Catholic Courier

Posted: May 2, 2016

Last Updated: August 31, 2016

Priests note many decades of service

The following priests are celebrating their anniversaries of ordination this year.

65 Years

Father Frederick Bush grew up in Rochester's Blessed Sacrament Parish and attended Blessed Sacrament School. After class one day, he returned to Blessed Sacrament to retrieve an item, and found the sister who taught his class trying to talk a classmate into entering St. Andrew's Seminary. Then she turned to Father Bush and mustered a commitment from him to attend. Even if it did come about by chance, Father Bush said he has never regretted his vocation.

"I have really enjoyed the priesthood a great deal," he said in 2011, at the time of the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

In addition to Blessed Sacrament School and St. Andrew's Seminary, Father Bush also attended public school. He was ordained June 2, 1951, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

He served as assistant pastor of St. Patrick Church, Elmira (1951-54); St. John the Evangelist, Greece (1954-61); Holy Cross, Rochester (1961-65); and St. Mary, Rochester (1967-71). He was spiritual director of St. Bernard's Seminary from 1965-67.

Father Bush was pastor of Holy Spirit, Penfield, from 1971 until he reached senior-priest status in 2001.

He currently resides at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford.

A constant teacher. That's how Father Sebastian Falcone's family describes him in his many years of priesthood.

A native of Rochester, Father Falcone grew up in St. Anthony of Padua Parish and at age 12 entered the Capuchin seminary at Beacon, N.Y.

"It was a pretty early sense of a vocational call, and I felt I needed to respond positively," he recalled in 2011, at the time of the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

Father Falcone went on to study at Immaculate Conception (Bronx, N.Y.) and Our Lady of the Angels (Staunton, Va.) seminaries. He was ordained as a Capuchin Franciscan priest on May 16, 1951, in Richmond, Va. After many years as a seminary professor with the Capuchins, he joined the faculty of the former St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester in 1967. He also served as academic dean there from 1972 until 1981 when the seminary closed.

Father Falcone was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Rochester in 1974. In 1981, he became president of St. Bernard's Institute, serving in that position until 1992. For many years, he also served as professor of biblical studies at the graduate school, which was renamed St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in 2002.

Father Falcone currently resides in Fort Myers, Fla.

If he could pick just one word to sum up his 65 years as a priest, Father Robert MacNamara would choose "happy."

"I'm just happy. I have been blessed by our bishops to have wonderful assignments, and I have worked with wonderful people who have nourished me," he said.

Father MacNamara, a native of Elmira, attended St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester and was ordained June 2, 1951, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Following his ordination, Father MacNamara was an assistant priest at several parishes, including St. Ann, Hornell; St. Louis, Pittsford; St. Mary, Rochester; Immaculate Conception, Ithaca; and St. Margaret Mary, Irondequoit.

In 1970, he returned to St. Ann in Hornell and served as pastor there until 1983. While at St. Ann, he also was diocesan consultor from 1972-77.

Father MacNamara was pastor at St. Vincent de Paul, Corning, from 1983-90, and St. John of Rochester, Fairport, from 1990-92. He served as parochial vicar at St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads for six months in 1993 before reaching senior-priest status.

Father MacNamara lives in the rectory at St. Mary Parish in Elmira and still helps out with weekend Masses at the churches in Elmira and Corning.

"If they need me, the answer is always,'yes'," he said.

St. Mary Parish in Elmira will have a Mass of Thanksgiving for Father MacNamara at 2 p.m. June 5 with a reception to follow.

60 Years

Father Walter Cushing recalled a story his mother told him when he decided to pursue a priestly vocation. She said he had been born prematurely and that his parents thought he might not live. His mother held him in the hospital and prayed, "Let my son live and I'll give him to you."

A native of Corning, Father Cushing attended St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries in Rochester and was ordained on June 9, 1956, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

He served as assistant pastor at Holy Cross in Rochester from 1956-62. In 1962 he became chaplain at the former St. Agnes High School in Rochester. While at St. Agnes, Father Cushing also was chaplain at Monroe County Jail. He also served as assistant director of the diocesan Family Life Bureau, which coordinated marriage-preparation courses and other diocesan events and programs.

