the situation will begin to build up to a climax as the unbelieving authorities get involved.  Throughout this centennial year of Our Lady of Fatima, EWTN television (cable, satellite & internet at is showing many documentaries on Fatima, especially around the 13th of the month.   



* It is often asked why the Blessed Mother would reveal horrifying images to innocent children such as the visions of Hell? To many people this seems incongruent with a pure, loving, gentle Mother who loves us and is in Heaven. It would almost seem like child abuse?
Secondly, during the miracle of the sun, which the Blessed Mother orchestrated to help prove to people that indeed it was her that the children were seeing, why again would part of that miracle be the horrifying moment when the sun seem to come charging toward the earth?  The accounts of the eye witnesses all say they were terrified and thought the sun was going to crash on top of them and that this was the end of the world.

        I've never heard that interesting and valid question.  To anybody who would ask me, I would say this.  I don't think Mary's showing Hell to the children and the horrifying aspects of the Miracle of the Sun are incongruent with her as a pure, loving, gentle, mother.  Is tough love incongruent?

        First of all, Mary, as the ultimate missionary and messenger of God, does not go off on her own to bring souls to her Son.  She is completely subservient to the will of her Son.  Since the Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart are united as one, Mary knows exactly what her Son wills.  I'm sure that Our Lord sends Mary on every mission the same as He sends each one of us on a special mission.  Mary would not do anything that does not conform to the will of her Son.  In any event she has no power of her own, only that given to her by God to be used as He wills.  All of Mary's actions are from the perspective of eternity for our good and to get us to Heaven.  That's what it is all about.

        We can only speculate why Mary, following the will of her Son, would show the children Hell and permit the horrifying aspects of the Miracle of the Sun.  There is no way that we can get into the mind of God.  He knows what He is doing; His ways are not our ways.  His mind is beyond our comprehension and the greatest human brain.

        As to show innocent children hell, the Angel of Peace prepared Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta for their great mission in three apparitions in 1916.  Mary continued that spiritual formation.  Thus the children had an amazing amount of spiritual maturity and holiness, more than we can develop in a lifetime.  They could handle seeing Hell, especially through actual grace.  Mary is acting not only as mother of the three children, but also as mother of all humanity.  The apparitions and message are directed not only to the three children, but also to all humanity.  Any mother would or should vividly show the consequences and dangers to her children of their deeds........both to body and soul.  An example might be the danger of running onto the street and its consequences.  Mary wanted to show all mankind the reality of hell (not theoretically) and that Our Lord is not only a God of mercy, but also of justice.  As a loving mother, she had to tell it like it is.  Mother Mary continues trying through the Fatima message to mobilize us to pray (the rosary especially), make sacrifices, and offer up crosses for the conversion of sinners.  Showing Hell, vividly demonstrates the urgency in a very convincing way not easily forgotten.
        As for the horrifying aspects of the Miracle of the Sun, it's a wake up call to straighten out our lives.  It demonstrates the power of God.  It took 9/11 to wake us up at least for a while.  The Miracle of the Sun must have had a deep and lasting impression on the 70,000 plus people, not to mention all of Portugal (it got little newspaper coverage outside of the country) and millions in the generations that followed to the present.  I wonder how many of the 70,000+ made it to Heaven because of the Miracle of the Sun.  Without the horrifying aspect, the Miracle of the Sun would have been more like a glorified fireworks display.  Of course the sudden drying of the drenched people and their ability to see the sun were miraculous.  What people remember today from the Fatima story is the horrifying aspect, not the beautiful aspects.

        I hope that during this centennial year the Fatima Message gets through.  I fear that the way the world is going this is our last chance to live the Fatima Message and thus avoid a loving chastisement.

* Did World War II start during the reign of Pius XI as Mary prophesized or during the reign of Pius XII?
The official start of World War II is considered to be September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.  Pope Pius XI died on February 10, 1939.  Since Hitler annexed Austria on March 13, 1938, it can be said that World War II really started on that date.  Furthermore, during the might of the great unknown light of January 25-26, 1938, leaders of the Soviet Union were plotting a deal to make with Germany to divide up Poland, ceding western Poland to Germany and taking eastern Poland for the Soviet Union.  Both sides probably saw it as the 4th Partition.  From 1795 to 1918, Germany, Austria, and Russia each took a third of Poland, wiping the country off the map for 123 years.  The Soviets craftily believed that Germany would be blamed and the allies would retaliate against Germany. From the perspective of Heaven World War II did indeed start during the reign of Pius XI.