Father Svobodny remembered for prayerfulness

| December 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

Father Al Svobodny

Father Al Svobodny of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, died Dec. 4. He was 96.

A native of Minneapolis, he served nearly three decades at Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo. Though blind since 2000, he continued to serve Christ the King, where he was public relations director for 27 years.

Father Jim Deegan, director of Christ the King, gave the homily at Father Svobodny’s funeral Mass Dec. 10 at St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo. He also told The Catholic Spirit about his long-time friend and fellow Oblate.

“First of all, he was very, very prayerful,” Father Deegan said. “He never had to say to the Lord at the end of the day, ‘This day has just been too busy. I can’t pray.’ He prayed every day.”

Father Deegan met Father Svobodny in 1958, when Father Deegan was an eighth-grader at Assumption School in Richfield and Father Svobodny was director of vocations for the Oblates.

Father Deegan said he was struck by the joy he saw in the young priest, and was inspired to pursue the Oblates, making his first vows in 1958 and being ordained a priest in 1970.

Father Svobodny joined the Oblates in 1943. He was ordained to the priesthood June 5, 1949, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

In addition to his ministry at Christ the King, Father Svobodney served as vocations director for the Oblates, as a teacher in Carthage, Missouri, and as pilgrimage director at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. He also worked at Holy Family parish in Duluth and was the editor of OMI Communications for his order’s former central province.

Father Svobodny’s health began to fail in recent years, and he moved to a care center in Buffalo in February 2017. Father Deegan brought him there and regularly visited the man who always showed joy and gratitude and remained steadfast in his commitment to daily time with God.

“Prayer was really the hallmark of his life,” Father Deegan said. “I never had a visit with him, no matter how short it was, where there wasn’t a prayer.”

Often, there were jokes to go with them. An important part of Father Svobodny’s joy, Father Deegan said, was his sense of humor.

“He was known for telling a lot of jokes here at King’s House at the end of a retreat,” Father Deegan said. “He cut about four CDs of jokes, and he’d always say, ‘These are available for the incredibly low price of $5.’”

One of Father Svobodny’s trademarks was greeting people in the lobby as they came in for retreats. He would always say, “Welome to the House of Christ the King,” Father Deegan said.

In his homily, Father Deegan said, he declared that “today, the Lord in heaven is saying, ‘Father Al, welcome to the heavenly home of Christ the King.’”

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Category: Obituaries