Eternal Memory: Father Robert John Karl

Father Robert John Karl, a retired priest of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, fell asleep in the Lord in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh on May 3. A priest for 65 years, he served in many parishes and contributed much to Religious Education and to the creation of the original God With Us catechetical series used in Eastern churches throughout the United States. A founder of the Eastern Catholic Eparchial Directors of Religious Education (ECDE), he also was the founder of the Byzantine Catholic churches in Texas: St. John Chrysostom in Houston, St. Basil in Irving, and the Mission in San Antonio.

Father Robert was born in Endicott, N.Y. on May 1, 1930, the son of John and Mary Kuzma Karl. As a child, he attended the public schools of Endicott, and then St. Fidelis High School/ Seminary in Herman, Pa. He became one of the first seminarians in the then-new Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh in 1951. He graduated from Duquesne University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1954, and he later earned the Master of Arts degree in Religious Education from Duquesne in 1962.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas T. Elko in the seminary chapel on May 19, 1957. His first pastoral assignment was assistant pastor of St. Mary Church in Chicago, Ill. Since St. Mary also had a parochial school, one of his duties was to drive the school bus. From Chicago he served the Pennsylvania parishes of St. Mary, Bradenville; St. John, Rankin; SS. Peter and Paul, Duquesne; and Holy Ghost, McKees Rocks. In 1982, he was sent to Texas where he founded and became the pastor of both St. John, Houston and St. Basil, Irving. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1994 as pastor of St. John, Uniontown. Then to St. John Cathedral, Munhall, Pa. with its mission in Nashville, Tennessee; SS. Peter and Paul, Portage and St. Michael, South Fork, Pa.; SS. Peter and Paul, Warren, Ohio; SS. Peter and Paul, Erie and SS. Cyril and Methodius, Girard, Pa.; St. Andrew, Gibsonia, Pa.; and Holy Trinity, Sykesville, Pa. from where he retired from active ministry on August 22, 2016.

Father Robert’s Archeparchial appointments include: Teacher of Doctrine, Liturgy and Methods in Chicago and Whiting; Director of Vocations, Johnstown, Deanery; Member of the Ecumenical Commission; Assistant Director and then Director of the Office of Religious Education; Instructor of Religious Education Methods at the Seminary; Spiritual Director at the Seminary; Protopresbyter of the Southwest Protopresbyterate; Archeparchial Consultor; Consultant to the Office of Religious Education; and member of the Renewal and Revitalization Commission.

Preceding Father Robert in death were his parents and his sister, Mary Lee Brown. Surviving him are his sister Dorothy Karl, his brother-in-law Gerald Brown, and nieces: Mary Beth Brown, Maryanne O’Malley, Mary Lynne Lee, and Mary Kristen Avini; great nieces and nephew Marykate O’Malley Kalish and family, Justin Karl Lee, Mia Sahar Avini, Adrian Amir Avini, and great-great niece Nora Mari Kalish.

Friends were received at St. John Cathedral in Munhall on Monday, May 9 and the priestly Parastas was celebrated that evening with Most Reverend William C. Skurla, Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh presiding. Most Reverend Kurt Burnette, Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic was the Celebrant, and Most Reverend Milan Lach, Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma, Archpriest Marek Visnovsky, Very Reverends Andrew J. Deskevich, James A. Spontak and Vasyl Symyon, and Reverend Fathers Oleh Seremchuk, Vitalii Stashkevych, and Stephen Wahal were the Concelebrants.
The Funeral Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Tuesday, May 10 by Most Reverend William C. Skurla. Concelebrants were Most Reverend Kurt Burnette, Archpriests John G. Petro and Eugene P. Yackanich, Very Reverend Andrew Deskevich, and Reverend Taras Lovska. Deacons Lawrence Hruska and Luke Crawford served as Deacons. Assisting were Reverend Valerian Michlik, Master of Ceremonies; Sub-Deacon Timothy Fariss, Seminarian Luke Iyengar and John Welch, Server. Martin Bovee chanted the Epistle, and the Archeparchial Choir under the direction of Darlene Fejka led the congregational responses.

A special tribute of the prayer at both services was sung in Slavonic by the European priests serving in the Archeparchy. Father Robert had great concern for them, and he was most helpful to them.

Also in his honor, a large number of priests from the Archeparchy and other Eparchies as well as many lay people were in attendance.

In his homily Archbishop William noted Father Robert’s great love for his Church and his priesthood. He mentioned the energy and enthusiasm which he offered to all of his relationships, undertakings, and many successful accomplishments.
Father Robert will be interred in his home SS. Peter and Paul Parish cemetery in Endicott, N.Y.

In blessed repose, grant O Lord eternal rest to your departed servant the priest Robert and remember him forever! n