BIRMINGHAM — A fair arbiter, a great mentor and a not-half-bad office singer, Msgr. Ricardo Bass was a man of many talents.
Known for his jovial attitude no matter where he was or what he was doing, Msgr. Bass' warm personality and upbeat persona made him a joy to be around, say people who knew him best.
“He was a happy-go-lucky guy who was always in a good mood,” said Kathleen Jurewicz, bookkeeper at St. Hubert Parish in Harrison Township, where Msgr. Bass served as pastor from 2011 to 2017. “I could count on one hand the times he lost his temper. He was always very upbeat and loved to tease you in a good way.”
Msgr. Bass died unexpectedly on July 21. He was 72.
Born in Detroit on June 21, 1947, to Hatten and Dorothea (Lopsinger) Bass, Ricardo Erwin Bass was ordained a priest by Detroit Cardinal John F. Dearden on June 15, 1974.
After two associate pastor posts at St. Philomena in Detroit (1974-78) and St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park (1978-81), he was made pastor of Our Lady of Loretto in Redford Township for two years (1988-90) before being named judicial vicar in the Metropolitan Tribunal under Cardinal Adam J. Maida in 1990.
He was also tasked with reviewing cases of discipline involving clergy and advising the cardinal.
“Msgr. Bass was very intelligent and a good problem solver,” said Msgr. John Zenz, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Birmingham, who was moderator of the curia during Msgr. Bass’ time as judicial vicar. “He could draw on many different fields, whether canon law or common sense or theology, and could make good decisions. He always made himself available to the archbishop, and wanted to be available for whatever was asked of him.”
As judicial vicar, Msgr. Zenz explained that Msgr. Bass had to deal with difficult situations regarding canon law and discipline, but he was always fair in explaining the process.
“He really knew canon law and could present all sides of canon law,” Msgr. Zenz said.
If a person was receiving discipline, Msgr. Bass could help the person understand the circumstances and consequences of their actions, and when advising someone in charge of making decisions, “he’d tell you the arguments on why you needed to take action on something,” Msgr. Zenz said. “He was always there to lend his expertise.”
Msgr. Zenz added that even during those difficult assignments, Msgr. Bass still had a kind, jovial spirit.
“He had many stories — mostly humorous — and a nice way of teasing people and affirming people,” Msgr. Zenz said. “He was always honest, and you knew where you stood with him. He was a gentlemen, a class act, always very polished and refined.”
After his time as judicial vicar, Msgr. Bass returned to pastoral work at St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores (1993-2004), where he mentored Fr. Roman Pasieczny, who at the time had recently arrived from Poland and was getting acclimated to American parish life.
“I was blessed to serve with Msgr. Bass at St. Joan of Arc from 1996 to 1998, and he was my friend, teacher, adviser and mentor,” said Fr. Pasieczny, now pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica. “He made me feel welcomed. Msgr. Bass was very dedicated, friendly, educated and a highly respected priest and pastor. His parishioners and friends loved him and held him in high esteem. We will miss him dearly.”
During his time at St. Joan of Arc, Jurewicz, Msgr. Bass’ trusty bookkeeper who worked with Msgr. Bass for more than 20 years across three different parishes, remembers a time when Msgr. Bass was presiding over her brother’s funeral.
“My brother died at a young age, 46, and Msgr. Bass did the funeral at St. Joan of Arc,” Jurewicz said. “He must have had a homily in mind, but on the day of the funeral, my sister-in-law brought in my little niece, who was only 8 years old. Msgr. Bass wasn’t aware my niece would be there for her father’s funeral, and when he realized she was going to be there, he completely changed his homily.
“He made sure it was something an 8-year-old could understand,” Jurewicz recalled. “He had time for everybody.”
Jurewicz followed Msgr. Bass to his remaining pastoral assignments: Prince of Peace Parish in West Bloomfield (2004-11) and St. Hubert, where Msgr. Bass was granted senior priest status in 2017.
Msgr. Bass was fun to work with, Jurewicz said, often singing in his office for everyone to hear and updating people on the latest developments of the TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”
“He’d give you this play-by-play of what happened, why this person won, why this person was cut,” Jurewicz remembered. “I think everyone will just remember him as a guy who was interested in a lot of different things, but most of all who loved people. He was a good friend whom I could go to for any problem. He was a great man and will be missed.”
In addition to his pastoral assignments, Msgr. Bass also served on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, College of Consultors and on the advisory council for the archdiocese's Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services.
Visitation for Msgr. Bass will take place at A.J. Desmond and Sons Funeral Home, 2600 Crooks Rd., Troy, on Thursday, July 25, from 3-8 p.m. with a rosary at 6:30 p.m. and Scripture service at 7 p.m.
Msgr. Bass will lie in repose at Holy Name Parish, 630 Harmon St., Birmingham, on Friday, July 26, from 10 a.m. until his funeral Mass at 11, with Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda presiding. A procession to White Chapel Cemetery will immediately follow the funeral.
Msgr. Bass was predeceased by his parents, Hatten and Dorothea; his brother, Jack; and his sister and brother-in-law, Donna and Robert Hammes. He is survived by his brother, Tom, and his wife, Angela; his sister-in-law, Olga; and several nieces and nephews.