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Facing death, priest turns his farewell into teachable moment

Liz Chandler
Catholic News Service

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. (CNS) — As dusk fell April 29, nurses pushed Father Michael Kottar in his wheelchair just outside a North Carolina rehabilitation center where 27 young men studying to become priests stood preparing to say goodbye.

rev-michael-kottar-600-300.jpgAt 53, Father Kottar, a priest from the Diocese of Charlotte, has been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, an extremely rare and aggressive brain disease for which there is no effective treatment or cure. The next day, the priest of 27 years boarded a medical flight to Ohio, to be with his family and get the end-of-life care he needs.

But on this evening, Father Kottar felt unsettled about leaving the parish families where he had been pastor at St. Mary Help of Christians Parish in Shelby and Christ the King Mission in Kings Mountain. He was pleased, though, to spend a moment with the future priests of the Diocese of Charlotte, since becoming a priest is his most treasured achievement.

The students from St. Joseph College Seminary in Charlotte had come to sing, pray and provide comfort to Father Kottar, but he also had a gift for them.

Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Father Kottar is the oldest of three children, the big brother of twin girls he simply called “sista” because he couldn’t tell them apart.

Their mother worked as a Catholic school secretary and library tech and their father coordinated an assembly line for General Motors. Father Kottar was a bookworm who graduated at the top of his high school class and shocked his sisters when he announced he wanted to become a priest.

He dived into his studies — first at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, then earning a philosophy degree from St. Alphonsus Redemptorist Seminary in Connecticut and finally getting a master of divinity degree from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, in 1994. He was ordained a priest that year for the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, where he served five years before joining the Charlotte Diocese in 1999 ...

Rev. Michael Kottar is a 1994 graduate of Mount St. Mary's Seminary. Read the full story at

Liz Chandler
Catholic News Service