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Paynesville Press - Feb. 12 2003

Priest collapses during mass

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Lake Henry is temporarily without a priest after Father Walter Bednark collapsed while leading the daily morning mass on Thursday.

Neighbor and parishioner Loraine Olmscheid said Bednark hurried through the service on Thursday, which was unusual. Soon after serving communion, he collapsed and wasn't breathing.

Parishioner Wally Spanier started CPR, and the Lake Henry Rescue Squad responded almost immediately. "If it weren't for Wally Spanier and the rescue squad, I'm sure he would have died," said Olmscheid.

"We're all grateful to God for those men," she added.

Bednark was taken to the Paynesville Area Hospital, where he was in intensive care for one day. He has since been transferred to a regular room.

He seems to be in good spirits, said Olmscheid, who added that he already wants to go home. As a matter of fact, he asked another parishioner to follow the ambulance when he was taken to the hospital because he thought he would be able to go home right away, she said.

Bednark recently celebrated 55 years in the priesthood. He is retired and lives in the parish house in Lake Henry. For several years he has led the morning mass and has become a valued member of the community. He was even named the grand marshal of last summer's Lake Henry Hay Raze celebration.

Since Father Bednark is in the hospital, daily mass at St. Margaret's has been canceled until further notice. Parish priest Father Leo Leisen is out of town, so it is not known who will conduct next weekend's mass. One possibility is that the church may find a substitute from St. John's Abbey, said Olmscheid.

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