Bishop Peter Esterka

Bishop Peter Esterka

November 14, 1935 - August 10, 2021

Bishop Peter Esterka

November 14, 1935 - August 10, 2021


Bishop Emeritus Peter Esterka dies

At 7:30 am on August 10th, in California, the Bishop Emeritus Mons. Peter Esterka, a native of Dolní Bojanovice, entered into eternity.

Bishop and doctor of theology, Peter Esterka, Auxiliary Bishop (Emeritus) of Brno, Titular Bishop of Cefala, and Bishop for Czech Catholics in Diaspora, died in California on August 10 2021. After the last farewell in the Christ Cathedral of Orange County, in the midst of his community of Czech compatriots in the USA, for which he cared for many years as a priest and later as a bishop as part of the Czech Catholic Mission, his body will be transported to the Czech Republic. A mass will be celebrated in Brno in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and also in his birthplace of Dolní Bojanovice. He will be buried in his hometown cemetery.

Petr Esterka was born on November 14, 1935, in Dolní Bojanovice (u. Hodonín). He was persecuted as a student for religious-political beliefs and after many difficulties he graduated only in 1956. On 15 June 1957 he escaped to Austria and stayed for three months in a refugee camp in Glassenbach near Salzburg.

In September 1957 he was admitted to the Pontifical College of Nepomucenum in Rome, and after studying philosophy and theology at the Lateran University, he was ordained to the priesthood in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 9, 1963. Cardinal Traglia was the ordaining Bishop. After obtaining a theology licentiate in June 1963, he was sent among his compatriots in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas.

In 1966 he returned to Rome, where he began preparing for his doctoral thesis “The Unionistic Congresses at Velehrad”, which he defended a year later. After returning to the US in the summer of 1967, he began his academic career at the University of St Catherine in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he was appointed full professor in 1980. All the while he helped in the spiritual administration of a number of local parishes.

He became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1968, and joined the Air Force Reserves in 1974 as a military chaplain, retiring after 21 years with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was based in Minneapolis, with the 934th Tactical Airlift Group until 1995.

In 1978, Fr. Peter Esterka began to devote himself more intensively to work among Czech Catholics in the USA and Canada. In 1986, bishop Jaroslav Å karvada, who worked in Rome and cared for our compatriots abroad, appointed him vicar for the USA and Canada. In 1994, its operation extended to Australia. In 1987 he was awarded the title of Monsignor and in 1992 he was appointed honorary prelate. He moved to take over the California missions and lived and served in parishes in Fullerton (St Mary’s) and Orange (St Norbert’s) until he was able to buy a property as a physical center for the already established Czech Mission.

On 5 July 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed Peter Esterka as auxiliary bishop of Brno and titular bishop of Cefala and entrusted him with a mandate for the spiritual care for Czech Catholics abroad. His motto for his episcopal ordination on September 11, 1999, was “Go into the whole world to preach the gospel.” In 2013, he won the Gratias agit award, given in Prague, for helping to spread the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Having turned 75, Bishop Peter Esterka submitted his resignation in 2010 and on December 9, 2013, it was accepted by Pope Francis. He continued to do what he could until his replacement for leadership of the Czech Catholic community in California arrived in 2018.

This extraordinary man, having served people on three continents, was known for a personal form of ministry that drew people to him. Many have reported that they think of him as a member of their families, son, father, uncle, brother. He is survived by his family living in the Czech Republic, his sister Anezka Hromkova and brother Frantisek Esterka, one niece, five nephews and several great nieces and nephews, as well as one niece Jitka Vaitla who lives in Virginia with her husband Vasu Vaitla and twin sons.  Bishop Peter will be remembered by all those whose lives he has touched.



Vigil Service

  • Date & Time: August 20, 2021 (8:30 AM - 10:00 AM)
  • Venue: Christ Cathedral
  • Location: 13280 Chapman Avenue Garden Grove, CA 92840 - (Get Directions)

Funeral Mass

  • Date & Time: August 20, 2021 (10:30 AM)
  • Venue: Christ Cathedral
  • Location: 13280 Chapman Avenue Garden Grove, CA 92840 - (Get Directions)

No Charities & Donations

No Gallery Photos

No Videos

15 responses to Bishop Peter Esterka

  1. I was a young girl attending school at Immaculate Heart of Mary in the 1970s. Besides Sunday Masses and school Masses, my mom brought us to daily Mass during Lent. We sat in the front, just to the right of the altar. I watched. I listened. I was fascinated.

    Fr. Esterka was a kind man who raised my awareness of Catholic traditions. We would see him walking around the neighborhood, he had dinner at our house, and I remember that my parents owned a copy of his “Never Say Comrade”.

    Many years later, I bought my own copy of his book and read it in disbelief. I only knew that he had an accent, not that he had survived the incomprehensible.

    I decided to write him a letter and got permission to send my book for him to sign. He wrote a lovely letter about our family to me, mailed that book and I found this inscribed:

    To Bridget

    Treasure your freedom!

    Bishop Peter Esterka 4/4/06

    Thank you, Fr. Esterka, for making a full and lasting impression on me. What a good and kind man of God. Rest in Peace…

  2. A wonderful, saintly priest and just a very interesting person to be around. As a member of the AF Reserve you got to meet interesting people , he was right at the top of the list. May he Rest In Peace. Msg to Dave Pogatchnik 834 ASTS

  3. Susan Bitney says:

    Fr.Peter was one of my theology professors.
    I learned much from him.
    May he find peace in Gods hands

  4. Fr. Peter Esterka was a teacher at St. Catherine’s while I was there in 1970. He celebrated Mass at the college and also at many parishes in the area. As he was from the Czech Republic, I introduced him to my parents and grandfather who lived in Hopkins, MN. My grandfather spoke only Czech – and was so moved to meet this priest, who came to our home to celebrate Mass. A wonderful memory.

  5. Luz Gomez says:

    I met you only once. I felt out of place and you were kind so I will never forget that.

Leave A Condolence

Choose a Candle