Faithful shepherd: Fr. John Swistovich retires
As Father John Swistovich enters his retirement as pastor from St. Michael Parish in Bedford, he can reflect back on two successful careers — as a leader in business and his second as leader to his Catholic parishioners.
Even as an accomplished businessman for 20 years, Fr. Swistovich recalls his priestly ordination on May 23, 1998 at age 52 as a significant milestone.
“The day I was ordained was a great day,” Fr. Swistovich said. “That was a great accomplishment for me.”
Fr. Swistovich, 73, is retiring, entering a third chapter in his life.
A native of upstate New York, Fr. Swistovich said after he graduated from college he worked in banking, finance, and sales for Lanier Business Products, where he trained salesmen.
“Those jobs moved me around from place to place,” he said. “That is how I got to Texas from New York.”
An only child, he and his parents attended St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Binghamton, New York, where he started serving as an altar server in sixth grade.
Fr. Swistovich’s upbringing kept him firmly planted in his faith, and even with all his business travels he would always seek out a local Catholic parish to join.
When he moved to Abilene, Fr. Swistovich met a priest who was a fellow New Yorker and former businessman, just like him.
He became a Eucharistic Minister and joined the Knights of Columbus at the priest’s encouragement.
Fr. Swistovich later moved to Fort Worth and joined St. Michael, where he heard about priestly vocations and met with a vocations director.
“I entered the seminary on Aug. 4, 1992 at the age of 46,” Fr. Swistovich said. Entering the priesthood was “something I was always called to,” he said.
“I just had to be ready to take the step, and I needed those years out of school that were going to prepare me to come into the priesthood,” he said. “It was God’s planning that gave me the path that led me here to be a pastor.”
His life as a priest began in 1998 when he was assigned to St. Matthew Parish in Arlington and later moved to North Richland Hills’ St. John the Apostle Parish.
He faced his biggest challenge three years later when he was named pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls, Swistovich said.
“Basically, for 50 years they were in the gymnasium in the school. I knew they wanted to build a church, but they were never able to get out of the planning stage,” he said. Fr. Swistovich knew they didn’t need another plan, he just needed to put a team in place to get the project completed.
“Basically, the Lord put me there to say ‘yes, we are going to do that,’” he said. “I was part of a team that wanted to accomplish something.”
When the 1,000-seat church was built, “the parish never borrowed a penny—all of the money was on pledges from people — so we were debt-free the moment we opened the door to the church.”
His next and final assignment brought him full circle, back to the church where he had started his priesthood — St. Michael.
At St. Michael, not only did Fr. Swistovich have a statue of St. Michael and a Marian statue erected on the parish grounds, but he also “made it a priority to improve” the worship space.
“Our place of worship has to be the center of what we do,” he said in a release. “So, I worked with the Parish Council and Finance Council to redo that area with new sound systems and light systems. We also moved the tabernacle from the chapel back into the main sanctuary of the church.
“I think it’s about getting back to the roots of our faith, and the Eucharist is the center of our faith. When you have a place of worship that is practical and inviting — where people can actually hear the Word of God and the lighting is good — it allows them to be in a prayerful place and to focus.”
Serving as a priest over the years has been “always a privilege,” he said.
“I am retiring just from the pastorship and will be in residence in one of the parishes down the road,” Fr. Swistovich said.
“I will still be celebrating Mass on a limited basis. I am still looking forward to serving God’s people and the Diocese of Fort Worth with the blessings the Lord has given me,” he said. “At my age, it’s time for the young guys to take over.”