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Msgr. Theodore Kraus, storyteller, listener, dies at 76

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placeholder April 20, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Msgr. Theodore Kraus, storyteller, listener, dies at 76

Msgr. Theodore Kraus

Although he had retired as pastor at Santa Maria Church in Orinda in 2013, Msgr. Theodore Kraus never left.

The priest was always welcomed back to the parish to preside at funerals, to attend Christmas parties or lead a class on faith formation and other subjects. Although the priest was "quite the introvert," Msgr. Kraus "was very much an educator," said Tony Millette, the parish's director of liturgy and music at Santa Maria.

Msgr. Kraus would often share stories he collected during his five decades of ministry as a priest. He could draw quite a crowd to the various classes he led on adult faith formation, said Millette.

"He was also a wonderful storyteller," said Grace House, administrative assistant in CYO. Msgr. Kraus' office was nearby. "He often shared stories at the lunch table where we various employees of the Oakland diocese all came together for lunch.

"He talked about his days in the seminary and would leave us in a state of shock and awe," House recalled with a laugh. The monsignor was also "a good listener," she said.

Msgr. Kraus, a retired priest of the Diocese of Oakland, died April 13 following a brief illness. He was 76.

Msgr. Kraus, who had been residing at St. Mary Parish in Walnut Creek, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2013, the same year he retired.

A native of New York, Msgr. Kraus was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Buffalo in March 1963. His early years were spent in seminary and vocational ministries. He was an associate professor at Wadhams Seminary College in Ogdenburg, New York, and served as director of vocations, director of transitional deacons and newly ordained priests. He also served as administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo. In 1987, after completing a five-year term as pastor for a Buffalo parish, he moved to the Oakland diocese.

One of his first assignments in the East Bay was at Holy Names College (now University) in Oakland in campus ministry. Then he became director of formation of the diaconate, director of catechetical ministries and director of the school of pastoral ministry. He also served as the diocese's first director of faith and ministry.

Msgr. Kraus was also well known for his work internationally. This ministry began in 1974 and he held numerous titles and positions including, president of the National Association of Deacon Directors; consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Diaconate; project director for the preparation and implementation of the National Directory for the Formation, Life and Ministry of Permanent Deacons in the United States; coordinator of the National 2000 Jubilee Year National Diaconate Convocation held at St. Mary's College, Moraga, sponsored by the Bishops Committee on the Diaconate.

In 2002, he was appointed a representative of the United States Conference of Bishops to the Latin American Conference of Bishops where he was the keynote presenter and participant in the Intercontinental Initiative Forum on the formation and ministry of deacons.

In 2005, he was invited by the bishops of England and Wales to facilitate their conference's study week on the diaconate. Msgr. Kraus has also ministered to diaconal communities throughout the United States as a retreat director and as a presenter to diocesan priests' continuing formation study days on the Order of Deacon. He also served as a member of the Oakland Diocesan Permanent Diaconate Formation faculty.

Despite his contributions to the Church in diaconal ministry, Msgr. Kraus expressed his excitement to The Catholic Voice (Feb. 7, 2000), at his return to parish ministry when he was named administrator at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Point Richmond. "It is a real opportunity to be in a community of faith and to bring my gifts and share these gifts with others and I am looking forward to the people sharing their gifts with me and creating a community of faith," Msgr. Kraus said in the article.

That gift of pastoral and spiritual leadership followed Msgr. Kraus months later when Bishop John Cummins appointed him pastor at Santa Maria. For his installation service as pastor he chose "We All Are Welcome," as the opening song, a pick Millette recalled fondly. "That was it. That was the song, because for him everyone was welcome."

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