Like any kid, Reverend Lloyd Gnirk had his heroes. One was Pope John XXIII.
“I remember him calling the Second Vatican Council and the image of ‘throwing open the windows of the Church’ for renewal was really thrilling to me,” Fr. Gnirk said.
He didn’t know it at the time, but his connection to the “Good Pope” would last a lifetime, impacting countless lives along the way.
Several years later. Fr. Gnirk found himself in Rome leading a student tour around Europe. He recently finished teaching at Archbishop Bergan in Fremont and would soon start his
career at Roncalli Catholic.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, Fr. Gnirk found the tomb of Pope John XXIII, the namesake of the school he would soon find himself teaching at. For Fr. Gnirk, it was an experience that still makes him emotional today.
“I purposely looked up his tomb and I just said a little prayer that I would be going to a school named in his honor,” he said. “I asked him to help me be a teacher, to help my students learn and to just bless the work of our hands.”
Four decades later, the work of Fr. Gnirk can be seen clearly as you walk the halls of Roncalli Catholic. As a teacher and administrator, he has touched the lives of students and the greater Roncalli Catholic community.
Now, he prepares for a much-deserved retirement after a lifetime of service.
“I don’t want to sound prideful about it, but when I look back at my career at Roncalli Catholic, there is some pride there,” he said.
Fr. Gnirk began teaching at Roncalli Catholic in 1981. He would remain in that role through 1983, before spending the next six years as president of St. Joseph High School in Omaha.
As president, he would serve as a pioneer for the Archdiocese of Omaha. At that time, Archdiocesan schools had not incorporated a president-principal model of administration. With Fr. Gnirk at the helm, St. Joseph’s would adopt that model. It would later become a standard across schools throughout the area.
“The president is kind of the spokesperson for the image of the school,” he said. “The best way for me to share that vision is to be out there, not sitting behind a desk.”
Fr. Gnirk returned to Roncalli Catholic to serve as the school’s first president in 1989. During that time, he balanced the school’s budget and provided financial stability for the future.
He also worked hard to invigorate the school’s alumni community, specifically among those who attended Notre Dame Academy.
“I wanted to recognize the role that the Notre Dame Academy played with Archbishop Rummel to become Roncalli Catholic,” he said. “I wanted to recognize that, although those ladies have not gone to school on this campus, they’re still a part of our history.”
Fr. Gnirk departed Roncalli Catholic in 1996 to serve as pastor at St. Pius X in Omaha. Over the course of the next 12 years, he would remain in that role, while also serving on Roncalli Catholic’s Board of Education. He would eventually return in 2008 to serve as the school’s president through 2010, before being named President Emeritus in 2010.
Over the last 12 years, Fr. Gnirk has continued to play an important role in advancing the mission of Roncalli Catholic.
In 2015, Roncalli Catholic’s S.T.E.A.M. Lab was dedicated in his name. The lab, equipped with a suite of innovative learning tools, has provided students with the opportunity to participate in a unique, hands-on learning environment over the past seven years.
During the school’s annual Festa del Leone celebration in April 2022, Fr. Gnirk was drawn as the winner of the school’s $5,000 lottery.
Fr. Gnirk pledged to place those funds in the Gnirk Scholarship Fund, providing the opportunity for even more generations of Roncalli Catholic students to be impacted by his generosity.
“Fr. Gnirk has been an instrumental leader in the Roncalli Catholic community for many years,” President Sean Keisling said. “Even when serving as a pastor in other parishes, he continued to dedicate himself to the advancement and mission of Roncalli Catholic. We can’t thank Fr. Gnirk enough for everything he has done for our school.”
Fr. Gnirk left an indelible mark on the halls of Roncalli Catholic over the course of his 44-year career that has stretched across parishes throughout the Omaha Archdiocese.
In fact, Fr. Gnirk said he is often referred to as “Fr. Roncalli” when he meets with some of his longtime friends and colleagues.
Within the Roncalli Catholic community, he said the connections he created are what he will cherish the most as he enters the next chapter of his life.
“I got to meet and work with a lot of really good people over the years,” he said. “That was very gratifying.”