Pastor Howard Duncan just emailed me with the news that Joe Nast died this week of heart failure. I smiled when I heard the news because Joe was an and dear friend from my earliest days in Oak Park. I think Joe was in his mid-60s when I met him, though that just a guess on my part. For the last few years, his health was not good and I did not see him often.
Joe Nast was a true-blue, old school Roman Catholic. To this day, I am still not sure how he found out about Calvary or why he kept visiting our services. I do recall his utter impatience with the liberals inside the Catholic Church who wanted to discard the traditional doctrines. Many days I would come to church and find a packet of material Joe had collected on his visits to various churches. Back when we still had Sunday night services, Joe would come to hear me teach the Bible. He often told me I was his favorite Protestant pastor. In the fall of 1989, just weeks after coming to Calvary, I was teaching the Old Testament Walk-Thru. Joe came to hear me almost every Sunday night. I still remember the first time I met him. Without much introduction, he walked up and handed me a piece of paper with some questions written on it. I still remember the very first question. It went something like this: “Jesus said, ‘I will build my church.’ But the Protestants are divided into 20,000 different denominations and sects. How could they be the church Jesus was building when there is only one Roman Catholic Church?” I’m smiling as I write this because that was my introduction to Joe Nast. Over the years we have had many discussions. We eventually became very good friends, and I learned a great deal about the Catholic Church from Joe’s patient tutelage. Because he took turns talking to all the pastors, we all got to know him, and we called him "Catholic Joe."
In recent years (until he was too weak) Joe often came to Calvary on Sunday morning, and even went with our Golden Heirs seniors group on their trips. The last time I saw him, he was a patient at the VA hospital in Maywood. We had a good talk about this and that, and he told me that he liked to listen to the tapes of my teaching from those Sunday night services many years ago. Because of his various ailments, he had endured several surgeries that made it impossible for him to get out and about. I still remember his laugh when I told him that evidently the Lord had decided to take him to heaven one piece at a time.
We became friends early on and I grew to love and appreciate him very much. Though he remained a Catholic all his life, I was always his "Protestant pastor" and Calvary was his "Protestant church." He understood the gospel and truly trusted Christ as his Savior. I do not doubt that he has gone to heaven. On behalf of all of his Protestant friends at Calvary who knew him and loved him, I extend my sympathy and love to his wife Maggie. "Catholic Joe" has gone to heaven and there is no one who can take his place.