Fr. Ted Pracz to mark golden jubilee with April 24 Mass at Holy Family, Danville
HOOPESTON — He consented to be interviewed for his 50th anniversary of ordination, but Father Ted Pracz asked that the story be short and to the point.
“God deserves the thanks and the glory,” he said simply.
And that’s how Father Pracz will observe his golden jubilee on Sunday, April 24. He plans to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. at Holy Family Church in Danville, where he happily served as pastor for 21 years. (Editor’s note: The Mass time was recently changed from originally published plans.)
Joining him will be as many priests as are able to come, including three other senior priests of the Diocese of Peoria who were pastors at Holy Family: Canon J.J. Flattery, Father Robert Hoffman and Father Dennis O’Riley. The homilist will be Archabbot Lambert Reilly, former spiritual leader of St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana.
A reception will follow.
Father Pracz calls his ordination on April 23, 1966, one of the most joyful moments of his life. Bishop John B. Franz presided at the Mass, which was celebrated at the LaSalette Seminary in Olivet.
All of his ministry has taken place in Vermilion County, except when he helped priests in Paris, just over the line between the Peoria and Springfield dioceses. “But that doesn’t count,” he said with a laugh, as he sat in the living room of his cozy Hoopeston home.
While he lives in the midst of farm fields, he doesn’t farm the land.
“I farm the church,” Father Pracz said. “I still do ministry every weekend. Absolutely. I wouldn’t miss it. It’s my joy.”
Because there are three retired priests living in the Danville area, he most often assists at St. Malachy in Rantoul and St. Elizabeth in Thomasboro. He also continues to celebrate Mass in Spanish and take baptisms and funerals, when needed.
“I always have this vision of open hands,” Father Pracz explained. “When people come to receive the Body of Christ their hands are extended. . . . It’s receiving a gift — Jesus giving himself to us — and it’s giving a gift. What’s he going to come to, an empty heart? I’m going to say, ‘Here’s mine, too.’”
“WOULDN’T GIVE IT UP”
Father Pracz credits his vocation to Father Vincent Nowicki, the pastor at St. Pancratius in Chicago, where he grew up, and his mother Mary, who brought him and his six brothers and sisters to the United States from Poland when he was a child.
Father Nowicki showed him what it meant to be a happy priest and that’s what people need to see, according to Father Pracz.
“If you’re happy you can’t hide it. It shows,” he said. “The joy comes from the Lord that you’re serving. He’s the center of that joy.”
“If you’re happy you can’t hide it. It shows. The joy comes from the Lord that you’re serving. He’s the center of that joy.” — Father Pracz
His mother’s faith spoke volumes, even though she said little.
“Whatever she did she was always very conscious that she was serving the Lord,” Father Pracz recalled. “We saw it in her example, we saw it in her devotion, we saw it in her sincerity. That’s what it was. Those things stay with you.”
Impressed by a young LaSalette priest from his parish, Father Pracz decided to enter the community. He attended high school at the LaSalette seminary in Olivet and went on to study philosophy and theology at St. Procopius Seminary in Lisle.
After ordination, he taught Latin and religion and served as guidance counselor at Schlarman High School in Danville. It was hard work, but he enjoyed seeing how life unfolded for his students and rejoiced that they had something on which to build their lives.
As happy as he was to be their chaplain, Father Pracz said he had always had a desire to do parish ministry. He was named pastor at St. Anthony in Hoopeston in 1982 and would serve there for 10 years before being sent to Holy Family in Danville.
In 1992, he also was incardinated into the Diocese of Peoria and said nothing could make him happier than to be a priest of the diocese.
“That’s what I enjoy now. I go to different parishes and it broadens my understanding and appreciation for the people of God,” Father Pracz told The Catholic Post. “How beautiful our church is. . . . Every place you go, there’s your family.”
Giving himself to Divine Providence, as he has all his priestly life, “I wouldn’t give it up until God calls me home.”
Cards and notes of congratulations may be sent to Father Pracz at 10225 E 4200 N Road, Hoopeston, IL 60942.