In 1979, he became pastor at Irondequoit's St. Cecilia Parish, which is now part of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. Although he reached senior-priest status in 2000, he is still involved at St. Kateri.

"I'm still saying a lot of Masses and hearing confessions," he said. "I enjoy working with the wonderful parishioners."

Father Cushing said he is not sure how he will celebrate his 60th jubilee, but that there will probably be a Mass for him at St. Cecilia.

Father Joseph Trovato, CSB, spent three decades in his previous assignment -- as language professor and Catholic chaplain at St. John Fisher College. Now he has logged nearly as many years in his current role as priest-in-residence at Irondequoit's St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish.

"I'm not much of a mover, I guess," he remarked with a laugh.

Father Trovato grew up in Rochester's Holy Redeemer Parish, attending the parish school and then Aquinas Institute. He went on to study at St. Basil's Seminary in Toronto and was ordained a Basilian priest June 29, 1956, by James Cardinal McGuigan at Toronto's St. Basil Church. Father Trovato earned his theology degree from St. Michael's College in Toronto, and bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Toronto.

In 1959, after three years of teaching Italian at St. Michael's College, Father Trovato moved back to his hometown to become a professor of Italian at St. John Fisher. He eventually became the first chaplain of the college, spending less time teaching and more on campus ministry.

Father Trovato said he's grateful for the many close relationships he has developed at both St. John Fisher and during his 27-year -- and counting -- tenure at St. Kateri.

"It's been a beautiful life, and I am most grateful to God for bringing me to this life. It's been a real gift," he said. "I wish everybody could be as happy as I've been in my vocation."

A 60th-anniversary celebration for Father Trovato is being planned by the parish. Call 585-266-1288 for details.

55 Years

Father Richard Brickler has stayed active since reaching senior-priest status five years ago.

At first, he had some down time, but then the phone calls started coming in. He now celebrates Masses at several parishes as needed and also assists with weddings, funerals and penance services.

"I ended up getting fairly busy," he said. "If I'm free, I’m always glad to help."

Father Brickler said he also continues working as an adjutant judicial vicar with the diocesan Tribunal, focusing primarily on annulment cases. He had served as secretary and vice officialis in the Tribunal from 1974-83, and has continued in part-time service since 1992.

A Greece native, he attended Aquinas Institute and St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester before being ordained June 3, 1961, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He served as assisting priest at Corpus Christi (1961-65) and Holy Family, Rochester (1965-69 and 1970-74); theology and Latin teacher at King's Preparatory (1969-70), which was located in what is now the diocesan Pastoral Center; and as pastor of St. Boniface, Rochester, from 1983-2011.

In recent years, Father Brickler also began ministering at the Monroe County Jail, which he said has been very rewarding work. He celebrates Mass once or twice a month for the men and women there.

"I've gotten to know a few of them," he said. "They come up and ask questions. I might be able to help them with something and with prayers. ... I've been blessed with good assignments and good people my whole life."

Father Edward Dillon said he has enjoyed every assignment he has had over the past 80 years.

A native of Macedon, Father Dillon attended St. John Fisher College, St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries in Rochester, and the North American College in Rome. A member of the Class of 1961, he was ordained in Rome on Dec. 18, 1960. Following ordination, he continued his studies in Rome until 1965, earning a master's degree in sacred Scripture and a doctorate in sacred theology.

"I had no idea what a treasure I was offered," Father Dillon said about his time in Rome.

He served as assistant pastor at Holy Ghost in Gates and professor of biblical theology at the Sister of St. Joseph Motherhouse(1961-1965); professor of sacred Scripture at St. Bernard's Seminary (1966-68); and professor at John XXIII Seminary in Boston (1968-69).

In 1969, Father Dillon took a leave of absence and spent the next 14 years working in Philadelphia with the impoverished as well as the Catholic Peace Fellowship, an anti-war coalition that grew out of the Catholic Worker movement.

"Philadelphia was a great adventure in my life," he said.

