The Marians Bury a Brother

On a day of gray clouds and rain, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception welcomed a brother for his final journey back to Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

The funeral Mass for Fr. John Kobza, MIC, 88, was celebrated at 10 a.m., Oct. 9, at the Shrine. Father Kobza, who died on Oct. 4 at Villa Rosa Nursing Home in Mitchellville, Md., was a professed member of the Marian Fathers for 58 years, 55 of them spent as a priest.

A Life of Service
"He was a man of God," said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, in his homily. "When it comes to death," Fr. Kaz said, "no matter how expected it is or anticipated that death may be, there is shock. For us, death is a passing away." However, Fr. Kaz said, through the resurrection of Jesus, death is the means to eternal life. "Father John believed in this beautiful gift and revelation Jesus has given us."

Father Kaz noted that Fr. John lived a life of service, including volunteering for military duty in the U.S. Army during World War II. Father John served as a Jeep driver and delivery man in various locations during the war, including France and Germany. This was ironic, Fr. Kaz said to laughter from Fr. John's family and friends, since he was "a rather aggressive driver."

Both Fr. Kaz and Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, who gave a remembrance after Mass, noted Fr. John's deep love of sports. He was a gifted athlete at several sports, and enjoyed playing volleyball and going bowling, even in his 70s. Each noted that when Fr. John was watching sports on television, he rooted with animation and gusto - the same kind of intensity and joy that he brought to his ministry.

Joining His New Band of Brothers
"Through his teaching, his humility, and his example," Fr. Kaz said, Fr. John well served the Marians and the faithful for more than five decades as "a man of faith. He lived true to his belief in God. He was a wonderful brother and friend."

After his discharge from the Army, John Kobza received a degree in philosophy in 1950 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. During that time, he decided to join the Marian Fathers. It could be said that he had joined a new band of brothers.

John made his first profession of vows as a Marian on Aug. 15, 1951, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1954. After his ordination, he worked pastorally at various Marian houses including in Stockbridge, Detroit, Mich., Brookville, Md.; and Washington, D.C. Inspired by the call to social justice, he also ministered to the poor. Father John's other duties included chaplaincies at Walter Reed Medical Center and Veterans Hospital as well as confessor at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, all in the nation's capital.

Light-Hearted and Full of Love
"Our brother spent his life following Jesus," Fr. Kaz said. "He loved being a priest, in a quiet way. He also had a great love of Divine Mercy. The Lord in His mercy will look upon him with tenderness, and so we are gratified to God for the gift of His love."

Another pattern emerged in hearing about the life of Fr. John: He was fun to be around. He had a dry sense of humor, a quick wit, and was light-hearted. Father Kaz, Fr. Anthony, and Fr. Bernard Backiel, MIC, who also spoke after the conclusion of Mass, each shared funny stories about Father John.

Noted for his encyclopedic knowledge on a variety of issues, Fr. John also loved to garden and spent many hours outdoors enjoying nature. The Marians noted that Oct. 4 was an appropriate day for Fr. John to go to his eternal reward, since that was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who also loved the beauty of the natural world.

At the conclusion of Mass, burial immediately followed in the Marians' cemetery on the grounds of Eden Hill. The Mass and graveside service were attended by member of Fr. John's immediate family, friends and well-wishers, and many of his Marian brothers, including Fr. Martin Rzeszutek, MIC; Fr. Andrew Gorczyca, MIC; Fr. Bernard; Fr. Donald Petraitis, MIC; Fr. Kaz; Fr. Anthony; Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; Br. Ken Galisa, MIC; Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC; Br. Donald Schaefer, MIC; Br. Jim McCormack, MIC; Br. Michael Gaitley; and Br. Ron McBride, MIC.

Brother Jim served as lector for the first and second readings, and Fr. Donald read the Gospel.

In the first reading, from the Book of Isaiah, attendees heard the prophet's bold utterance that God "would provide for all His people. ... He will destroy death, forever." In the second reading, from St. Paul's letter to the Romans (8:31-39), Paul asks the rhetorical question: "If God is for us, who is against us?" Finally, in Gospel reading shared the story of Lazarus from the 11th chapter of John, before Jesus raises his friend from the dead. We hear Jesus tell us: "I am the resurrection and the life."

Donations in Fr. John's memory may be made to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, 2 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, MA, 01262.

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.

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