Lisle, Illinois ~ The Most Rev. Daniel W. Kucera, O.S.B., retired Archbishop of Dubuque and fifth abbot of St. Procopius Abbey, died in Dubuque while his confreres were singing Vespers on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the fortieth anniversary of being nominated titular bishop of Natchez (Mississippi) and auxiliary to the bishop of Joliet.
William Kucera was born in Chicago on May 7, 1923, second of the four sons of Joseph and Lillian Kucera. A member of Blessed Agnes Parish, he learned at an early age of the Benedictines of St. Procopius, and in 1937 he followed his older brother, the future Father Mathias, in coming to the schools in Lisle.
The young man’s sense of responsibility and managerial talent were recognized very early, and from the time he was a sophomore in high school, he assisted the rector, Father John Cherf. Every night after supper, William would be in the office, balancing the books. He also worked on the school paper, the Procopian News.
Following his sophomore year in college, William entered the monastic novitiate. After professing vows on June 16, 1944, he continued his studies toward the priesthood. In 1945, he was appointed registrar for the schools, a position he held until his ordination by Bishop Martin McNamara on May 26, 1949, at St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral in Joliet.
Over the next years, Father Daniel did some teaching in the Academy, but his major assignment was obtaining a master’s degree and doctorate in education from The Catholic University of America. Completing his dissertation on “Church-State Relationships in Education in Illinois,” he was awarded the Ph.D. in 1954.
Father Daniel was then placed in charge of the Education Department at St. Procopius College. Two years later, after the Academy moved to the campus of the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage and Father Adolph Hrdlicka was appointed President of the College, while Father Daniel became College Dean of Studies. The two monks cooperated closely in obtaining formal accreditation for St. Procopius College.
In 1959, at the age of thirty-six, Father Daniel was named President. Over the next five years, a second residence hall and a library were built for the growing student population. With the help of Father Francis Clougherty, Father Daniel developed the College’s lay board in ways that permitted ever greater use of the expertise of friends of the school.
The monks of St. Procopius on July 8, 1964 elected Father Daniel, then forty-one, as the fifth abbot of the community. His blessing at St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral on August 19 saw the first use in the U.S. of the newly- approved practice of concelebration — a fit foreshadowing of Abbot Daniel’s role in carrying into effect the reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council.
As well as changes in the liturgy, incorporation of the lay brothers into the full life of the community, and renewal of formation, Abbot Daniel led his confreres in a reexamination of their apostolic works. The seminary was closed, and both Academy and College became coeducational institutions. At the same time, the Chinese missionary effort the monastery had begun in the 1930s was revived with the establishment of a priory on Taiwan.
Abbot Daniel also announced, only three months after his election, his determination to move ahead with the building of a new church and monastery. This idea had been discussed for a quarter of a century, but now the new abbot’s energy and management brought the plans to fruition. Working closely with the architect, Edward Dart, and Father Michael Komechak, whom he appointed to coordinate the project, Abbot Daniel in June 1970 saw his labors crowned with the blessing of a building that would win several architectural awards in the years ahead.
Soon after, Abbot Daniel, who had long believed that creativity and energy were best stimulated by changes in leadership, decided to resign his office and return to the presidency of what was about to become Illinois Benedictine College. Father Roman Galiardi, who had succeeded Abbot Daniel as President in 1965, was completing his service in that position, and Abbot Daniel felt that the school would best be served if a monk succeeded him.
So, in 1971, Abbot Thomas Havlik was elected and Abbot Daniel (by his own choice) again became known as Father Daniel, as for another five years he oversaw the College’s continued development. A new gymnasium, the Dan and Ada Rice Center, was constructed, and the school’s first graduate program, the Master’s in Business Administration, was inaugurated.
In 1976, Father Daniel, resigning the presidency, accepted the post of Chairman of the College Board of Trustees. He hoped, through fund-raising efforts, to support the work of his successor as President, Dr. Richard C. Becker.
However, in early June 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Father Daniel titular Bishop of Natchez (Mississippi) and auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Joliet. His episcopal ordination by Bishop Romeo Blanchette took place at St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral on the feast of St. Daniel, July 21, 1977.
Bishop Daniel’s educational stature was soon recognized by his appointment as a Trustee for The Catholic University of America. But the situation in Joliet soon required most of his attention, as the health of Bishop Blanchette, struck down by Lou Gehrig’s disease, deteriorated. From January until August of 1979, when Bishop Joseph Imesch arrived, Bishop Daniel served as Apostolic Administrator.
On March 11, 1980, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Daniel the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas. He was installed on May 23, his fifty-seventh birthday. During his three- and-a-half years in Salina, he reorganized the diocesan offices for greater efficiency and raised funds for the construction of a Catholic student center at Fort Hays State College.
Bishop Daniel was named the eighth Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, on December 20, 1983, and was installed on February 23, 1984. Here as always, he placed great stress on leadership development, and the quality of his pastoral letters was much admired, as was his gift for delivering a homily or address perfectly fitted to his hearers. From 1987-1990 and again from 1992-1993, he served as the treasurer for the National Council of Catholic Bishops.
Feeling a diminution in energy, and pleased with the 1994 arrival of Coadjutor Archbishop Jerome Hanus, O.S.B., Archbishop Daniel submitted his resignation, which was accepted by the Holy Father on October 16, 1995. In “retirement,” he moved to Aurora, Colorado, where his younger brother, Father Edward Kucera, O.S.B., was stationed. For over a decade, well past his eightieth birthday, he assisted as a minister of confirmation within the Denver Archdiocese and as a respected speaker and retreat-master for a variety of groups all over the country. In the summer of 2007, he took up residence at the Villa Raphael in Dubuque, and three years later back and hip problems obliged him to move to the Stone Hill Care Center, where he remained until suffering a major heart attack a few days before his death.
Archbishop Daniel visited St. Procopius often during the years, and after his retirement he presided at most of the community’s ordinations. His presence at the monastery was always a pleasure anticipated and enjoyed by his fellow-monks. He remained close to his classmates from Blessed Agnes (now St. Agnes) Parish, often attending their various reunions.
Archbishop Daniel is survived by his monastic community, and, by two brothers, Fr. Edward, O.S.B., and Henry.
In memoriam, a candle burns brightly at table in the monastic refectory. The Archdiocese of Dubuque will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial on June 6 at St. Raphael’s Cathedral.
The Abbot and Monks will receive his body on Friday, June 9, 2017, at Vespers, 7:00 p.m. The monastic community will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m., on Saturday, June 10, 2017, the forty-seventh anniversary of the blessing of the abbey church and monastery. Interment will be at the abbey cemetery on the campus of Benedictine University.
Please remember Archbishop Daniel in your prayers.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.