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Msgr. Stanley Krempa set to retire

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On the eve of his retirement, Msgr. Stanley J. Krempa, 73, pastor of St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville and newly elevated to monsignor, reflected on the strength of the Catholic communities he has served.

“I say this often: ‘No priest is by himself,’” Msgr. Krempa said. “I always knew that I had people to support me and work with me as well as priests to encourage me.”

He said it was especially true for his last assignment: building a church. As part of his duties as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Winchester (1999-2017), he oversaw the mission of St. Bridget in Berryville.

“There was an existing Catholic community here for over 30 years that had Mass at an Episcopal church,” Msgr. Krempa said. “But it was a great opportunity to build our own church and I think that we succeeded. The building committee helped deliver a church that was very well received by the people.”

Msgr. Krempa is grateful that parishioners responded very generously and that the parish is virtually unhindered by debt associated with the construction. At Sacred Heart, he also oversaw construction of a new wing for the school, Sacred Heart Academy, which was blessed by Bishop Paul S. Loverde, as well as a school gym, which opened last year and was blessed by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. In a surprise move, the gym was named after Msgr. Krempa.

In July 2017, he was appointed the founding pastor of St. Bridget. He is seeing growth of the parish community with 300 registered families and about two new families registering every week.

“I think Catholicism has really blossomed in Northern Virginia and increasingly here in the northern Shenandoah Valley,” Msgr. Krempa said. “We laid the foundations and the next pastor and the pastors after him will build on that.” 

Asked if he had any advice for those who may fill his shoes, he offered a few pointers.

“I don’t know if I’d give any advice on preaching, but I know the pope said that you shouldn’t go over nine minutes,” Msgr. Krempa said with a laugh. “And for anyone being ordained, or any priest really, I think the key is to respect the people that you serve.”

In addition to serving as pastor of the diocese’s newest church, he also served as pastor of Arlington’s oldest, St. Mary Church in Alexandria, from 1991 to 2000, now a basilica.

“We did a lot of things in the parish there, but one that stands out is celebrating the bicentennial (in 1995), its 200 years as a parish,” Msgr. Krempa said.

Since diocesan boundaries were redrawn regularly throughout St. Mary’s history, he invited prelates from three dioceses: Arlington Bishop John R. Keating, Richmond Bishop Walter F. Sullivan and Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler. Bishop Sullivan could not attend due to a scheduling conflict. Msgr. Frank J. Hendrick, the former pastor, delivered the homily for the Mass commemorating the bicentennial and the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio Agostino Cacciavillan closed out the celebrations at the end of the week. 

“In conjunction with that celebration, we opened Stephens Hall,” Msgr. Krempa said. The hall, named after the previous pastor, was a former convent that was renovated to serve as the main building for junior high students. 

As for the honorific title of “monsignor,” bestowed upon him and two other Arlington priests May 6, he once again credits the parishioners.

“It is an honor and I greatly appreciate receiving it,” Msgr. Krempa said. “But it is an honor given not just to an individual but to the entire community, acknowledging its life, work and commitment to the Catholic Church.”

In retirement, Msgr. Krempa is still hoping to assist with Masses and confessions at parishes that need it as well as attending diocesan events.

He said that he also will write, including work on a new edition of his previous book of homilies, Captured Fire.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018