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|Monsignor John Kozar|
Conferral Speech for Monsignor John Kozar C'67, the 26th recipient of Saint Meinrad's Distinguished Alumnus Award
Tonight’s presentation of the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award has a decidedly international flavor.
Tonight we are honoring the president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. Appointed by the Holy Father, our award recipient – Monsignor John Kozar – oversees the Catholic Church’s aid to Christians in the Near East and Middle East – about 16 countries.
For the past six years, Monsignor Kozar has been leading the organization’s mission to support the Eastern Catholic churches, to provide humanitarian assistance, to promote Christian unity and interreligious understanding and collaboration, and to educate people about the churches of the East.
The support that the agency delivers comes in many forms, including education, pastoral training, rural development programs and healthcare.
There are programs to form priests to serve the people of God in Egypt, programs to provide irrigation to farmers in southern Lebanon, to teach needy children in Ethiopia, to educate sisters in India, and to provide emergency relief to Syrian Christian refugees and to help war-scarred children in Gaza.
They are also active in areas where the Church has experienced persecution and retribution. According to a story earlier this year in America magazine, in one town in Egypt, the agency funded the repair of a section of a burned-out orphanage so the sisters living there could continue to care for 15 children. The orphanage was one of 55 church properties damaged in anti-Christian violence during 2013.
The agency also supports school feeding programs for children in drought-affected parts of the horn of Africa. It serves some of the 1 million families displaced in Ukraine as a result of fighting along the border with Russia.
For Monsignor Kozar, this interest in serving others began years ago. While he was a high school student at Saint Meinrad, where he served as president of the Mission Club, he had the opportunity to attend a national mission meeting for high school students at Notre Dame. That opened his eyes and his heart to the missionary spirit, which has become a vital part of his ministry and his vocation.
He spent eight years at Saint Meinrad, attending high school and college, graduating in 1967. He then attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
He began his ministry as a priest in 1971 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Then-Father Kozar spent the early years of his priesthood as an associate pastor at various parishes in the Pittsburgh Diocese. Quickly, it became evident that Father Kozar had a broader vision of the Church and a desire to serve in a scope that extended beyond the boundaries of a parish.
In 1978, he was named the development director for the diocese, making yearly pastoral visits to the diocese’s mission in Chimbote, Peru.
He also worked from 1987 to 2001 as pilgrimage director for the diocese, from 1995-97 as vicar for clergy, from 1995 to 2001 as diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, and from 1997 to 2001 as director of the Diocesan Jubilee Office – while simultaneously serving as pastor of several parishes.
Then in 2001, he was named national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Responsibilities for the national offices of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of Saint Peter Apostle, the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, and the Holy Childhood Association were added later that year.
And now, since 2011, Monsignor Kozar has been leading the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, or CNEWA.
In his work for CNEWA, Monsignor Kozar is “on the road” much of the year, amassing 150,000 air miles annually.
He visits the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe – most particularly the areas that are challenged by poverty, oppression, war and persecution. In some of the remote areas, he is literally the first person with white skin to be seen there.
As one of his nominators for this award remarked, “From his days as a seminarian at Saint Meinrad, Monsignor Kozar has had a love for the missionary outreach of the Church. He follows in the footsteps of the missionary monks who came from Einsiedeln to bring new life to the frontier areas of southern Indiana over 150 years ago.”
It is my pleasure and my privilege to honor Monsignor Kozar tonight for his work, his ministry and his service. He has given generously to his vocation, his diocese, and the Church at large. As an ambassador for the Pope, he has worked to deliver aid, inspiration and hope to people less fortunate than ourselves.
We are honored to name Monsignor John Kozar as the 26th recipient of the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award.