Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 5, 2002
Murdered priest a 'holy man'
Fr. John Kratko called dedicated pastor, outgoing
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Prince Albert, Sask.
A former Edmonton priest recently killed in Prince Albert will be remembered as a holy man and a dedicated pastor who was loved and respected by everyone.
Father John Kratko, pastor at Prince Albert's St. George Ukrainian Catholic Parish for the past three years and founder of Edmonton's Exaltation of the Holy Cross Parish in 1977, was found on the riverbank in Prince Albert badly beaten and unconscious July 8.
He died at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon July 19, never having regained consciousness. He was 61.
Alvin Vern Starblanket, 21, a member of the Sturgeon Lake Reserve, is scheduled to appear at Prince Albert Provincial Court Aug. 9 to face charges of manslaughter or second degree murder, said Staff Sergeant Troy Cooper of the Prince Albert city police. Starblanket was on statutory release from the penitentiary at the time of Kratko's beating.
More than 400 people, including several priests from the Edmonton Eparchy, gathered at St. George's Cathedral in Saskatoon for Kratko's funeral liturgy July 24. He was buried in the priest section of Woodlawn Catholic Cemetery in Saskatoon.
"Father Kratko was a holy man who taught the Ukrainian Catholics very well," said Boris Billey, president of St. George's Parish pastoral council. "His death has affected us all. We will never be the same in Prince Albert."
"He was a charmer, a very appealing person; that's why he had so many people at his funeral," said Msgr. Rudolph Luzney, vicar general for the Saskatoon Ukrainian Eparchy. "He did good work and was very dedicated."
He was also a great eater, recalls Luzney, who worked with Kratko at St. George's Cathedral in the early 1990s. "I would cook and he would eat everything," he laughed. "He enjoyed everything. There was nothing he didn't like."
Father Don Bodnar, the pastor of Edmonton's Holy Cross Parish which Kratko helped to establish in 1977, was overwhelmed at the passing of his good friend and mentor. "When I learned about his beating up, I was upset and horrified," he said, calling the attack on the priest a hate crime. "It's one thing to rob him, it's another to beat him until he was left unrecognizable. He wasn't recognizable; isn't that a hate crime?"
Bodnar credits Kratko with his becoming a priest. When he heard the rumour Bodnar was thinking of the priesthood, Kratko immediately approached him and encouraged him to take the next step.
The priest helped him to enroll at Newman Theological College and then allowed him to do his practical work as a deacon at Holy Cross. And he was right there with him for his ordination in 1980.
"I'll remember him as the man who helped me fulfill my vocation," Bodnar said.
As a pastor, Kratko was "outgoing and very charismatic," recalls Bodnar. "He had a good sense of humour and knew how to have a good time. He was never above his parishioners; he was one with them. That's why he was loved and respected so much."
Kratko was born June 6, 1941 in Holden. He took his seminary training at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Neil Savaryn on Nov. 1, 1969. After a short assignment at St. Nicholas Church, he was appointed pastor at Surrey, B.C. In 1977, he was recalled to Edmonton to organize and build the new Ukrainian Catholic Parish of the Holy Cross, where he remained until 1985. He also did pastoral work in the Athabasca and St. Paul areas.
In 1990, Kratko was released for pastoral work to the Eparchy of Saskatoon. While at St. George's Cathedral, he was appointed pastor of the Dormition of the Blessed Mother of God (St. Mary's) Parish in Sutherland and surrounding rural parishes. He was responsible for the purchase of the rectory for St. Mary's Parish and the installation of the iconostas in 1995.
On June 1, 1999, Kratko was transferred to St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Prince Albert, where he remained until his death.