Brother Julian Casper Przybyla, C.S.C.

Brother Julian Casper Przybyla, C.S.C., 87, died at Columba Hall, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He was the sixth of nine children born to Anthony and Anna (Romel) Przybyla in Rogers City. He attended St. Ignatius Catholic Elementary School, St. Joseph Seminary (1950-1952) and graduated from Rogers City High School in 1954. In September 1954, he entered Sacred Heart Juniorate in Watertown, Wisconsin and took first vows as a Brother of Holy Cross in January 1956, followed by perpetual profession in August 1961. Brother Julian spent the first 25 years of his religious life as a cook in several Holy Cross schools and institutions in the Midwest Province of Brothers. His last 25 years of active ministry were spent as a maintenance engineer and groundskeeper at Holy Cross High School, River Grove, Illinois. In 2005, he retired to Columba Hall, the University of Notre Dame, where he did many tasks related to the grounds, light maintenance and, finally, he served as the sacristan. Over the last three years, his progressive physical disabilities resulted either in being wheelchair bound or bedfast. He is preceded in death by his parents, and his brothers Raphael and Edwin. He is survived by his sisters, Rita Rotta  of Oakland, Loretta Ross  of Harbor Springs and Anne Przybyla  of Denver, Colorado; and by his brothers, Anthony  of Rogers City, Dennis  of Fort Wayne, Indiana and James of Rogers City; 11 nieces; seven nephews; and 13 stepnieces and nephews. 

In 1949, when Brother Julian was applying for entrance into the seminary, he had to supply a birth certificate. It was then that he discovered that he had been using the wrong name. “I went through grade school with the name Julius Jasper, and when I applied for a merchant marine license in 1953, my birth record listed my name as Julian Jasper.” It was not until 1956, that he had his legal name changed to Julian Casper.

Brother Julian never sought out a particular work in Holy Cross. He entered to serve and, for over 50 years, was either a cook or a maintenance director. “Living with five brothers and three sisters left me with little room to move, and this is the reason I wanted more elbow room.” He entered Holy Cross in 1954, “to have some room to move around.”

The few months he spent at Watertown, Wisconsin helping cook Brother Anthony Houser “was the highlight” in his new life. “Brother Anthony was one of the most kind and generous persons I ever worked with. There was nothing he wouldn‘t do for you.” A lifelong memory of his cooking sojourn “was when I was put in charge — complete charge — of the novitiate kitchen as a novice when Brother Daniel Durig went on vacation. I said to myself then, ‘If I get through these two weeks, I can get through anything.‘ The Lord was with me, and I did get through.” There were 67 novices and 14 staff persons at that time at Rolling Prairie, Indiana.

When he was assigned to Dujarié Hall at Notre Dame as a scholastic, he worked with cook Brother John Chrysostom Ryan, another good cook and generous man, but “he left you on your own more than not.” Julian found this rewarding because it allowed him greater latitude to expand his own cooking abilities and to begin to establish the rules for his cooking and his kitchen, “which I honestly knew very little about.”

From 1960 — 1968, he was assigned to Holy Trinity High School, Chicago, Illinois, and this was the first time that Brother Julian was completely in charge of his own kitchen. Wanting to please the Trinity brothers through their stomachs, Julian “tried lots of recipes. Some worked and were kept. Others were never served again.”

In 1952, Julian left the diocesan seminary because “it was too confining for me” as he desired more room to move around. “Watertown was great for this with its 80 acres, and the novitiate was fantastic for its 300 acres. Then the many years spent on the campus of Notre Dame have always held fond memories for me because that was the jewel of the crown.” While cooking at Holy Trinity, “I lived, literally, on a postage stamp plot of property.”

It was in the fall of 1980, that Brother Julian was invited to go to Holy Cross High School in River Grove, Illinois, and “I changed my entire style of life. I had been a cook since 1954, and now I planned to do something else for a change.” It was superior/principal Brother Thomas Corcoran who asked Julian to take over maintenance. After 25 years at Holy Cross, Julian recalled, “What a challenge this has been, but it has been well worth it. Perhaps, I will now take up coaching.” As long as the rules were clear, he was willing to play ball.

In 2005, Brother Julian was assigned to Columba Hall where he would live in retirement. Never one, to just sit around, Julian asked where he might help out and was given several options and told to “work out a schedule that works for you.” A man who liked a routine and putting order into things, he maintained the same schedule established at Holy Cross High School — some grounds work and light maintenance. Julian had a certain monastic aura to each day of his weekly routine. It worked well for him. He also played golf once or twice a week and was a stickler for the rules of the game — play the ball where it lands! When the position of house sacristan needing filling, Julian fulfilled it with the same steady concern for detail and accountability.

Over the last five years of Julian‘s life, he began to truly slow down. He walked a little slower each week and became progressively hunched over. What might hav

e taken two minutes for another person to accomplish, was now taking Julian five or 10 minutes. Nevertheless, he faithfully fulfilled his routine until he could no longer walk. When his life was reduced to either a wheelchair or his bed, he was lovingly taken care of by the Columba Hall nursing staff and his brothers. He played the ball where it landed until his last breath.

Visitation was held Wednesday, August 23, at St. Joseph Chapel, Holy Cross College. The Mass of Resurrection followed with interment afterward in St. Joseph Cemetery, Holy Cross Village. Kaniewski Funeral Home handled the arrangements.