Fr. John Kracher was the inaugural recipient of the St. Marie of the Incarnation award for this work in youth ministry at the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. Photo by Kevin Prada

Marianist priest is a lifelong guide to St. Boniface youth

By  Janelle Lafantasie, Youth Speak News
  • November 24, 2017
All communities have that one person who brings a great sense of light and life to those participating in it. For the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, Man., that presence is Fr. John Kracher. 

The 81-year-old Marianist priest is widely known in the community and, as a Marianist brother, he taught in various high schools in Winnipeg, a service he continued even after his retirement from active priesthood. 

“Fr. John is a man who devoted his life to youth,” said Kevin Prada, associate director of the Catholic School of Evangelization (CSE), a Catholic outreach and camp about an hour south of Winnipeg. 

When the Archdiocese of St. Boniface launched an inaugural award to honour someone’s impact on youth ministry, Prada did not hesitate to nominate Kracher. 

On Oct. 18, Kracher was awarded with the first ever St. Marie of the Incarnation Award at the archdiocese’s annual gala. This award was established to highlight a leader of excellence in youth ministry within the St. Boniface archdiocese. 

Many of Kracher’s former students still come to Krater for spiritual direction and now he’s been able to watch their families grow and come to know their children, as well.

Prada first met Kracher as a young man at the CSE and has felt a strong friendship and bond ever since. 

“He’s had a significant impact on my faith,” said Prada. “My faith-life was transformed (after that first meeting). I’ve had the privilege to work with him at the camps that the CSE offers in the summer and he’s been my spiritual director for a number of years.” 

Kracher said he was very humbled and thrilled to receive the award. Over the years he has seen the change in family life and in youth that ultimately calls for a change in the approach to youth ministry. 

Nowadays, he said, youth are given everything and aren’t expected to give much in return. He notes their need for immediate gratification and cellphones.

“(Today’s youth ministers) must adjust by being present, being open and sharing their faith. That’s all,” said Kracher. “Education for me has always been very important, not just at school…. If you’re going to relate with people, you need to spend time with people and walk with them.”

Kracher devoted his life to youth. He came to Manitoba from Humboldt, Sask., at 18 years old in 1954 and spent a short time working an office job. 

“I looked at life and thought, OK, I need to give my life to the Lord. It’s nice to have a life of prayer but I need to do something,” said Kracher. 

He remembered his mother once said that he had a way with youth and children. He went to the Marianist Brothers in St. Boniface and spoke to the director about religious life. 

Kracher said this decision took him on a beautiful God-given adventure. He found himself back in Winnipeg in 1971, a year after being ordained, and became an educator at St. Boniface Diocesan High School for most of his career. He briefly taught religion at Collège Louis Riel, at the Oblates’ school St. Charles Catholic School and was assistant pastor at Holy Cross Parish for one year. 

After retiring from teaching, Kracher took the position as chaplain for St. Boniface Diocesan High School for nine more years.

He has led youth retreats for the archdiocese and has been the chaplain for summer camps at CSE. To this day, he still attends monthly youth gatherings in Winnipeg. 

(Lafantaisie, 23, is a freelance photographer in Winnipeg, Man.)

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