Dying relative inspired Deacon John Kronschnabel

Deacon John Kronschnabel saw his sister-in-law die of cancer, and it changed him.

“I never saw anybody get as ready for death,” he shared in a Catholic Voice article shortly after his ordination in 1994. His sister-in-law, Kay, had died nine years earlier, in 1985. The experience put him on the path to the diaconate, he said.

Deacon Kronschnabel, 90, died May 14 at the Good Samaritan Society Care Center in Millard, amid an outbreak of COVID-19. He was diagnosed with the disease shortly before his death, his wife, Helen, said. A memorial Mass is being planned for later.

He and his wife had shared their Omaha home with Kay as she underwent chemotherapy. Seeing her example was a “tremendous inspiration,” the deacon said in the article, and a reminder that “we have to keep in mind the ultimate goal, which is to get to heaven.”

Her death gave him an urgency about his faith and may have helped lead him toward ministering to cancer patients for more than 20 years at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha.

A native of Menasha, Wisconsin, Deacon Kronschnabel was a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha for more than 50 years. He served there until 2000, when he was asked to help at St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha while remaining a parishioner at St. Robert.

Deacon Kronschnabel assisted at Masses and baptisms until health problems forced him to retire from parish ministry about seven years ago, said Deacon Harold Sawtelle of St. John Vianney.

Father Richard Reiser, pastor, said Deacon Kronschnabel was helpful and positive in his role at the parish.

“John was a quiet guy who went about his ministry,” Deacon Sawtelle said. “He was a dear man who had a dry sense of humor” and loved helping at the hospital.

Deacon Kronschnabel began his hospital visits before his ordination, going every Friday for four to six hours, offering spiritual support, his wife said. He also served for a time as an on-call chaplain at night for UNMC and Bergan Mercy Hospital in Omaha.

He is preceded in death by his son Michael Kronschnabel. Survivors include his wife; children, Linda Wilson, Barbara Kronschnabel and BJ Kronschnabel; daughter-in-law Kim Kronschnabel; two grandsons; sister, Mary Kronschnabel; and a large extended family.

Memorials may be made to the Good Samaritan Society Care Center.

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