The Diocese of Phoenix’s oldest priest passed away Dec. 17, just a month shy of turning 100.
Fr. Joseph Krynen spent some seven decades wearing a Roman collar with more than half of it in the Diocese of Phoenix. He had no problem leaving Arizona, however, if it meant he got to explore holy sites in Europe and North America. He loved visiting Marian and saint shrines in places like France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Mexico and Quebec.
Fr. Bruce Downs, who considered Fr. Krynen his best priest friend, traveled with him quite a bit. They also visited one another often within diocesan boundaries.
“He and I played chess for the better part of 25 years every week or two when our parishes were fairly close to each other,” Fr. Downs recalled. Their last match was a month or so ago. They were pretty even competitors.
The late priest, a native of Netherlands, was in the seminary when World War II broke out. He would read stories of that era later on in life, especially with Catherine Fuller, a parishioner at Resurrection in Tempe.
Fr. Krynen was ordained June 15, 1946 for the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) who have 1,200 members in 42 countries. He spent 26 years as a missionary in Africa.
“His focus was to build parish life in the various villages and create an environment that would support a Church that was self-sufficient, run by African religious people,” according to Fr. Krynen’s biography written for his 80th birthday and updated after his death.
A Tanzanian dialect was among the at least six languages he spoke.
Fr. Krynen added Spanish to that collection after coming to the U.S. He came to Phoenix in 1974 and spent the next 14 years at parishes with significant Spanish-speaking populations — St. John Vianney in Goodyear, Holy Family in south Phoenix, where he helped build a parish center and revitalized the community, and St. Mary in Chandler, among them. Fr. Krynen was incardinated into the diocese in 1979 and retired the first time in 1988.
The pace of retirement didn’t suit the former missionary, biker and swimmer well. Plus, he was only approaching 70 and all 10 siblings lived until at least age 90, so Fr. Krynen came out of retirement in 1990 and cared for Catholics in Gila Bend, Yarnell and Congress until his final retirement in 1994.
An encounter in Yarnell with the priest who founded Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, a network of orphanages in Latin American countries and the Caribbean, allowed him to again travel as a priest. He served at orphanages in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Honduras.
Though “retired,” the priest celebrated Mass well into his 99th year. The majority of those were at Resurrection Parish in Tempe in fulfillment of a promise a priest friend made to allow Fr. Krynen to stay with him in retirement.
“He was a Resurrection treasure,” said Fuller, who knew him for roughly 20 years.
She noted Fr. Krynen’s charm, intellect, passion for reading and passion for music, especially the opera.
“He always emphasized love,” Fuller said.
His later retirement years also included prison ministry, counseling those less fortunate and those suffering from addictions.
10 a.m. Jan. 12
Resurrection Parish, 3201 S. Evergreen Road, Tempe, AZ, 85282