Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 28, 2009
Fr. Kroetch's wisdom, gentle spirit healed souls
Remembered for his sense of justice and equality, Kroetch died Dec 17 after 56 years as a priest
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Father Thomas Kroetch, who died at the Grey Nuns Hospital Dec. 17 at age 84, was a man who will be long remembered for his gift of love that he shared with all.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., in 1928, Kroetch, son of John Peter Kroetch and Mary Sommer, was raised in the village of Strome, east of Camrose. He came from a family of six brothers and four sisters.
As a young man, the priesthood was not something he considered, opting instead to become a teacher. He was also conscripted into the Canadian Armed Forces in the Second World War.
In a 2002 interview with the WCR, he said war is a terrible thing with no value. But it taught him that he was happiest when serving others and sharing his life with them.
"After awhile, I decided to be a priest because I saw in it a new opportunity to share my life."
Starting in 1949, Kroetch studied theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton and was ordained a priest by Archbishop John MacDonald on May 10, 1953.
Over the years, Kroetch impacted many lives for the better. He was always quick to remind his parishioners that all people are members of one human family.
Elizabeth Ann Hastings, from Edmonton, said Kroetch helped her get her immigration papers when she was a pastoral associate at St. Agnes Parish.
Calgary resident Susan Wigle said that Kroetch was a man with a joyful heart, a big smile, humour and charisma. He was a favourite at her breakfast table after Mass on Sundays when he lived in Red Deer.
Kroetch had many positions in the Church for more than 40 years, dating back to the mid-1950s, when he served as an assistant in Castor and as pastor in Provost from 1954-60.
For five months in 1960 he served as pastor at Edmonton's Sacred Heart Parish before pastoring in Red Deer (1960-67), Camrose (1967-69), and three parishes in Edmonton (1969-81). During this time, he also served a term as president of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches.
Kroetch was rector at St. Joseph's Basilica from 1971-77. From 1981 to 1982 he was on leave of study at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Ca.
MINISTRY OF PRIESTS
Upon his return he was again the parish priest at St. Agnes, Jasper, Edson and Gibbons until 1995, when he began serving in the Ministry to Priests program, a position he kept until his resignation in 1999.
He returned to part-time pastoral ministry in 1999 as Sunday vicar for Ma-Me-O Beach.
Kroetch told the WCR that the highlight of his ministry was his years 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."
Moyra Paziuk, from Bon Accord, was catechism coordinator at Sacred Heart Parish in Gibbons during Kroetch's time there.
She and her family have many happy memories of time shared with him. Her sons were altar servers there. Kroetch was a strong influence on the boys, now adults.
"He would go to my sons' hockey games, and he was very supportive that way. They always knew that they could count on him, sort of as a father figure," said Paziuk. "He was a real inspiration to the young people in our parish."
In celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary 10 years ago, Paziuk and her husband Willie renewed their vows, which were blessed by Kroetch.
"When we got remarried, he said to my husband and I that you don't love people who are smooth. He said that you love people because they have rough edges and you need something to hang on to," said Paziuk.
"That was something, after 25 years of marriage and your children are grown up, reminding us that we need to hang on to each other. He was a very wise man."
To close friends, Kroetch was known as non-judgmental and warm, a man with a gentle spirit who took every opportunity to celebrate life.
"People complain all the time that Catholics are kind of arrogant. But he used to tell you that if you weren't a sinner, you shouldn't be in church. That was one of his wise statements," said Paziuk.
Three sisters, four brothers, and numerous family and friends survive Kroetch.
The funeral Mass for Kroetch, celebrated by Archbishop Richard Smith, was held Dec. 22 at St. Joseph's Basilica. His ashes will be interred in Strome.
Donations in Kroetch's honour may be made to the Priests' Retirement Fund or the Alzheimer's Society.
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