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Father Bernard Konda celebrates 50 years of priesthood – Konda served for 15 years as a priest for the Diocese of Juneau

The following summary of Fr. Konda’s years of ministry is excerpted from Louis Renner’s Alaskana Catholica

Bernard A. “Ben” Konda was born on July 10, 1939, in a small town near Dodge City, Kansas. He was raised on a farm-ranch, and received 14 years of Catholic schooling in that immediate area after which he began seminary studies for the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas.

When he began his theological studies in 1963, two of his brothers were already priests in the Diocese of Dodge City. To avoid “over saturating” that small diocese with three Konda priests, he decided to seek admission into the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona and he received permission to make the change. Francis J. Green, Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, accepted him and assumed financial responsibility for his theological training. From 1963-67, Ben studied theology at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado. On May 27, 1967, in Dodge City, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Forst for the Diocese of Tucson.

During his first year as a priest, Father Konda was an assistant pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul, a large parish near the University of Arizona. He was then selected to attend Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to obtain a Doctoral degree in
Canon Law. By June 1971, he had earned that degree.

Upon returning to the Diocese of Tucson, he served in various capacities, among them as Officialis of the Marriage Tribunal, Vice-Chancellor of the Curia and the first Director of the Permanent Deacon Program.

After surviving a bout with cancer, Father Konda received permission in 1976 from Bishop Green to become an “inactive” priest. During the next eight years, he rose to an executive position in a well-known health organization, and was obtained an MBA degree from Pepperdine University. He and a physician then formed their own health organization, of which Father Konda served as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Throughout those eight years, his love for the priesthood never left him. In 1984, he made the decision to return to the “active” priesthood. Always having had a desire to serve in the mission areas of the Church, he requested to be released from the Diocese of Tucson, so that he might serve in the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska. Shortly after his arrival in Alaska, on July 8, 1984, he was incardinated into the Diocese of Juneau by Michael H. Kenny, Bishop of Juneau.

Father Konda’s first assignments from Bishop Kenny included that of Judicial Vicar for the Marriage Tribunal, which Father Konda revised and updated in keeping with directives initiated by the Second Vatican Council. He was assigned also the role of Episcopal Vicar of Administration of Canonical Affairs. He was instrumental in guiding the diocese through the turbulent “post-oil-boom days,” when overall finances were in decline. While filling the above roles, Father Konda served also as Parochial Vicar of Juneau’s St. Paul’s parish.

In 1985, Father Konda was assigned Rector of Juneau’s Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish, and pastor of St. Peter’s parish in Douglas. As rector of the Cathedral, he contracted for the complete renovation of the Cathedral, which included the installation of new stained glass windows, as well as the restoration of the Cathedral rectory.

It was Father Konda who oversaw the merger of the Cathedral and St. Peter’s parishes, on July 1, 1987, into one parish, with the resulting closure of the latter. He was the last priest to celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Church in Douglas.

In 1988, Bishop Kenny granted Father Konda sabbatical leave from the diocese to assist the newly formed Diocese of Victoria in Texas. For ten months, he served there as Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Marriage Tribunal. He was next asked by the Archdiocese of Seattle to assist them with the total revision of their Marriage Tribunal, which he did from 1989 through 1991. During that period, he continued to serve as Judicial Vicar of his home Diocese of Juneau, as well as Canonical Advisor.

In 1992, Father Konda returned to Alaska, and served for six months in the Archdiocese of Anchorage as a member of a team of “sacramental priests” who traveled near and far to bring the Mass and Sacraments to parishes and missions not having a resident priest.

Upon his return to the Diocese of Juneau in mid 1992, Father Konda was given a similar assignment by Bishop Kenny. He was to “sacramentally assist” at the various parishes and missions in the diocese that had no resident priests.

From 1992 to the summer of 1995, Father Konda served as pastor of St. Gregory Nazianzen parish in Sitka. He was instrumental in the renovation of the church and rectory. The first move toward the restoration of “the old church” was made at this time. He was also active in the Ecumenical Alliance and served a term as its president.

Father Konda was with Bishop Kenny the evening before the latter left for Jordan. By this time, Bishop Kenny had already assigned Father Konda to become pastor of Holy Name parish in Ketchikan and visiting priest to its mission at Metlakatla. Many projects were accomplished at this time: a parish hall was constructed; the parking lot black-topped; the rectory, school and Annex renovated.

In 1998, he suffered an injury related to icy conditions. This brought on a severe arthritic condition, which was greatly aggravated by the cold, rainy climate of Southeast Alaska. His physician advised him to seek relief in a hot, dry climate. Bishop Michael W. Warfel gave Father Konda permission to spend his last five years before retirement in his original Diocese of Tucson with the status of “working outside the Diocese of Juneau.”

In July 1999, Father Konda was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Tucson. In December 2000, he was named the Administrator of St. George Catholic Community in Apache Junction, Arizona. In March 2002 he became its pastor.

In April 2003, Father Konda suffered yet another setback due to cancer. Upon the recommendation of physicians, he retired in July 2004. By that time, he had rendered 15 years of service in the Diocese of Juneau and 15 in the Diocese of Tucson.

Confidently, and with satisfaction, Father Konda could quote the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: “Let their heroes be those priests who have lived during the course of the centuries often in lowly and hidden service and have left behind them a bright pattern of holiness.”
– Fr. Konda currently resides in Bel Aire, Kansas. He recently assisted the Diocese of Juneau by presiding at Holy Week services for St. Rose of Lima parish in Wrangell.

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