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Fr. Odilo Crkva, OSB, died on Sept. 29th

Posted by Abbot Austin on September 30, 2015 at 10:00 PM



February 23, 1926-September 29, 2015



Our confrere, Father Odilo Crkva, died of cancer at St. Patrick’s Residence, Naperville, IL, late on the evening of Tuesday, September 29. Born in Brtnice, Czechoslovakia, on February 23, 1926, Francis Crkva was one of three children in the family of a poor bricklayer. Though from childhood he desired to become a priest, the expense of studying would have put his ambition out of reach had not Emaus Abbey, in Prague, offered a scholarship to his parish so that a devout young man might be sent to secondary school. Francis was chosen, but his studies were complicated by the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939 and, soon after, the start of World War II. Toward the end of 1944, the eighteen-year-old was conscripted for forced labor in a paramilitary organization. The last months of the war were spent in construction work as well as clean-up after raids on Prague and other towns by Allied bombers. Since the Russian front was approaching and there were rumors than young Czechs would be obliged to join the Red Army, Francis slipped away from his unit and back to his village. In the last days of the war, he helped direct German military traffic westwards, in a successful effort to prevent a full-scale battle from being fought in Brtnice.

With the end of the war, the young man could complete his studies and then join the revived Abbey of Emaus, professing his monastic vows on July 11, 1947. Sent to Sant Anselmo for theological studies, Father Odilo avoided the imprisonment that most Emaus monks suffered when their monastery was suppressed by the Communist dictatorship, but he found himself stranded in Rome without a community of his own. With the help of the Holy See and the Benedictine confederation, he was able to remain at Sant Anselmo for over a decade. Following his ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Secondo Chiocca at the cathedral of Foligno on July 26, 1953, Father Odilo worked on licentiates in theology, Gregorian chant and sacred composition, all the while guiding the development of an orchestra at Sant Anselmo itself. From 1957-1959, he served as the chaplain of the Benedictine sisters at Montefiolo. He then accepted the invitation of Abbot Ambrose Ondrak to cross the Atlantic and come to St. Procopius Abbey, where he was immediately put to work as an organist for the Divine Office and also taught such subjects as Latin, Greek, and Gregorian Chant. In 1968, he officially transferred his stability to St. Procopius.

Five years later, Father Odilo was assigned to drive the Abbey's van, and for the next thirty-three years he faithfully and with meticulous attention to his schedule brought the monks to their duties at the Academy and University, and carried all the mail between the Lisle Post Office and the Benedictine institutions. Only in 2006, in his eighty-first year, did infirmity at last oblige him to forego his “appointed rounds.” Even afterwards, he continued his labors as associate organist and secretary to the Abbot for Czech and German correspondence. Ever an exemplar of regular attendance at all community functions, Father "O" (as he would sing his name in memos on the bulletin board) to the end of his life much enjoyed pinochle during community recreation. Cancer was discovered about three weeks before his death and his health deteriorated rapidly in his final days.

Fr. Odilo is survived by his monastic community and one niece, Marie Navratilová, who resides in the Czech Republic.

We appreciate your prayers for the repose of the soul of our confrere, Fr. Odilo.

Abbot Austin and Community

St. Procopius Abbey

Lisle, Illinois


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