Fr. Richard Rakoczy was a pillar in parish life, a ‘deeply spiritual priest’

Fr. Richard Rakoczy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit for 61 years who served as pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford from 1995 to 2008, was known for his strong homilies, abiding spirituality and deep involvement in parish life, say those who knew him best. Fr. Rakoczy died Nov. 14 at the age of 86. (Archdiocese of Detroit photo)

WATERFORD — Credited with bringing the Knights of Columbus and the Daughters of Isabella to St. Perpetua Parish, Fr. Richard Rakoczy encouraged involvement in parish life.

For 13 years, Fr. Rakoczy was pastor of the Waterford parish, known for his “no nonsense” style, but often was seen about the parish, getting involved with youth catechism, visiting families in need and sitting down with just about everyone who was registering with the parish.

Fr. Rakoczy died Nov. 14. He was 86.

Richard Rakoczy was born to Andrew and Sophie (nee Koziel) Rakoczy on Dec. 24, 1933, in River Rouge.

After completing undergraduate studies at St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake in 1951, he earned a master’s in philosophy from St. Mary’s in 1954 before finishing his theology education at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth in 1955.

Fr. Rakoczy was ordained by Cardinal John F. Dearden of Detroit on June 6, 1959, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He served as an associate pastor of Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Detroit from 1959-63 while earning a post-theology graduate master’s in religious education from the University of Detroit.

Fr. Rakoczy completed associate pastor assignments at SS. Peter and Paul (West Side) in Detroit in 1963, St. Veronica in Eastpointe (1964-70) and St. Clement in Dearborn (1971-77) and an administrator assignment at St. Rita in Detroit (1976). Fr. Rakoczy also earned a post-theology master’s in divinity from St. John’s Provincial Seminary in 1972.

In 1985, Fr. Rakoczy got his first pastoral assignment at St. Patrick Parish in Carleton, serving 10 years at the Monroe County parish before heading north to Waterford, where he was pastor of St. Perpetua from 1995 to 2008.

Brenda Dotson moved to St. Perpetua in 1994 with her family and got to know Fr. Rakoczy well when she and her husband were preparing for marriage.

“We found out my grandparents knew his brother, so we had this extra connection,” Dotson told Detroit Catholic. “He married us, ended up baptizing my nephew and my two children, buried my grandfather and was at the first Communion of my older son. He was definitely present for a lot of events in our life that were important to us.”

Dotson, who is a member of the Daughters of Isabella, a Catholic organization for women similar to the Knights of Columbus for men, served as a catechist at the parish and remembers Fr. Rakoczy would often pop into class, asking students about the projects they were working on, showing a genuine interest in the lives of his youngest parishioners, as he would with all of his parishioners.

“He was always zipping around. He didn’t just do Mass and you’d never see him; every activity at the parish has some presence of Fr. Richard,” Dotson said. “I remember we were working on a craft during catechism, and he’d walk in and see the kids had a project that said, ‘He is risen,’ and he’d ask, ‘Who has risen?’ And I was thinking, ‘Please let someone answer this right.’ The kids would say, ‘Jesus is risen,’ and he would say, ‘Oh, very good.’ He’d always question what we were working on; it wasn’t just ‘Hi and bye.’ He would stay in each room and have a little interaction.”

Visitation and rosary for Fr. Rakoczy took place at Riverside Chapel in Waterford on Nov. 22, including an honor guard from the Knights of Columbus council he helped establish at the parish.

“Fr. Rakoczy knew having a strong group like the Knights of Columbus within the church would lead to more activity and a stronger parish,” said Mike Droll, a faithful navigator at the St. Perpetua Knights of Columbus Council No. 3302. “He came to our monthly meetings and said prayers for the group. He was a very spiritual, but very much a no-nonsense priest. He didn’t stray in his homilies at all; he was very strong to the Scriptures.”

Even after his time as pastor of St. Perpetua ended, Fr. Rakoczy would be a frequent visitor to the parish for Mass and meals.

“He shaped the parish to what it is today,” Droll said. “He was always available for confessions for people. He wasn’t sick much at all, always there on Sundays. The people will miss his kindness and his deep spirituality and his friendliness.”

Fr. Rakoczy’s funeral took place at St. Perpetua on Nov. 23, and his burial will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.

Fr. Rakoczy is preceded in death by his parents; and siblings, Edward (Stella), Frank, Valerie, Walter (Helen), Henry (Mary), Fr. John Rakoczy, and Harry (Vicki). He is survived by his sister, Genevieve Rakoczy; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.