Father Anton Krajci, 1918-2006


Father Bernard Fisher celebrated Father Anton Krajci’s Mass of Christian Burial. He knew him well. In addition to being classmates, both men served in the missions of New Guinea. Below is the transcript of Father Fisher’s eulogy.

"The Lord will come in glory and show Himself wonderful in His saints."

A few days ago in East Troy I was saying my office [daily prayers] when the telephone rang to tell me that Tony Krajci had died and would I attend the funeral? As I reached for my prayer booklet it occurred to me that Tony would never say his again. Then I took up the breviary again to read the daytime prayers and the words struck me: "The Lord will come in glory and show Himself wonderful in His saints."

In the life of Tony Krajci, the Lord certainly showed Himself wonderful. Tony told us, his fellow seminarians, that he came from the streets of Chicago with the bright-eyed awareness of everything around him, much like a sparrow coming into our bird feeder. His intelligence and his excellent work habits kept him near the top of his class.

His great athletic ability made him stand out on the playing field. And his deep Catholic faith made him one of those seminarians whom you instinctively felt would survive when so many failed, to become a missionary priest to carry to the end of the world the words of Jesus: "Preach the Gospel to every creature."

After ordination in August 1945, our class had to study theology for one final year and then be dispersed among parishes and seminaries while the world tried to recover from World War II. But in 1947, Fathers Krajci, Shadeg and Lunzer took a ship to Singapore and then New Guinea where they found a jungle full of people just emerging from the Stone Age. Far from being primitive, they are intelligent, industrious, highly motivated, and curious about the civilization pressing in upon them.

The prefect apostolic, Father Willem van Baar, wanted an English secretary to manage his huge vicariate, which is now nine dioceses, and he chose Tony who did everything so well and so cheerfully. But new bishops were appointed, English speakers at Australia's wish. So the Dutch Father van Baar retired in Australia to write his excellent memoirs, and Tony got a jungle parish beyond Wewak. He worked there for years until the Franciscans were given the whole lot as a diocese for themselves.

Meanwhile, I had followed my trio of classmates to New Guinea and received a huge slice of new territory, which now has six parishes. Tony received the territory that was farthest away from the bishop, and the most remote segment of it was Landor at the top of the Ambum valley. With his intelligent application, Tony made it an outstanding parish with good schools and classes of catechumens preparing for baptism.

When New Guinea was ready—had high schools full of Catholic young men and women—it was time to open a major seminary to prepare local men for the Catholic priesthood. This idea is certainly opposed to much of the local culture which values warrior strength, sex, polygamy, material wealth, popular honor and especially grandchildren. But there is a deep religious feeling among the people, an appreciation of motivation, a willingness to make great sacrifices and a great love for others. These last virtues they saw demonstrated in the lives of the missionaries. Father Krajci had no difficulty in finding young men to study for years to become priests "like Father Tony." Down the Ambum valley at Sikir, Father George Schubbe was giving the same lesson to his people. And getting Catholic laity and seminarians just as was Father Tony.

One of the young priests, I think his name is Father Arnold, has become a bishop. I don't know exactly where his father's house is, in Tony's parish or George's, but the young men know and value both of these foreign missionaries, one from Chile and one from Chicago. God has worked his wonders through of both these Divine Word Missionaries. And the people of the Ambum valley, who were in the Stone Age when Tony was ordained to the priesthood, have received the preaching of the Gospel of Christ and are now an adult portion of the Catholic Church.

All this demanded an immense sacrifice of Father Tony's energy and time, but he was glad to give that to God in order to further the designs of God for Tony's people, the human race. Though an outstanding one, Tony is not the only one; there are tens of thousands of Church leaders doing the same, each in his individual fashion. But, as the Old Testament assures us, such people shall shine like the stars of heaven forever.

If we were thinking of raising a monument to Tony and soliciting funds, I am sure you all would consider giving something. I do suggest a monument, not of stone or jewels, but of prayers. Tony was a human being and therefore, by definition, imperfect, sinful. I could not list any of his sins, but God could. Even Tony himself could; he was remarkably candid. So I now ask: before you leave this church will you each say one prayer for the eternal repose of Tony's soul! And I can make you a promise. Tony, who was so gracious and helpful and thankful during his earthly life, will certainly be no less so now that he is in eternity. We can pray to him, confident that he is close to God who will give him his close attention. Tony, pray for us as we do for you that we all may end up in the same place, the kingdom of God in heaven.

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