Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Gnat


Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Gnat, Dunmore, retired Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, died Wednesday at Geisinger Mt. View Care Center. He and his wife, the former Katherine Stanczyk, celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary April 4, 2017.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was the son of the late Walenty and Rose Radecki Gnat.

He completed his studies for the priesthood at the Savonarola Seminary in Scranton, Pa., and was ordained a priest of the Polish National Catholic Church on Sept. 18, 1958, by the late Prime Bishop Leon Grochowski in historic St. Stanislaus Cathedral in Scranton.

From September 1958 to 1959, Father Gnat was assistant pastor at St. Stanislaus Cathedral. In February 1959, Father Gnat was assigned as pastor of St. Francis PNC Parish in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and for a time served as administrator of Holy Cross PNC Parish in Baltimore, Md. During his pastorate in Washington, D.C., Father Gnat represented the Polish National Catholic Church in many instances. He assisted at the laying of a wreath on Woodrow Wilson's tomb and a wreath at the bier of the Ambassador to America at the Polish Embassy in Washington. He also attended the Installation of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Father Gnat also represented the Church and the official newspaper of the Church (Rola Boza) at the State Department meeting on foreign policy for non-governmental organizations and at the White House Conference of Civil Rights. He was also a representative on the National Council of Churches, participating in June 1970 during its general board meeting. While in Washington, he studied at the American University.

In 1978, Father was appointed a senior priest, and also in 1978 at the General Synod of the PNCC, he was elected a bishop of the church and consecrated a bishop in St. Stanislaus Cathedral, Scranton, by the late Prime Bishop Francis Rowinski on the Feast of St. Andrew on Nov. 30, 1978.

Upon consecration, he became Diocesan bishop of the Eastern Diocese, comprised of parishes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and also named as pastor of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Manchester, N.H. Bishop Gnat continued in this position from Nov. 30, 1978, until Nov. 2011, at which time he retired, and he and his family moved to Dunmore, Pa. Until his illness and medical problems started in 2016, Bishop Gnat and his wife attended as many high school plays, community theater productions and religious concerts as they could, enjoying the excellent talents in Pennsylvania. They also did a lot of sightseeing, going to Williamsport, Pa., a ride on the Hiawatha, the Dorflinger Glass Museum, the Yuengling Brewery and a scenic boat ride around Lake Wallenpaupack, to name a few.

Bishop Gnat was active in many of the Polish National Catholic Commissions, such as the liturgical, Bishop Hodur Biography and the School of Christian Living. He was chaplain of the National United Choirs, a position he held for many years, and a member of the Hymnal Commission. He was well known for his love of music and singing.

Bishop Gnat was well-respected for his knowledge of the constitution and by-laws of the Polish National Catholic Church and was called upon many times to interpret these laws. During the synods of the PNCC, Bishop Gnat was asked to conduct the synod sessions, especially those having to do with the constitution of the PNCC.

Also surviving are one son, Joseph Walenty Gnat, Dunmore; one brother, Carl Gnat and wife, Sheila, Fort Myers, Fla.; one sister, Geraldine Gnat, Redwood City, Calif.; numerous nieces and nephews. He was also preceded in death by three infants, a daughter and twins, a daughter and son.

Thank you to Dr. Salvatore Lawrence for his care and concern and his patience.

Thank you to the staff at Geisinger Mountain Care Center, especially B corridor, for their professionalism, care and genuine compassion.

Thank you also to PA Ambulance for driving carefully to avoid those potholes in the road and for being so nice. You know who you are.

Thank you to his sister-in-law and husband, nieces, friends and clergy who visited him in the nursing home and hospital and to those who sent countless cards and prayers for his recovery.

Mass will be celebrated Tuesday, June 27, in St. Stanislaus Polish National Catholic Cathedral at 10 p.m. A vesper service will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral. Interment, parish cemetery.

Friends and family may call Monday, 5 to 7 and Tuesday, 9 a.m. until time of Mass.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Clergy Pension Fund.

Arrangements: Leon S. Gorgol Funeral Home.
Published in Scranton Times on June 23, 2017