Father Kowalczyk’s path to priesthood marked in road miles, slow steps

| June 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Part of a series of profiles of nine newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Father Kyle Kowalczyk admitted he has taken “slow steps” on his road to the priesthood.

The journey brought him from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was raised, to Minnesota to serve with NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries.

He saw a good part of the United States traveling as a member of one of NET’s evangelizing teams, tried out religious life with a community on the East Coast, and came back to Minnesota to the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul.

“My freshman year in college was when I first felt the Lord might be calling me,” said the priest who was ordained May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. “It took me a while to respond correctly.”

The son of Brigid and the late John Kowalczyk, he studied television and digital media production at Ferris State University in Michigan and worked in that field briefly in Texas before deciding it wasn’t for him.

“I was somewhere in Illinois or Iowa when I saw a billboard that read something like, ‘Looking for a sign from God?’?” he said. “It took me five years after that, but I thought maybe the Lord wanted me to serve him.”

He calls his years with NET “a great adventure — a roadtrip for Jesus.” Traveling out west and finding fervent spirituality in people in Wyoming, he said, helped him to realize “the Lord is the Lord everywhere.”

Father Kowalczyk said he got a book to learn more about what a priest does and met with a discernment group as he sought to understand his calling.

Something about belonging to a community of men religious “clicked” with him, he said, but when he went to explore religious life it “unclicked,” and he came back to Minnesota where he had worked for a while at NET Ministries offices in West St. Paul.

“It had become home,” Kowalczyk explained. “I had a good network and a good support system here.”

Grateful for parish experience

He gives high marks to the faculty at the St. Paul Seminary and said he’ll miss the brotherhood of fellow seminarians.

He’s been able to use some of his collegiate theater experience to write and be involved in plays the seminarians have presented. “Theater has always been a hobby of mine,” he said.

The oldest of three children, Father Kowalczyk said he valued the contact with “real people” from his teaching parish experience at Annunciation in Minneapolis and the opportunity to preach throughout his assignment last summer at Holy Family in St. Louis Park.

He said he’s confident as a homilist.

“I just try to be faithful to the Scripture and help expand it, apply it, help us to see something we didn’t see,” he said.

He said he’s looking forward to doing everything a priest is called to do.

“I enjoy being with the people,” Father Kowalczyk said. “I didn’t sign up to sit and read books all day.”

Although his slow steps to the priesthood mean he was 35 on his ordination day, he said he realizes that “the Lord calls us each step of the way.”

“The attitude I’ve taken in my spiritual life,” he added, “is that I try to embrace the moment every step of the way.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda appointed Father Kowalczyk parochial vicar of the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy of Faribault.

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Category: Ordinations