By Rachel Noel / Freelance Writer, OND
Father’s Day, observed June 16 this year, provides an opportunity to honor the men who have nurtured and mentored us throughout our lives. It is also the weekend the faithful of the Diocese of Crookston are invited to acknowledge the retired priests who have served as spiritual fathers. As evangelizers, they helped raise the spiritual foundations of the Catholic faith in this diocese. They presided at worship and sacraments, visited the sick and counseled, consoled and prayed with people in moments of spiritual need.
The Diocese of Crookston has a privileged responsibility to support a reasonable and dignified retirement for its priests. On Father’s Day, the “Collection for Retired Priests” (Father’s Day Collection) is taken in every parish. It is an expression of appreciation for the retired priests. As elder priests, many of them continue to serve the people and parishes of the diocese. Through prayer and various ministries, they continue to exemplify Christ’s love and mercy, serving according to their level of health and priestly charisms and gifts.
“Our retired priests were modestly compensated throughout their careers as our pastors and leaders,” said Reathel Giannonatti, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development at the Diocese of Crookston. “Health insurance costs continue to rise, so there is a covenant agreement between our retired priests and the Diocese of Crookston that, for as long as a priest lives, his healthcare will be provided for.”
Priests usually continue ministering long after their retirement.
“Our priests work until they are 70 years old serving the Diocese of Crookston. Almost always, health permitting, they continue to substitute for their brother priests, offer retreats, and continue to participate in diocesan events and celebrations,” Giannonatti said.
The Collection for Retired Priests funds the Medicare supplements, as well as dental and vision expenses for the retired priests.
“The excess of what we need for the medical expenses is invested in the Priests Retirement Trust,” Giannonatti explained. “Should a retired priest need long term care, the Diocese of Crookston also provides for a portion of those expenses.”
As a three-year cancer survivor, the Father’s Day Collection is close to retired priest Father Duane Pribula’s heart.
“I will be 76 years young on Sept. 26. Maintaining my health and well-being by exercise, diet, prayer, friendship and some form of ‘limited pastoral ministry’ is important to me. Having the medical health insurance supplement allows me to continue serving Jesus Christ and God’s good people for as long as I am able. The Collection for Retired Priests sustains us retired priests now in our limited but important pastoral ministry.”
Father Pribula was ordained for the Diocese of Crookston on June 13, 1970. He retired on Sept. 30, 2013 at age 70. He refers to himself as being in a “semi-retired” phase of life. Father Pribula’s priestly service and Gospel witness continues in full-swing now that he is free of administrative duties. On Oct. 1, 2013, he was hired to be a priest/chaplain at Riverview in Fargo, a branch of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). His chaplain obligations include celebrating Mass each Sunday, and four weekdays. Additionally, Father Pribula continues to have extensive involvement in various secondary pastoral capacities.
“Over the course of my 49 years of ministerial priesthood I have been involved as a chaplain in Beginning Experience (for divorced, widowed and separated women and men), Marriage Encounter, Cursillo and TEC (Teens Encounter Christ),” said Father Pribula. He continues this work today. “I make some time to serve as a chaplain among a Catholic family-life and marriage support group of seven Fargo-Moorhead couples. The support group is named Teams of Our Lady,” he said.
Father Pribula also has a passion for social justice that ignited while he was in high school during the Civil Rights Movement. He served various diocesan, state-wide and national social justice appointments for more than 35 years.
“I am also actively preaching and supporting ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical regarding care for Mother Earth and responsible care of our life-environment ... human life, water, soils, the forests, air, and all living creatures.” In addition to promoting ‘Laudato Si’, Father Pribula is a member of several social justice groups.
Since his college years in the late 80s, Father Pribula has financially supported educational programs for children through Catholic programs like UNBOUND. He currently sponsors a young woman in Guatemala and a young man in El Salvador.
Father Pribula has traveled to Central America on UNBOUND “mission awareness trips” to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico. He has also traveled to Guatemala and Venezuela in support of Father Larry Wieseler and Father Greg Shafer.
“My most memorable missionary experience has been to the beloved people of El Salvador; I have been a pilgrim to El Salvador twice,” he said. “St. Archbishop Oscar Romero is one of my heroes; in the year 2000 I was able to visit his tomb, as well as the chapel site where he was assassinated on March 24, 1980.”
During the first three years of his semi-retirement, Father Pribula was involved in an outreach program to the Fargo Cass County Jail; the jail has a capacity for 340 men and women.
“Incarcerated people often invite prayer and conversation,” he said. “I was privileged to celebrate the sacraments with a number of the inmates … including the Anointing of the Sick, and Reconciliation or Confession, and I brought Holy Communion to a number of the Catholic residents; and by their request I prayed with a number of women and men who were not Catholic. The Holy Spirit is everywhere!”
Today Father Pribula corresponds with several men serving time in federal penitentiaries.
With roots in both Minnesota and North Dakota, Father Pribula’s allegiance is to the Midwest.
“I have family and extended family in the Fargo-Moorhead area and in the East Grand Forks and Grand Forks area. I want to stay close to my friends and family. I have five living brothers and sisters whom I visit as often as possible,” he said.
Father Pribula has several hobbies in retirement.
“I am a man of the soil. I enjoy planting seeds, weeding and harvesting vegetables in my brother’s garden. I enjoy nature walks in state and city parks. I am an avid photographer of nature and travel experiences. I have been known to fly a kite when the breeze is fair, or attend a local baseball game,” he said.
Gifts to the Father’s Day Collection are meaningful, appreciated investments, and provide for the care and comfort of the spiritual Fathers who gave their lives in service to diocesan communities. Please consider honoring retired priests by donating in your Sunday envelopes on Father’s Day, June 16.