Father Dillon returned to Rochester in 1982 and was associate pastor of Holy Family (1982-83) and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (1983), Rochester. In 1984, he became a chaplain at Monroe County Jail and Strong Memorial Hospital. From 1987-92, he served as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Rochester and then assisted at Our Lady of Lourdes in Elmira. In 1993, he became pastor of St. Felix in Clifton Springs and St. Francis in Phelps. In 2003 he reached senior-priest status, although he continued to serve at St. Michael Church in Lyons. From 2004-07 he taught at Mary Mount College in California.

In 2007, Father Dillon became parochial vicar at St. Luke the Evangelist in Livingston County, where he still resides and serves as an assisting priest.

Father Dillon said he has no plans to celebrate his 55th jubilee.

"Maybe if I'm make it to my 60th jubilee," he laughed. "I actually didn't think I'd live this long."

Father Ron Gaesser's missionary endeavors in the Dominican Republic have defined his ministry since he reached senior-priest status in 2003.

He has led major growth -- raising $2.5 million in all -- at San Antonio de Padua Parish and El Portal de Belen school/child-care facility in the Dominican city of Monte Plata.

"I feel very blessed that God has planted me where I am (in the Dominican Republic)," he said.

Father Gaesser grew up in Rochester's Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. He studied at St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries in Rochester and earned a master’s degree in education from Syracuse University. He was ordained June 3, 1961, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

From 1961-67, Father Gaesser was assisting priest at Rochester's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. He spent 1967-70 as assistant at St. Mary in Auburn and chaplain at Auburn Community College. From 1970-73, he was chaplain at both Auburn Community and Eisenhower colleges.

From 1973-81, he was administrator of St. Joseph in Cayuga, and from 1981-87 he was pastor of St. Columba/St. Patrick in Caledonia and Mumford.

He served as pastor from 1987-2003 at Ithaca's St. Catherine of Siena Parish, which continues to solidly support his missionary efforts. Father Gaesser also was pastor from 1987-98 at All Saints in Lansing.

He spends most of the year in the Dominican Republic. When in the Diocese of Rochester, he resides and assists at Auburn's Holy Family Parish.

To note his 55th anniversary, he said he's planning "a few quiet celebrations with family and friends."

Looking back on his 55 years in the priesthood, Father Edward Golden said he was fortunate to minister in so many ways.

"I have met many friends during my ministries that have endured," he said.

A native of Elmira, Father Golden was ordained May 27, 1961, by Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence B. Casey at St. Mary Church in Corning. After his ordination, he served as an assistant priest at St. Stephen, Geneva, and Blessed Sacrament, Rochester. Following a retreat in Annapolis, Md., he served in La Paz, Bolivia, from 1968-74, where the diocese then operated a mission.

In 1974, he returned to Rochester and became codirector of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate. In 1976, he served as associate pastor and later pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Rochester.

Father Golden served as chaplain at Elmira Correctional Facility from 1982-91; pastor of Church of the Assumption, Fairport, from 1991-2001; and parochial vicar of Rochester's City West parishes until he reached senior-priest status in 2005. He is now chaplain at Cherry Ridge in Webster, which is part of St. Ann's Community.

Father Golden does not have plans to celebrate jubilee, but does intend to continue celebrating Mass with the residents at Cherry Ridge.

50 Years

Though he now lives in a quiet central Pennsylvanian community, Father Philip Billotte keeps a schedule that's decidedly not laid back.

Father Billotte resides in his first family home, having moved to Frenchville in early 2008 upon reaching senior-priest status in the Diocese of Rochester. He assists at the nearby Bethany Retreat Center, St. Mary of the Assumption Church and Moshannon Valley Correctional Center.

"I wanted to stay busy, so it's kept me going," Father Billotte said of his activities.

Father Billotte moved from Frenchville to Corning as a young child, growing up in St. Vincent de Paul Parish. He graduated from St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He was associate pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral (1966-70); Sacred Heart Parish, Auburn (1970-74); Holy Family, Rochester (1974-78); St. Patrick, Corning (1978-85); Holy Trinity, Webster (1985-90); and the Corning-Painted Post Roman Catholic Community (1990-93).

