Donna Mae Kadrlik dedicated her life to ministering to others, including volunteering to run a children’s grief support group at Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville.
Kadrlik, of Faribault, died on Feb. 1 after a 25-month roller-coaster battle with cancer.
Recently, about 1,500 people attended services for Kadrlik, the music minister for St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in New Prague. The Rev. Kevin Clinton told how Kadrlik, 51, had gotten out of her sick bed on Halloween, dressed up as a witch and, though terribly weak, traveled 30 miles to the church for a Halloween mass in preparation for the Feast of All Saints Day.
She walked in slowly, her cane in one hand.
“She used her other hand to stabilize herself as she moved down the aisle, grasping the end of each pew as she moved,” Clinton said. “She was greeting the children. She wasn’t about to let her ravaged health get in the way of her joining the party with the children.
“Ghosts, goblins, spooks, yes and even cancer, were all going to be laughed at. Nothing was going to stop the children and her from joining the saints when they go marching in!”
He called Kadrlik a lantern who illuminated God’s work here on earth.
“She’s a witness to the truth that life is hard, very hard,” Clinton said. “Life, in how it works, often scandalizes us. But as hard as Donna Mae’s life was, there was a beauty and a confidence in her life that transcended and essentially trumped the darkness, if you will, as she was torn apart by this terrible disease.”
She was born on May 30, 1962, in Faribault, one of seven children of George and Helen Voracek. After graduating from Bethlehem Academy Catholic school there in 1980, she studied music ministry in college. Kadrlik went on to work more than 25 years as a musician, liturgist and spiritual director.
Catholic parishes in which she ministered included St. Lawrence and St. Patrick’s in the Faribault area, St. Dominic’s in Northfield, St. Isadore’s in Yuba City, Calif., and, for the past 12 years, St. Wenceslaus in New Prague.
She also studied for three years to become certified as a spiritual director. Relatives said she loved to play and sing at weddings and funerals.
In January 2012, after weeks of relentless headaches, nausea and dizziness, doctors had diagnosed tiny lesions on her brain and advanced cancer in her left lung, her family wrote on CaringBridge, a nonprofit website.
It seemed at times — with the chemotherapy, widespread support and so many prayers — that Kadrlik was winning the fight. But the cancer would seemingly abate, only to resurge and spread.
Kadrlik managed to post some of her own messages, writing of faith, hope and love.
“As I reflect, I am struck with the great calling we all have to serve one another in all works, all ways, and all events in our lives,” she wrote. “Take with you the knowledge that God is ever present at all times in your hearts and that we have the great opportunity to spread the love of God to our neighbors and our universe.”
Kadrlik died peacefully at home. She was preceded in death by her parents.
In addition to Clinton, four other priests presided at her funeral and six choirs sang, including many of the children she had directed.
In addition to husband Ron, survivors include children Benjamin, Kathryn and Nicholas Kadrlik; and siblings George, Randy and Grace Voracek, Jan Gillen, Mary Mensing and Joan Smisek.