COLORADO SPRINGS. (Editor’s note: Following is the next installment of the Herald’s monthly series profiling a priest or deacon serving in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. This month we feature Father Ken Przybyla, who has served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs since 2011.)
Father Ken Przybyla grew up in the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois. He was raised by his aunt and grandmother because both of his parents died when he was a young child. He lived next door to his parish church and school and spent a lot of time as an altar server.
“Whenever there was a wedding, funeral or special Mass, I usually got called upon,” he said. “Then I trained other altar boys.”
“Growing up, I thought about many things to do,” he said. “Priesthood was one of them. When the other things passed away, the call to priesthood remained.”
Father Przybyla earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Ambrose College and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He was ordained a priest on May 21, 1977, for the Diocese of Peoria. Following ordination, he served at several parishes around Illinois and as a campus minister at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. From 1991-95, he served as pastor of the Western Home Mission of Mercer County, Illinois, which was made of up of three parishes and two missions located along the Mississippi River. When the river flooded in 1993, forcing the evacuation of local residents, the parish church became the center of operations for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other relief agencies.
In 1994, a priest he had met at Notre Dame asked Father Przybyla to consider moving to the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
“He called me and said, ‘We’re a mission diocese and we desperately need priests,’” Father Przybyla recalled. He was released from service in the Diocese of Peoria and was appointed by Bishop Richard Hanifen to be administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Salida. Over the next several years, he primarily focused on restoring the church building, replacing pews, windows and other items.
“My second nature is fixing things, and the church needed a lot of work,” he said. On May 21, 1998, Father Przybyla was incardinated in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
In 2000, Bishop Hanifen asked him to become pastor of Pax Christi Parish in Littleton — a rapidly growing parish made up primarily of young families.
“When I got there, we had about 800 registered families,” he said. “When I left, there were more than 2,000 families and I had baptized more than 1,300 babies.”
In 2011, Father Przybyla was named pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs. A year later, the Waldo Canyon fire broke out, and he was once again called to shepherd his parish through a natural disaster. A total of 23 families from the St. Francis of Assisi lost their homes. The parish collected gift cards and other donations to help those displaced by the fire. They were also invited to display anything that survived the blaze in the parish hall.
As pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Father Przybyla has held many Christ Renews His Parish retreats, and he credits the program with drawing parishioners into deeper relationship with each other.
“You get to know people; there’s a lot of sharing,” he said.
In his free time, Father Przybyla enjoys hiking, biking, snow-shoeing and tennis.
“My favorite thing about being a priest is to celebrate Mass and preach,” Father Przybyla said. “I have been blessed multiple times by God and I hope to humbly serve him and his people.”
(Those who feel they might be called to the priesthood or permanent diaconate can contact Father Kyle Ingels at email@example.com or Deacon Chris Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.)