In 1993, Father Billotte served as administrator of St. Patrick, Owego. From 1994-2001, he was pastor of several Finger Lakes churches now known as Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. From 2002-08, he was parochial vicar at All Saints in Corning/Painted Post.

He will note his 50th jubilee by presiding at the 11:30 a.m. Mass June 5 at St. Mary Church in Corning, with a reception to follow.

"I feel good. I'm just thankful that the Lord allowed me to hang in there and be a faithful priest for the good and faithful people," he said.

Father James Boyle served at St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport for exactly half of his 50 years as a priest, so it's only fitting that he will celebrate his jubilee during the parish's picnic on June 12.

A Rochester native, Father Boyle grew up in Holy Rosary Parish and attended St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries. He was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. After ordination, he served as assistant pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Rochester from 1966-70. In 1970, he began a three-year stint as assistant pastor at St. John of Rochester Parish.

From 1973-81, Father Boyle served as copastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Rochester, and from 1981-92 he was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Elmira. He returned to St. John of Rochester in 1992, this time as pastor, serving there until reaching senior-priest status in 2007. He then moved to St. Joseph Parish in Penfield before returning to St. John of Rochester, where he currently helps out with weekend Masses. He will celebrate his jubilee during the parish's 10:30 a.m. Mass on June 12, which will be followed by a picnic on the parish grounds.

Father Boyle said he has enjoyed his priestly role of helping the baptized faithful celebrate and rejoice in the good news of hope and salvation.

"This has been my joy for 50 years," he said.

Father Francis Falletta only held one pastorate during his 50 years as a priest, but it was a noteworthy one: He served for 30 years as pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Greece, which has had just four pastors in the 57 years since its founding.

Father Falletta grew up in Rochester, where he attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish and studied at St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries. He was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

After ordination Father Falletta served as assistant pastor at St. Anthony, Elmira (1966-72), St. Theodore, Gates (1972-81), and St. John of Rochester, Fairport (1981-83); and associate pastor at St. Michael, Newark (1983-84).

He became pastor at St. Lawrence in 1984, serving in that capacity until he reached senior-priest status in 2014. Under his leadership, the parish and its school experienced significant expansion, including the construction of a new church building and a parish center in the 1980s. He also oversaw the construction of another new parish center, Deacon Hall, which was completed in 2006.

Father William Michatek has devoted five decades to his dual callings as a parish priest and a fire chaplain.

Father Michatek grew up in Gates' St. Helen Parish and studied at Rochester's St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries. He was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. After ordination he became assistant pastor at St. Lawrence Parish in Greece, and the following year became chaplain of the North Greece Fire Department.

He left the parish and fire chaplaincy posts in 1969 to became assistant pastor at Holy Trinity in Webster, where he soon became chaplain of the Webster Fire Department. Over the next 47 years, he did the same for the local fire departments in each of the communities in which he served as a priest.

"I've been a member of seven fire departments and two ambulance bases," he remarked.

Father Michatek served at Holy Trinity until 1975, and as associate pastor at St. John of Rochester, Perinton (1975-81), and Holy Ghost, Gates (1981-82). He served as pastor at St. Michael, Penn Yan (1982-94); St. Andrew, Dundee (1982-94); and St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport (1994-2003).

In 2003, he returned to Holy Trinity, this time as pastor, serving there until he reaching senior-priest status in 2011. He currently resides in Wolcott and assists at Holy Trinity and any other parishes that need help. He is an active member of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains.

Father Michatek said he plans to mark his jubilee with Masses of thanksgiving at Holy Trinity and St. Michael churches.

Father Thomas Nellis called it "a blessing" to have become a priest right on the heels of the Second Vatican Council.

"All in all, I'd much rather be serving in the church after the council," he remarked, praising the strides made by Vatican II "in the ministry of the priest and of the laypeople."

Father Nellis grew up in Rochester's St. Andrew Parish. He attended St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries and obtained a master's degree in liturgical theology from the University of Notre Dame. He was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

He was parochial vicar at St. Mary Our Mother, Horseheads (1966-72); Holy Ghost, Gates (1972-76); St. Alphonsus, Auburn (1976-79); and St. Cecilia, Irondequoit (1979-83).

