Priest spent ministry serving Holy Rosary

Father Joseph Meznar once wrote he wanted to be a priest so he could see Christ.

While attending Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Rosary Parish with his mother when 5 years old, the young Meznar asked her what the priests saw when they looked toward the altar.

His mother, Mary Rose, said, “Jesus.”

“At that point I was determined that one day I would be a priest and be able to see Jesus,” Father Meznar wrote in a letter to parishioners before his retirement in 2009.

Father Meznar spent his life ministering to faithful in the Archdiocese of Denver before his death June 5. He was 82.

A Denver-native, Joseph Albert Meznar was born July 11, 1932 to John Paul and Mary Rose Meznar. His Austrian family had a history of ties with Holy Rosary Parish. His mother received her first communion there and later married her husband at the church. Both Father Meznar and his brother, deceased Father Robert Meznar, were baptized at Holy Rosary.

Father Joseph Meznar

Father Joseph Meznar

Father Meznar attended Swansea public school and Annunciation school before earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from St. Thomas Seminary, now St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. He was ordained May 31, 1958 and celebrated his first Mass at Holy Rosary.

He first ministered to the community at Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster as assistant pastor. He continued there for 10 years until becoming pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Holyoke in 1968. Father Meznar also worked as a chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in Denver before assigned to Notre Dame Parish in the 1970s. His ministry continued at Notre Dame Parish from 1977-1982. He was pastor at Holy Rosary for 27 years until 2009.

During this time, he was supportive to a few priests during their vocation discernment, including Father Dennis Schaffer, now retired, when they became friends at Notre Dame Parish.

“He taught me how to say the Liturgy of the Hours,” Father Schaffer said. “He was a caring individual, and a very encouraging person.”

He was a private person, but “always very present to me whenever I wanted to talk to him,” he added.

Father Meznar’s funeral Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, was held June 12 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. His interment followed at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.