Mother of 9 was 'serious about church'
Although Esther Czekaj's last name is Polish for “Wait a minute!” she was not the kind of person to wait for things to get done. That was especially true when it came to her adoptive Catholic faith.
Mrs. Czekaj was responsible for bringing dozens of people into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA.
“She was a natural teacher,” her daughter Becky Czekaj-Dengler said.
Herself a convert, Mrs. Czekaj helped teach RCIA classes at the former Transfiguration Catholic Church, Mt. Pleasant, and St. Pius X Catholic Church. She also sponsored people enrolled in RCIA who were preparing for baptism.
“She supported the new candidates and taught the weekly lessons,” said her husband, Theodore. “Every week, there was a different team responsible for a certain lesson.”
Esther L. Czekaj, of Mt. Pleasant, died Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at home. She was 77.
Born in Norvelt on Oct. 27, 1940, she was a daughter of the late William and Alice (Fligor) Martz. She graduated from the former Hurst High School in 1958.
She and her husband met at a Sunday night dance after Mr. Czekaj left the service. Even though he did not have a car, they were able to date because Mrs. Czekaj worked in Mt. Pleasant and stayed with her grandmother there.
“We used to walk downtown and go to movies downtown,” he said.
Mrs. Czekaj converted to Catholicism when the couple got married.
“She was baptized and confirmed the night before. … The first time she took communion was on our wedding day,” her husband said.
She went on to teach CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes for 27 years. In addition to being a Eucharistic minister, she was active with Bible studies, faith sharing groups, consolation ministry and homebound ministries.
Mr. Czekaj said his wife's involvement helped him be a better Catholic.
“I grew up Catholic, but my family wasn't really into it. We went every Sunday, but it was just more of an obligation. She believed in being not just an attendee at Mass but a participant,” he said. “She was very serious about church.”
The mother of nine children, Mrs. Czekaj had another family in the 36 children she babysat at home over the years, Czekaj-Dengler said. The babysitting business was a way for her to stay at home and earn extra money.
“She not only raised her children, she raised three dozen more,” she said. “The children were brought to her house early in the day, and she would get them ready for school and help get them on the bus.”
Mrs. Czekaj is survived by her husband of 58 years, Theodore Czekaj; seven children, Corinna Grief of New York City, Brenda Costanzo of Pittsburgh, Michelle Czekaj of Mt. Pleasant, Rebecca “Becky” Czekaj-Dengler of Mt. Pleasant, Theodore “Ted” Czekaj of Mt. Pleasant, Andrea Poole of Mt. Pleasant, and Elizabeth “Beth” Kopko of Pittsburgh; and nine grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 12 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Brooks Funeral Home, 406 Washington St., Mt. Pleasant. A blessing service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday, followed by a 10 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Pius X Catholic Church, Mt. Pleasant. Interment will follow at Transfiguration Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to the Jake Czekaj Memorial Environmental Foundation or St. Pius X Catholic Church.