Karl Holtsnider, who was honored in 2017 by Pope Francis for a lifetime of work with the Catholic Church, including 15 years as administrator of Holy Family Church in South Pasadena, died on Feb. 8. He was 91.
Holtsnider served in a variety of ministries over the past 12 years including as coordinator for the parish’s Mission Haiti. Pope Francis recognized Holtsnider with the Papal honor “Benemerenti,” which is given in recognition for his personal commitment to both the church and the pope.
“Karl was a great man with a heart that embraced every person in need, near and far,” said current administrator Cambria Tortorelli. “In particular, his passion for helping the people of Haiti helped transform not just Haitian lives, but the hearts of people at Holy Family.
“Because of the power of Karl’s ability to communicate through video and in writing,” she added, “the people of Holy Family have come to see the people of Haiti as our brothers as sisters.”
The proposal for Holtsnider’s recognition by the Pope noted that he oversaw the building of what was effectively a new parish campus, and developed protocols and practices that are still in place.
Through his work with Mission Haiti, Holtsnider was involved in creating networks of individuals and companies to provide support and resources for the island. After the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the parish’s Mission Haiti raised almost a half-million dollars to help the rebuilding of the island.
During his career, Holtsnider tried to highlight the suffering of the poor through documentaries and educational videos. He traveled extensively, often at personal risk, to capture on film the reality of poverty. In 35 years working in the public service sector at Franciscan Communications, Holtsnider produced hundreds of radio and television programs that were broadcast nationally and internationally. His work was praised for pioneering an evangelizing tool that brought the Catholic faith to a primarily secular audience, and he received over 120 national and international honors for his work.
“His film work challenged the viewer to embrace Christ’s message of compassion, justice, and mercy and emphasized the responsibility of each of us to do what we can to make the world a more just and loving place,” according to the nomination document for Holtsinder’s papal award.
After retiring from his position as parish administrator, Holtsnider served as chairman of St. Francis Center in downtown Los Angeles. He also served as regional manager for a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping and feeding the poor in Haiti.
“Karl will leave a huge hole in the hearts of many and in the fabric of our world, even as his spirit lives on in the legacy of his extraordinary deeds,” Tortorelli said.
Holtsnider, who lived in San Marino, is survived by his wife, Kathy, and children, Kristin and Ken. The family said that a celebration of life will be held at a later time when all mourners can safely gather.