The Reverend Monsignor Gerald L. Orbanek, 80, died Sunday, November 15, at St. Mary’s Home East, Erie.
Msgr. Orbanek was born on June 28, 1940 in Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of Stephen Leo Orbanek and Alice (Garbacz) Orbanek Hough. After attending Millcreek Township Elementary Schools and Cathedral Preparatory School, Erie, he was accepted into St. Mark Seminary and attended Gannon College from 1958-1960. He continued his formation for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland from 1960-1962, and at Catholic University of America Theological College, where he obtained his M.A. in German in 1966. He pursued further studies in Canada at the University of Toronto
While a transitional deacon, he traveled to Germany, where he spent the greater part of the summer of 1965. During that time he took a course taught by then Father Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI. It was also during that summer that he forged a relationship with the town in which he was staying, which resulted in his being knighted by the Duke and Duchess of Württemberg as a Knight of the Order of Bok.
Msgr. Orbanek was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1966 by Archbishop John Mark Gannon at St. Peter Cathedral, Erie. He began his priestly ministry as a faculty member of Gannon University shortly after his ordination. For 43 years, until June 2008, he taught theology at Gannon University. He spent 30 of those years as chairman of Gannon’s theology department. He was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award and the Archbishop Gannon Award for Excellence. In 1996, Msgr. Orbanek was made a Chaplain of His Holiness which carries with it the title Monsignor.
From 1966-1971, Msgr. Orbanek served as Weekend Assistant at St. Andrew Parish, Erie, where he was also in residence. In 1971 he moved to St. Julia Parish, Erie, and was likewise Weekend Assistant at that parish until 1973. From 1973-1976, he assisted St. Joseph/ Bread of Life Community Parish on weekends. In 1976, Msgr. Orbanek was again assigned to weekend assistance at St. Julia Parish, Erie, where he ministered until 2008.
In 1973, Msgr. Orbanek began a 35-year ministry as resident chaplain for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Erie. He was the last of the chaplains in the diocese who actually lived in community with the Sisters.
Msgr. Orbanek retired from active ministry and moved to the Michael J. Murphy Priest Retirement Home in 2009. Due to poor health, he moved to St. Mary Home, East, Erie in 2018. During his retirement he enjoyed assisting at Mass at St. George Parish, Erie, as long as he was able.
A life-long devoté of classical music, art and history, as well as all things German, and an avid reader, Msgr. Orbanek amassed wonderful collections of books, music and artifacts which were generously handed on to others after his retirement.
In addition to his parents Msgr. Orbanek was preceded in death by his brother, Charles Orbanek, sister-in-law Gail M. Orbanek, and stepfather Frank Ross Hough. He is survived by his sister, Barbara Oranek (Raymond Ahlgren) of Greene Township, brother George Orbanek (Rebecca Frank) of Denver, CO, niece Emily Orbanek (Bill Booth) of Denver, CO, Mary Allison Orbanek (Joshua Held) of Erie, and their three children, great niece Kennedy and great nephews Keegan and Kellan, and nephew Stephen Orbanek (Marissa) of Hatboro, PA and their daughter, Jemma.
Visitation will take place on Monday, November 23 at St. George Church, 5145 Peach Street, Erie, PA 16509, from 9:00am until the time of the Funeral Mass at 11:00am. Due to the pandemic, the funeral Mass will be private with attendance limited to immediate family, friends and clergy. Family and friends may also attend virtually via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/Edward-J-Garr-Funeral-Home-Inc-100130284712299 All COVID-19 protocols will be followed. Burial will also be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Gail M. Orbanek Scholarship Fund, care of General McClain School District 11771 Edinboro Road, Edinboro, PA 16412 or the cafeteria staff at St. George Parish, 5145 Peach Street, Erie, PA 16509.
Arrangements entrusted to Edward J. Garr Funeral Home, 459 E. 24th St. Erie, PA 16503. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.garrdavisfuneralhome.com
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