Bonding with priests over pizza helped form vocation

| May 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

2A Kuharski_webDeacon Joseph Kuharski, 25

Home parish: St. Charles Borromeo, St. Anthony. Hometown: St. Anthony.

Parents: John and Mary Ann Kuharski.

Family: Christine Klaesges, Tim Kuharski, Charlie Kuharski, Tina Weiss, Tony Kuharski, Vincent Kuharski, Theresa Kuharski, Mary Urdahl, Angie Johnson, Kari Domeyer, Michael Kuharski, Dominic Kuharski.

Pastoral learning experiences: A summer teaching English with the Maryknoll Missionaries in China, “street evangelization” in St. Peter’s Square with the Legion of Mary, chaplaincy with the Bernardi campus of the University of St. Thomas (Rome) as well as summer experiences at St. Stephen in Anoka and St. John the Baptist in New Brighton.

Hobbies: ping pong, baking, sports and lifting weights.

Favorite book: “The Story of a Soul” (autobiography of St. Therese).

Favorite movies: “Moonstruck” and “Braveheart.”

Person you admire most: I very much admire and have learned a great deal from the former rector of St. John Vianney Seminary, Father Bill Baer. His magnanimous vision for the priesthood and his great pastoral heart continue to inspire me. In the seminary, he fostered strong and lively fraternity and a culture of outward-focused service, which kept us from the self-centeredness and sloth that Pope Francis warns us about as ministers of the Gospel. Moreover, the attention and guidance he personally gave to me have been among the greatest blessings of my seminary days, and I know that many others are in great debt to him for this as well.

Favorite saint: St. Therese of Lisieux.

Thanksgiving Masses: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 1, at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton; and 9:30 a.m. Sunday, July 13, at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony.

What were you doing before you entered the seminary?

I entered the seminary as soon as I finished high school.

When was the first time you thought about the priesthood?

At a very early age, perhaps about 4 years old.

Were there any reasons why you had not considered the priesthood earlier in your life?

Any earlier and I think my aspirations and dreams wouldn’t have gone beyond being able to tie my shoes!

Who was instrumental in identifying and developing your vocation?

My parents as well as priests that I got to know growing up, especially Father Rolf Tollefson, Father Joseph Johnson and Father Francis Kittock, although there were others as well. My mom would invite priests over for pizza quite often — or, I should say, since the word got out about her homemade pizza, they would invite themselves! We had many good relationships with priests, which was important in my vocation.

Was there an experience that was instrumental in identifying and developing your vocation?

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at my home parish, St. Charles, was essential.

What excites you most about becoming a priest?

Hearing confessions and celebrating the Mass, as well as spiritual direction. I also very much look forward to getting to know families in the parish, and helping to build up family life.

How would you like to answer the call to evangelization in your priestly ministry?

I feel that my call to evangelization is primarily a call to build up marriages and families and to assist parents in their vocation to raise their kids in the faith and in virtuous living. The love of my own big and boisterous family as well as my theological studies in marriage and family at the John Paul II Institute have given me a burning desire to help carry out the work begun by St. John Paul II for the renewal of family life. I believe that any plan of evangelization must begin with the family, the “domestic Church.”

What concrete ways have you answered the call to evangelize up to this point?

My work with the Legion of Mary in St. Peter’s Square is perhaps my most concrete and unique way I have evangelized during my time at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Our goal each time we went into the Square was just to get to know the pilgrims and tourists there and to be open and intentional about bringing the conversation to a discussion about faith and their experiences in the city, and to do so while promoting devotion to Our Lady.

Conversations might start just from hearing English spoken or helping someone if they needed directions or a picture taken, but then it often would lead to a point, if the time was right, to something like the following: “Which sites in the city struck you most?” or “What has been your experience of God in Rome?”

Of course, wearing clerical dress made it at least a little easier and natural to bring this up, and sometimes people would even come up to us and start to ask us questions about the Basilica. Many encounters were brief and limited somewhat to superficial details of their visit or of our time in the seminary, but many others were 20, 30 or even 45 minutes, and they were the ones that kept talking and bringing up more questions.

Also, my work with the Maryknoll Missionaries in China was formative. Since it was against the law there to speak openly about the faith unless first asked by our students, this experience was mainly a lesson in how the faith can spread simply by the witness of joy and the building up of relationships. Indeed, by the grace of God, the program has resulted in many Chinese students entering the faith.

What encouragement and/or advice do you have for young men who may be considering the priesthood?

Be brave, and leave behind your preconceptions of what the seminary will be like. That was probably my biggest obstacle, and now I can honestly say that the guys I’ve met in the seminary are some of the men I look up to the most — and the ones that really know how to have a good time together.

I would encourage you to schedule regular prayer into your day — every day — as well as daily Mass, if possible. When I was preparing for the possibility of entering seminary, one of the priests I looked up to told me to pray for 30 minutes every day. As a high school kid, that seemed like a lifetime. But it was certainly instrumental in making that leap of faith in entering seminary by growing in trust in our Lord and his plan for me.

What will you miss most about your time at the Pontifical North American College?

I will be returning to PNAC for one more year to finish my licentiate studies at the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family. However, I would say that I will certainly miss the fraternity of the men who will not stay for this fifth year, which has been a wonderful source of support during my time here.

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Category: Ordinations