Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
Tribute to a Good Shepherd - Father Tom Kroetch
When I was a little boy, I got my first communion from the Pastor at St. Agnes Church, a priest named Fr. Thomas Kroetch. It was my eighth birthday that day - Fr. Tom made a point of bringing this to the attention of the congregation, whom he incited to applaud me, and sing me Happy Birthday. I felt special that day - the eyes of the Lord himself, looking on me with love, through the presence of Fr. Tom.
Fr. Kroetch gave over 50 years of priesthood to the Archdiocese of Edmonton, serving in more places than I can keep count. Before he entered the seminary, he had been a junior high school teacher, and then he went to fight in a war - he had life experience, and it showed - in the way he was a priest. He was a priest who knew our lives, knew our pain, knew US, like the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep.
Fr. Tom was known for his motorcycle, which he took my brother and sister for rides on with him - I was too chicken to go myself - afraid of high speed driving or something. And he had a dog named Scoobie Doo (a poodle) that our family had the pleasure of taking care of the odd weekend here and there.
I recall one time Fr. Tom was preaching on idolotry - some of the content was a little over my head, but I did my best to pay attention. Then he said, "You know, worshipping an idol would be like taking a Pepsi can, putting it on a pedastle and worshipping it." "Pepsi?" I said to myself. That got my attention - Fr. Tom used language that I could relate to.
Another time, decrying the decreasing numbers of practicing Catholics, Fr. Tom commented that the only organ music many hear these days is at the Oiler's game. It got a laugh. Imagine that - laughing in church.
Fr. Tom was the first pastor I remember, and he taught me what being a priest really was. Why? Because he was down to earth; you know, kinda like Jesus, who came down to earth. When I was ordained I asked him to be one of the two priests that vested me - this was a special honor given to two priests that have had an impact on the newly ordained, acting as mentors to him. But the honor was mine, to be vested into the same ministry as was held with such dignity and compassion and love as Fr. Tom.
I had the pleasure of attending Fr. Tom's 50th Anniversary mass as a fellow priest, and in the sacristy before mass, he passed on one more piece of wisdom to me. He said, "Michael, just remember to love, and don’t be afraid to share your life with people. They’re not going to remember you for being divine, because your not, they’ll remember you for being human, and for being like them."
Fr. Tom told me his favorite hymn: "Only a Shadow."
The Love we have for you Oh Lord, is only a Shadow of your love for us, your deep abiding love.
Our job is to be human, and let God be God.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord - and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May Fr. Tom Kroetch rest in peace.