Pioneer Press: Catholic leaders, relatives, friends and mourners said goodbye Friday to the Rev. Tim Vakoc — an Army chaplain who inspired faith and wonder both before and after a bomb blast in Iraq took away his speech and mobility.

In a funeral mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Vakoc was remembered as irreverent and adventuresome, but committed to his faith and to being an "intentional presence" for the soldiers with whom he served.

The Rev. Stan Mader — a seminary classmate with Vakoc — described him as the "most unmilitary and unpriestlike man I met in the seminary." He told bad puns and could be amazingly inappropriate, Mader said, but was humble and always willing to help others.

"He is not a war hero," Mader told the crowded Cathedral. "War is not what he wanted. He was a priest and he accepted the call to ministry in different and powerful ways."

Ordained in 1992, Vakoc served churches in St. Anthony and Eagan before he became a full-time Army chaplain and served tours in Bosnia and Iraq. In a quote recited by President Bush and others, Vakoc once told his sister, "the safest place for me to be is in the center of God's will. If that is in the line of fire, that is where I will be."

Archbishop John Nienstedt noted the paradox that a roadside bomb injured Vakoc in May 2004 — on the eve of the 12th anniversary of his ordination — when he was driving back from a Mass on some "makeshift altar" in Iraq. Vakoc suffered a traumatic brain injury and other wounds that left him unable to walk or breath on his own, and with limited use of his arms.