Bishop Peter Esterka, S

Bishop Peter Esterka, S.T.D. was born November 14, 1935, in
Dolni Bojanovice, district of Hodonin in Czechoslovakia.
As a young boy he
witnessed the horrors
of World War II as the
front lines formed a
few miles from his
home. He spent the
closing days of that war
in a bomb shelter with
his parents and
younger sister.
In February 1948 when the Communists took over the
government and outlawed the public practice of
religion, he was a student at the Jesuit high school in
Brno. It was closed and the teachers were taken away.
During the following years conflict grew between him and the Communist teachers who
were assigned to educate him in party values.
He was refused schooling except at a
Communist training school and was ultimately
called before the secret police for interrogation.
In June, 1957,
with two other
young men, he
cut through
barbed wire to
cross the
heavily guarded
border into
Austria. Father
Esterka’s escape
story has been
under the title
Never Say Comrade (1967).
 After several months in an Austrian refugee
camp, he made his way to Rome and lived at the
Pontifical College Nepomucenum while
studying philosophy and theology at the
Pontifical Lateran University.
He was ordained a priest on
March 9, 1963, in the Basilica
of St John Lateran.
His first mission was to San
Antonio, Texas.
After three years as
assistant pastor in
Texas he returned to
Rome to earn his
doctorate in theology
at the Lateran
His dissertation
“Toward Union: The
Congresses at
Velehrad” was
published in the Journal of Ecumenical
Studies (Vol. 8, No. 1,
Winter 1971).
From September, 1967, he taught moral and
dogmatic theology at the College of St.
Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He became an American citizen in December,
In 1980 he was named full professor of
During his teaching
career, he assisted
in several parishes
in the area and from
1974-1995, he was
chaplain (Lt. Col.)
in the Air Force
Reserve Unit in
In 1978 Peter Esterka began his work among Czech
Catholic immigrants living in the United States and
Canada. With the support of Bishop John Morkovsky, he
founded the North American Pastoral Center for Czech
Catholics in 1984.
Its first mission
was to see to
the financial
survival of the
in Rome.
Two years later,
Fr. Esterka was
named Vicar for
the United
States and
Canada, which
in 1994 was
extended to
Australia. He
Monsignor in
1987 and Prelate
in 1992.
On July 5, 1999 Pope John Paul II named Msgr. Peter
Esterka Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Brno with the
stipulation that his main work would be the spiritual
welfare of Czech Catholics living outside of the Czech
Republic. He was given the titular diocese of Cefala.
On September 11,
1999, Msgr. Esterka
was ordained
Bishop in the
Cathedral of Sts.
Peter and Paul in
In summer, 2007, he published a book of
pastoral theology with the title: Rozhodni se
pro risk (Decide to Take a Risk). Published in
and for the church in the Czech Republic, it is
available only in the Czech language.
He resides at the Velehrad
California Czech Center in
Placentia, California, while
continuing to serve the Czech
communities in San Diego,
the Los Angeles area, and San
Francisco by holding monthly
Masses in the Czech language.
Even after formal retirement he continues to
oversee ministry to the sacramental and
spiritual needs of new immigrants in Chicago,
New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Australia.

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