FORT JENNINGS, Ohio -- The Rev. Joseph J. Przybysz, who developed a quick rapport and then lasting connections as he served parishes urban and rural in nearly 38 years as a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, died Monday in Parkview Regional Medical Center, Fort Wayne, Ind. He was 67.
He had diabetes and a heart condition, said Msgr. William Kubacki, diocesan vicar for priests. Father Przybysz was on medical leave as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Fort Jennings, where he became pastor in 2005.
"He was an effective pastor," Monsignor Kubacki said. "He cultivated friendships from the various parishes he was in."
"He was a jovial person, and he could relate to people on their level," said the Rev. Francis Speier, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Toledo, and a friend since seminary. "He enjoyed his ministry. He took his life seriously, but not so seriously that he couldn't laugh at things."
Father Przybysz was ordained May 24, 1975, in Rosary Cathedral by Bishop John Donovan, and his first assignment was as an associate pastor at Regina Coeli Church in Toledo. In 1976, he became an associate pastor of St. Peter Church, Huron, Ohio. He also became a chaplain of the Huron Fire Department.
He returned to Toledo in 1978 as an associate pastor of Christ the King Church. He was named pastor of the affiliated parishes of St. Peter in Archbold, Ohio, and St. John in Stryker, Ohio, in 1985. Because of his Polish-American heritage, Father Speier said, he was assigned in 1994 by the late Bishop James Hoffman to be pastor of St. Hedwig Church on Lagrange Street in a traditionally Polish-American neighborhood of Toledo.
"He had a good sense of the neighborhood. He absorbed himself into the parish," Father Speier said.
Father Przybysz presided at the funerals of elderly parishioners and comforted families, and he had a gift for talking to young children at Mass, said Sister Valerie Grondin, who was principal of St. Hedwig's school and became a close friend.
"He was very good with all age groups," Sister Valerie said. "No matter where you went with Father, he knew somebody and stopped to give them a 'Hello, how are you?'"
Father Przybysz had been a chaplain for the Toledo polie department and for the St. Edward Council of the Knights of Columbus. He also was an associate member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he was born March 20, 1946, to Anna and Joseph Przybysz. He was a graduate of St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake, Mich., and received a master of theological studies degree from Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, also in Orchard Lake.
Surviving is his sister, Barbara Ann Przybysz.
Visitation is to begin at 4 p.m. today in St. Joseph Church, Fort Jennings, followed by Vespers at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, where the body will be after 9:30 a.m. A Mass also is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday in St. Michael the Archangel Church, Lackawanna, N.Y., where visitation will begin at 9 a.m.
Tributes are suggested to the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania; the Diocese of Toledo, or Baker Victory Services, Lackawanna, N.Y.