The Rev. Ted Pracz arrived at Holy Family Catholic Church quietly 21 years ago — and he wants to leave quietly.
His parishioners, however, have other plans for the beloved priest, who could do without the fanfare.
Pracz will say a Mass of Thanksgiving at noon Sunday at the church, and that will be followed by a reception until 3:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Pracz, 75, will begin what he calls his “active retirement” on Tuesday, when he moves to the East Lynn area and his replacement arrives. The Rev. Steven Loftus, pastor in Rock Island, will be the new leader at Holy Family.
“It’s been a very joyful and uplifting experience,” Pracz said. “It’s been a grace-filled 21 years.”
Many parishioners hate to say good-bye to the priest, who’s known for his energy and cheerfulness.
Debbie Paul, who’s active in the church, said, “Father Ted has lived the last 21 years in selfless servitude — not only to the Holy Family parish, but to our community. He is one of our area’s great earth angels and he will be sorely missed.”
Pracz meets all challenges with unwavering faith and a positive attitude, she said.
An example is a building program to add a multi-purpose parish hall onto the south side of the church. The hall would hold 250 people and have five or six classrooms, as well as a kitchen, choir rehearsal room and storerooms.
Pracz said he has presented an agenda to the bishop for approval, and the project “might take a serious step in the fall,” he said. Fundraising has been going on for almost two years.
“The people have been very supportive,” he said. There has been no adequate place for parish and youth activities since the school was sold to Danville District 118.
Pracz also said he’s enjoyed his time in Danville, adding, “I’m extremely happy with the kind of people we have here at Holy Family. They’re down-to-earth people interested in their families and honest work. It’s a warm, welcoming parish.”
The parish has been like a family to him, and he feels sadness when a member dies. In his 21 years, he’s missed only one funeral.
In his “active retirement,” he plans to help out at area parishes as needed.
He also plans to continue making visits to nursing homes and to the Danville Correctional Center, where he has served in prison ministry. The nursing home ministry is important, especially for those residents who don’t have families, he said.
“We need them more than they need us,” he said. “It gives us a way to live out our mission to take care of each other. Our humanity is what joins us together, and our love in Jesus Christ elevates us to the divine.”
Pracz has been active in community groups, such as the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee, and he’s going to miss that.
He also enjoyed the time when he worked as a counselor with students at Schlarman High School, adding, “You feel energized when you work with kids. They bring you into discovery, adventure and hope.”
Another talent that Pracz brought to Holy Family was his ability to speak Spanish, and he would say Mass in Spanish at noon. This Sunday’s Spanish Mass will be at 10 a.m.
When he was assigned to St. Anthony’s Church in Hoopeston, he had to work on his Spanish. The parishioners were very helpful, he said.
Pracz described his years here as rewarding, saying, “I’ve had a wonderful time in all of my priesthood.”
Paul also described Pracz as having a heart of gold, and going above and beyond to help anyone. He’s been there for the people, she said, and has rallied them during difficult times.
“He’s been a blessing,” she added. “It’s exciting for him, but sad for us.”
Born in Poland, Pracz came to Chicago with his parents when he was 2 years old. He grew up speaking Polish, and learned a lot from the mixed-culture children in his neighborhood.
Pracz attended high school at the Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette in Olivet. He earned his philosophy and theology degrees from St. Procopius Seminary in Lisle and was ordained a priest for the LaSalette Fathers in 1966.
He spent eights year as a guidance counselor at Schlarman — the first priest to hold that post.
He became pastor of St. Anthony’s in Hoopeston in 1982, and was active in Hispanic ministry. In 1992, he was assigned to Holy Family.
He said that, from the beginning, he never asked for an assignment, and he never refused one.
The Rev. Ted Pracz will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at noon Sunday at Holy Family Catholic Church, 444 E. Main St., followed by a reception for him until 3:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 310 Bryan Ave. Light snacks and refreshments will be served.