He followed his childhood dream
Diagnosed with cancer in January, Fr. Tom Fix, SCJ, died April 21 in his adopted home of Indonesia. He was 79 and had been a member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart for over 60 years.
During a visit back to his hometown of Milwaukee several years ago, Fr. Tom joked that he was like “an old library book; but I’m happy that I can still be lent out.”
The “library” that was lending him was a place that Fr. Tom called home since 1962: Indonesia. For all but three of his 53 years of ordination he was a member of the Indonesian Province. To whom was he being lent? The young District of India.
“When Fr. General asked for personnel for India I immediately volunteered,” said Fr. Tom. “I am grateful that my superior allowed me to go and that I could still offer myself to a new experience, to a new ministry. I am so lucky that I can continue to follow my childhood dreams.”
Being a missionary is something that Fr. Tom dreamed of doing since he was in third grade. “A missionary from Japan came to speak to our class,” he said. “He talked about the missions and even taught us to count in Japanese. [Fr. Tom quickly demonstrated that he still remembered how.] I thought to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do; I want to be a missionary!’”
And while many people lose enthusiasm for their childhood dreams, Fr. Tom never did. Four years later when Fr. Jim Alexander, SCJ, visited Fr. Tom’s school, Fr. Tom was anxious to study with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. “I learned they had missions –– I wanted to join them,” said Fr. Tom. That was in seventh grade. A year later he went to Divine Heart, the province’s minor seminary in Donaldson, Ind.
Fr. Tom professed his first vows in 1951 and was ordained in 1958, still holding onto the dream of serving in the missions. When he heard that there was a need for priests and brothers in Indonesia he quickly volunteered. He became one of eleven SCJs from the United States to serve in the country. Among the first to arrive, he was the last American to remain in the Indonesian Province.
“Indonesia is home for me now,” said Fr. Tom years before his death.
Fr. Tom went to Indonesia hoping to do pastoral ministry. After three years as a priest, he was looking forward to his first pastoral assignment. “I had no parochial experience when I went to Indonesia,” said Fr. Tom. His initial assignments after ordination were in formation, serving at the minor seminary and novitiate. Fr. Tom said that he relied on the Dutch SCJs in Indonesia to not only guide him in his new assignment in a new country, but in a whole new ministry, a ministry he came to love.
But often, the needs of both his province and later, the Indian District, were in formation. In Indonesia, he was on the formation team of the minor seminary and at the novitiate. During the past dozen years he had several assignments in India, assisting with its formation program.
“I loved parish ministry and would have been happy to continue in it but when there is a need I am also happy to serve,” said Fr. Tom. “It was very good for me to be with all those young people in formation and help them on their way just as others helped me so long ago…
“The Lord arranges things. The Sacred Heart has been such a blessing to me, watching out for me, always, throughout my life. Always, I am happy to give back for the many blessings I have received.”
A Memorial Mass will be held for Fr. Tom on Thursday, April 26, at 10:30 a.m., at Sacred Heart Monastery, 7335 S. Lovers Lane Road, Hales Corners, Wisconsin.