The Rev. Richard Kozak, pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Homewood, is leaving his position on June 30 after 17 years in the community.
He will offer his last Mass as pastor at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 28. A reception in his honor will follow the Mass.
A priest for 47 years, Kozak arrived in Homewood in 1998 to serve as associate pastor of the church and took the lead role in 2002. He has been a leading citizen in the community and a great supporter of Homewood activities.
He will be retiring from the administrative duties of a pastor and relocating to Valparaiso, Ind., where he will minister to members of a parish there, although he says he will be back periodically at St. Joseph.
The Homewood Village Board on Tuesday will congratulate him on his outstanding work in Homewood and wish him well in his retirement.
St. Joseph Church, at 17951 Dixie Highway, has been a meeting spot for annual parades for years, and at one time hosted the village’s farmers market. Kozak served on the village’s Ethics Board and established outreach organizing the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Prayer Service that St. Joseph has hosted twice.
“I think it’s very important that there be cooperation between the two of us,” he said. “And Mayor Rich Hofeld has always been most gracious to us.
“I think that’s part of the mission of the church. It’s not just saying the Mass but it’s reaching out to the community. I think we’ve done that. We’ve done that very well,” the outgoing pastor said.
Kozak grew up a die-hard White Sox fan on the northwest side of Chicago. Coming to Homewood he found many kindred spirits and would talk about the team and Frank Thomas, his favorite player, with parishioners.
Being directly across the street from the village complex, Kozak knew when there was a village emergency as the sirens sounded from ambulances, fire trucks and police cars. But, he says, he got used to the noise in short order. Besides, it wasn’t anything like the noise from planes going by constantly as he experienced as an associate pastor at St. Maria Goretti parish near O’Hare Airport.
The Parish of St. Joseph marked its 100th anniversary in 2012. That was one of the highlights of Kozak’s time as pastor.
“It was just a splendid celebration, but more than the celebration just seeing how many people came together to make that possible. That’s one of the marvelous things about St. Joseph: people are so committed to the parish and will work tirelessly,” he said.
Kozak said when he first arrived at St. Joseph, he never dreamed he’d someday be the pastor, but after four years as associate, “I saw how wonderful our people are and just so warm and generous and cooperative and dedicated and faith-filled” and he decided he would apply for the pastor position.
“I’m excited about retiring, not that I want to leave St. Joseph’s, that will be the difficult part, but I’m excited that I can go back to being a full-time priest again.”
Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]