During the ensuing 27 years, Father Nellis held three pastorates: at St. John the Evangelist, Clyde/St. Patrick, Savannah (1983-92); Holy Trinity, Webster (1992-2003); and back at Holy Ghost from 2004 until reaching senior-priest status in 2010.

He now resides full time in Statesboro, Ga., where he presides at Mass and preaches regularly at St. Matthew Parish. He is particularly fond of a Bible-study group he leads there, remarking, "That's been very good. People seem to enjoy it."

Father Nellis will return to his native Rochester Diocese for his golden jubilee. He will celebrate the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday, May 21, at Holy Trinity Church, with receptions immediately before and after. The following day, May 22, he will preside at the 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Masses at Holy Ghost Church with receptions to follow.

Father Laurence Tracy said he doesn't consider himself a leader in the local Latino community, but instead a constant supporter of Latino leaders. And he is proud that those leaders often call on him to assist in their endeavors, he said.

He is a founding member of Ibero-American Action League, a nonprofit agency created in 1969 that continues to serve the Rochester Hispanic community. In 1989, Father Tracy helped found El Instituto de Pastoral Hispano, a program at St. Bernard's Institute, which became St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in 2002.

"The Latino community (sees) me as a valuable asset in accomplishing their goals," he said. "I'm very happy to play that role."

Father Tracy said his interest in working with the community dates back to his seminary days, when he took a Spanish class and volunteered at the former St. Martin de Porres Center in Rochester that helped families from Puerto Rico settle in Rochester.

He attended St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 4, 1966, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. His first assignment was as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, which had a large Spanish-speaking community. In 1967, the parish's then-pastor sent Father Tracy to Puerto Rico for a language-immersion program.

"I tell people I'm a slow learner, it only took me 50 years," he joked about perfecting his Spanish.

He then served as Mt. Carmel's copastor from 1970-81. Subsequently, he was named associate director of the diocesan Division of Social Ministries for Hispanic Affairs, a position he said was created for him because of his advocacy work with the Spanish Action Coalition of Rochester.

He next served as associate pastor of Rochester's St. Andrew Church (1983-84). In 1984, he was appointed pastoral assistant with the Office of the Spanish Apostolate, and in 1992 also became part-time sacramental minister at Rochester's St. Michael Church. Working in the apostolate "was one of my happiest times," Father Tracy remarked.

From 1993-2002, he served as parochial vicar of the Community of Hope, which comprised Mt. Carmel, St. Michael and Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier in Rochester. He reached senior-priest status in 2011 but continues to serve as needed as a sacramental minister, celebrating Spanish Masses and visiting the sick for Rochester's St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish.

Regarding celebration of his jubilee, he said with a laugh that the Hispanic community is probably planing something special that is being kept a secret from him.

An Elmira native, Father Thomas Wheeland has always served in ministry on the opposite corner of the Diocese of Rochester.

While in high school in Elmira, Father Wheeland had considered becoming a lawyer and a government agent, he said. That all changed after school one day when a nun asked him if he had considered the priesthood. Not wanting to miss his bus, he said yes and ran. The next day, he had a meeting with a chaplain at the school. "The Lord intervened," Father Wheeland said. "The Holy Spirit was urging me to make a decision."

Following formation at St. Bernard's and St. Andrew's seminaries in Rochester, he was ordained on June 4, 1966, at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He will turn 77 just days after his 50th jubilee. As the last priest to be ordained by Bishop James E. Kearney, Father Wheeland also was among the priests who presided at the funeral Mass for Rochester's fifth bishop.

Father Wheeland served as assistant pastor at Rochester's Holy Rosary (1966-68), Christ the King (1970-72) parishes and Sacred Heart Cathedral (1972-82).

In 1982, he began his long-running pastorate of Holy Cross Church in Rochester. The spirit of the parish is vibrant, he said, and he is especially proud of parishioners' resilience in reopening the parish school five years ago. He celebrated the school's success and his jubilee with the parish community in March.

