Msgr. Srnec, archdiocese’s oldest priest, dies at 98

| January 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

Msgr. Stanley Srnec, center, poses for a photo with Father Michael Izen, left, pastor of St. Raphael in Crystal, and newly-ordained Father Marcus Milless, parochial vicar of All Saints in Lakeville, at the Leo C. Byrne Residence in St. Paul July 3, 2014. The chalice he holds, which features an inscription from his parents and his mother’s wedding diamond, was given to him for his ordination in 1942. It was handed down to Father Milless.

Msgr. Stanley Srnec, the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, died Jan. 21. He was 98 years old and a priest for 74 years.

He retired in 1996 after 54 years in ministry. Almost half —26 years — were spent as pastor of St. Raphael in Crystal, where he expanded ecumenical outreach, initiated an endowment fund for St. Raphael Catholic School, oversaw the building of a new parish center and watched parish membership grow by nearly a third. The parish honored him in 2002 during its school’s 50th anniversary, which coincided with his 60th jubilee.

Annie Sparrow, who served as a cook for Msgr. Srnec at St. Raphael, said he made decisions for the parish “with clarity and charity.”

Prior to serving at St. Raphael, he ministered at St. Wenceslaus, New Prague; St. Stanislaus, St. Paul; Most Holy Trinity, Veseli; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Minneapolis, which merged with St. Albert in Minneapolis in 1990. He was also a spiritual director at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, a role he continued into his late 90s. He lived during his retirement at the Leo C. Byrne Residence in St. Paul, but he spent the final few years of his life at Mala Strana Assisted Living in New Prague, where he died.

“He could read people wonderfully,” said Father Patrick Ryan, a retired priest who served with Msgr. Srnec at the seminary.

A funeral Mass will be offered 11 a.m. Jan. 27 at St. Raphael, 7301 Bass Lake Road, Crystal. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Memorial donations may be made to St. Raphael.

Msgr. Srnec was born Oct. 11, 1918, in Montgomery. He entered seminary in 1937 during the Great Depression, but World War II interrupted his studies. He was eventually ordained Sept. 26, 1942. His parents gave him a chalice set with his mother’s wedding diamond. Inscribed on the bottom with the date was, “Our share in your sacrifice, Mother and Dad.”

In 2000, Msgr. Srnec reflected in The Catholic Spirit on becoming a spiritual director at seminary in 1963, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council. He called the seminary environment at that time “electric.”

“The student body were picking up on all of these things, and they were anxious to get the bit in their teeth and run with it,” he said of the changes happening within the Catholic Church.

Commenting on the “more comprehensive” role for laity that emerged from the council, he said: “Young men and young women felt that they could minister in the Church without going to the seminary and being ordained. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I suppose on balance it was a little bit of both.”

“It took some adjusting to get used to the idea that we had fewer ministerial priests and religious, but we got used to that idea, too, by commissioning more people to do things as lay ministers,” he said. “For example, I had a parish business administrator after a number of years at St. Rafael. And I felt that because of that, a lot of the work of the Church was being done better because there was a man who was full time and I could devote myself more to the things that I was ordained for.”

He added: “I think that the priesthood is more vibrant now because of the theological growth and development. … It’s stimulating, it’s exciting and it means that the Church is alive and growing, it’s not a monument of the past. And that, it seems to me, makes for an exciting vocation.”

Msgr. Srnec was preceded in death by parents, John and Mary; his brother-in-law, Edwin Jirak; and a grandniece, Stacy.

He is survived by his sister, Rosemary Jirak; niece, Kathleen (Steve) Kalina; nephews, Kevin (Laure) Jirak, John (Tammy) Jirak, Robert (ReNae) Jirak and Richard (Lynda) Jirak; and 11 grandnieces and nephews.

The oldest priests in the archdiocese are now Jesuit Edward Sthokal, 95, and Msgr. William Baumgaertner, 94.

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