Famous priest marks anniversary in Orange this weekend
Last updated 5/23/2023 at 8:54pm
Father Jim Sichko, a Roman Catholic priest who has traveled the world as a missionary of mercy for Pope Francis, will return to his hometown this weekend to celebrate his 25th anniversary of his ordination.
The graduate of West Orange-Stark High School has become internationally famous for his giving as he raises money to give away. He has helped thousands of people after disasters and through personal tragedies. He also hands out cash or gift cards to strangers as a way to brighten their day.
Sichko will be mass at St. Mary and St. Therese, both in the Old Orange Historic District. His masses at St. Mary, 912 Cherry Avenue, will be Saturday, May 27, at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 28, at 10 a.m. St. Therese is at 1409 Sixth Street, and he will be there at 8:30 a.m. mass Sunday.
Sichko is the son of the late Bill and Marie Sichko and he grew up in St. Mary Parish here. He has been volunteering to help others since he was a child.
Though he is now based outside of Lexington, Kentucky, he has remained close to his friends and family here and travels back home often. His sister, Thereze Sichko, is the longtime secretary for the West Orange-Stark athletic department and he usually stays at her house, accompanied by his service dog, Gracie Marie, a bloodhound who assists him in his evangelical work.
Sichko had his ordination at his home church in Orange and has since spread out. He became known for coercing performing stars like Dolly Parton, Harry Connick Jr., and Jay Leno to perform for benefits to help raise money for his Kentucky church.
He also became known for his inspirational messages and has published two books with collections of his wisdom and thoughts of God.
Seven years ago, Pope Frances made him an official papal missionary of mercy. He made worldwide news, and the comedy shows, when he visited the Vatican and gave the pope a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle rare bourbon. The gift brought a big smile from the pope and that photograph traveled the globe.
Someone, or two, or three, leaves bottles of collectible Kentucky bourbons on Sichko's doorstep each week. He gifts the bourbon to people or auctions them to help his mission.
His parents had Italian roots and his mother was locally renowned for her cooking and generosity. Sichko worked with a company to carefully recreate her spaghetti sauce recipe and it is now sold as Miss Marie's Spaghetti Sauce. Proceeds from the sauce go to three different charities, including the Hospice of Southeast Texas in Orange.
Sichko has also been among the first to come help his hometown after the hurricane disasters in recent years. His donors filled an 18-wheel trailer with goods he brought here and handed out with gift cards and cash. He also collected books and supplies to help the Orangefield school district after Harvey and paid utility bills for parents needing some help.