"It has been a blessing, the people of Holy Cross," he said. "The staff I've had has been fantastic. And I've been blessed with good pastoral councils all those years. I never intended to stay such a long time, but it just happened."

When he reached senior-priest status at age 70, he asked Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark if he could stay on, as he felt there was more he wanted to do at the parish, Father Wheeland said. When he reached age 75, he asked Bishop Salvatore R. Matano for another extension that also was granted.

"I've had some ill health but have been able to go on," Father Wheeland added. "Once it becomes not good for the parish, I really need to move on. The tremendous support of the parish and many ministries we have going on, though, have been a strengthening power to me."

25 Years

High-school sports official. Emergency-services and correctional-facility chaplain. Volunteer firefighter. Teacher. School-board member. Disc jockey. Deputy sheriff.

These are all among the gigs in Father Paul Bonacci's past and present. He noted that being a jack-of-all trades has enhanced his most vital role -- his priesthood.

"All those different things allowed me to reach a lot of people because I could relate to their world," he explained. "It's the same in parish life. I reach more people in different ways. God uses everything."

Father Bonacci grew up in St. Mary Parish in Waterloo. He attended Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and was ordained a priest on June 22, 1991, by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

He served as parochial vicar at Church of the Assumption, Fairport (1991-94); Corning-Painted Post Roman Catholic Community (1994-96); and Immaculate Conception, Ithaca (1996-97). He then was chaplain at Ithaca College (1997-98) and parochial vicar in the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva (1998-2001).

In 2001, Father Bonacci became administrator of Schuyler Catholic Community, and a year later was named the cluster's pastor. He remained until 2014, when he began his current position as administrator of St. Pius Tenth Parish in Chili.

"It's a privilege to bring Christ to people, and 25 years have flown," he said. "It's still fresh and humbling and wonderful and beautiful."

Plans for Father Bonacci's jubilee celebration had not been finalized at press time.

After decades working in Russia, Siberia and Alaska, Father Roman Caly found a home away from home when he became pastor of Rochester's St. Stanislaus Kosta Church nearly four years ago. A native of Wroclaw, Poland, he said the people of St. Stanislaus welcomed him and accepted him into their faith community immediately. He had learned of the parish while serving as a missionary priest in the village of Nunaan, Alaska, when a priest friend told him St. Stanislaus needed a priest who could speak Polish and English.

After so many years in mission work, he said it feels good to be serving in a beautiful church, inside and out, that reminds him of his own native parish.

Father Caly grew up in Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish in Wroclaw. During high school at a tech school, he became interested in aviation, but discovered his priestly calling during a retreat with monks from several congregations. "I decided I want to fly to the Lord," he said. "I want to be priest."

He attended High Seminarium and the Papal Academia Teologia in Wroclaw where he became interested in missionary work after meeting a bishop from the Ivory Coast of Africa. He was ordained on May 18, 1991, at Wroclaw's St. John the Baptist Cathedral by Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz. He then served two years at a parish in Miroszow, Poland. In 1993, he was assigned to serve for two years as a visiting priest in central Siberia, then became pastor of Christ the King Parish in the Republic of Altai in Russia (1995-2007). In the fall of 2007, he became a missionary priest in the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, then a visiting priest in the Delta Yukon Region of Alaska (2008-11).

He said his years in Alaska served as a "school of life." The isolation, poor living conditions and travel by snowmobile were challenging, but he said he learned the importance of living simply and in gratitude. And he said he will never forget Easter Sunday 2011 when he said three Masses in three villages. At one village, the snow covered half the door of the church. When they shoveled it away and entered the church, Christmas decorations were still hanging, so he said the villagers celebrated Christmas and Easter together. Upon returning to his house in another village, the people had prepared him dinner. "Physically, I was very tired," he said. "Inside, I was very happy. ...This day, I remember a long time."

In 2011, he moved to Rochester and lived at St. Stanislaus. During his first few months there, he celebrated Mass for the Sisters of Mercy and filled in for priests when needed at other churches. He became pastor in June 2012.

He plans to celebrate his anniversary with the parish on May 15, and then with his seminary classmates and Cardinal Gulbinowicz in Poland later in the month. "It will be a great moment," he said.