Pastor at Saint Mark’s retires

Published 2:49 am Thursday, September 20, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – After 14 years of memories at Saint Mark Catholic Church in Niles, Father Joseph Koma is retiring.
Known for being up front and having a great sense of humor, Koma is going to spend some much needed time reading and relaxing at the Holy Cross House at Notre Dame.
Koma is a Holy Cross priest of Notre Dame, Ind., and has just completed his 29th year serving the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Father Thomas King, who is a priest at Holy Cross, will be stepping in to take Koma's spot.
This Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., the church will be holding an open house to wish Koma good luck with his retirement. The event will take place in the Saint Mark Parish Hall and is open to all.
Koma admitted his reason for retiring is "old age. It's just time," the 81-year-old said. "But I will miss being here. It's a very comfortable atmosphere and I am very satisfied with my 14 years here. I have met some good people and everyone I have worked with is very appreciative. I feel privileged that I was able to be their pastor," he said.
Koma has a long history with churches in this area, including being pastor at Saint Mary's Church in Paw Paw and Saint Mary's in Three Oaks and Saint Margaret in Otsego. He's also had the enjoyment of working in Granger, Ind. and Sawyer.
Koma was born in Bethlehem, Penn. The name alone may have something to do with his interest in the Lord. Koma said all of the surrounding cities in the area have biblical names, but it wasn't until he was in ninth grade that he realized he had an interest in the seminary.
"An assistant pastor tried to get me interested in it. I have always had a warm feeling and have been attracted to priesthood, so I looked into it more and this is where it took me," he said.
While Koma has years of memories, most all of them good, he still will never forget the incident that happened just three years ago at Saint Mark.
"I had a knife held to my head. A guy broke into the church and tried getting in the safe, took some other items and had a big knife. He is serving his time though," Koma said. The man was charged and sentenced to 18-45 years.
"That was a pretty scary incident, but it's not what I will remember the church by. I'll remember the people and how nice everyone has been."
Koma said the church currently has around 259 families involved in the parish. About two thirds of them are over 65 years old.
"Most of them have been at this church for years and I will miss them," he said.
Koma's last official day is Sunday, Sept. 30, where he will give his final service at Saint Mark. After that, he will be looking forward to some much needed free time.
"Being alone in a place like this (Saint Mark) you always keep busy and there's not much time for extras. But I really enjoy reading so I am going to do a lot of that and praying," he added.