Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2002
Priest 'shared his life' for 50 years
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Never be afraid of the challenges. Just give them up to God and he'll take care of them.
"This has been my battle cry: You have to trust that the Lord leads and you just go follow."
When Father Thomas Kroetch, 78, gives a young priest a piece of advice that message tops his list.
"It takes trust in the Lord. When you think that you are being put in the wrong parish, watch it, you're probably in the right place," Kroetch told the WCR.
"If you think you love it where you are and that's the place you want to be, watch it, it might not be the Lord who wants you to be there."
Kroetch, who is celebrating his golden anniversary of ordination May 10, served the Archdiocese of Edmonton for almost 50 years.
He served as pastor of different parishes, including being the rector of St. Joseph's Basilica. He was also commissioned to the rank of a major in the Canadian Forces and served as a chaplain to Northern Alberta Military District.
"People don't remember their priests in terms of what he did. He will be remembered for who he was, and if you were there to share your life with them," said Kroetch.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., but raised in Strome, Alta., Kroetch says all his years as a priest were good, but the highlight of his ministry was the time he spent at Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer.
"I was just a young priest . . . young enough not to be too cautious. I wasn't afraid to do odd things, to really be who I am."
In the beginning, many non-Catholics were skeptical about his love for the community.
"They were very frightened by me because they were thinking I was proselytizing everybody. They soon found out that I really did not care whether people were Catholic or Protestant."
As a result, the whole community accepted him and learned Kroetch was really a community person. They also gave him the opportunity to exercise what gifts he has.
Coming from a big family - six brothers and four sisters - he finds it easy to relate to others and form good relationships with people. His desire to always share his life with people came from his parents. "They always gave of themselves. That's where everything started really."
He did not consider the priesthood as a young man. Instead, he became a teacher and was conscripted into the army in the Second World War.
"War is a terrible thing. There is no value in war."
But war presented opportunities for growth.
"The war taught me that I was happiest when I am with people - sharing my life with my fellows."
He could never overlook the time when he was living with six other soldiers and they promised to save each others' lives. "I never forgot that."
When he left the army, he realized the real source of his own fulfillment was his ability to serve and share his life with others.
He came home from Germany and returned to teaching. He liked it because, once more, he was giving himself.
"After a while, I decided to be a priest because I saw in it a new opportunity to share my life.
"I was selfish, still am selfish. I don't like it when I don't have the opportunity to share my life. So I need other people. I don't think that's really selfishness. It means that I need people."
He always served as a parish priest and says he could not have done it any other way.
"It's got to be with people. It's got to be about creating family, living with family."