Bishop Matthew H. Clark had a special announcement to make during the annual diocesan convocation for priests and pastoral administrators: Father Felicjan Sierotowicz, a native of Poland who has been serving in Cayuga County since 2001, has officially become a priest of the Diocese of Rochester.
“I was very happy on April 24 when Bishop Clark announced my incardination,” Father Sierotowicz later told the Catholic Courier. “I look forward to serving in this area for many years.”
Father Sierotowicz came to the United States from Poland in 2000. Although he’s been a priest for 15 years, the roots of his vocation go back much further.
“My vocation began at home when I was very young. I was only 6 years old when I thought of becoming a priest. Of course a child that age has little idea of what that means, but I have come to understand that it is like God sowing a little seed in the soil of my heart,” Father Sierotowicz said.
As a child, the future priest regularly gathered his younger brothers and sisters and staged make-believe Masses. His younger brothers would pretend to be altar servers, his sisters served as the choir, and young Felicjan would pretend to be the priest.
“This was our second Mass of the day, following high Mass at the parish,” he added.
Father Sierotowicz can recall his mother and father talking to him about the priesthood as a young child, and even then he knew what it meant to be called to a vocation.
When he was in elementary school, local priests visited the school each year at Christmas, and their visits left a lasting impression on him.
“I have always seen the priests I knew as among the happiest people on earth. I saw how the priests were loved by the people, how their life was spent doing good, and I wanted to be like them,” Father Sierotowicz recalled.
After making his first Communion, he became an altar server. He served at Mass several times each week, even though the church was a two-mile walk from his house. Father Sierotowicz’s passion for the church did not lessen during his teenage years and, after completing high school, he entered the seminary.
Father Sierotowicz was ordained a priest in the Congregation of the Oratory in 1990 and soon began parish work. Shortly thereafter he met a couple from Detroit who had come to Poland.
“They told me many times, ‘You should go to the United States. They need young priests there,'” Father Sierotowicz said.
Several years later, in 1995, Father Sierotowicz met an elderly woman from the Rochester area while he was visiting his home parish in Mogilno. She, too, encouraged him to go to the United States, and to the Diocese of Rochester in particular.
“She told me the same thing, ‘We need young Polish priests in the United States,'” he said.
Father Sierotowicz approached his religious superior and asked if he could visit the United States during a one-month vacation. With his superior’s permission, he arrived in the United States in 2000. The Rochester parishioner again asked him to stay in this diocese, and he eventually presented her request to his superior.
In August 2000, Father Sierotowicz received permission to stay in the United States, and he was assigned to assist at Church of the Assumption in Fairport. While there, he also took English classes for four months.
In 2001, Father Sierotowicz left Church of the Assumption to become sacramental minister for the Good Shepherd Catholic Community in southern Cayuga County. At that time he also was given sacramental duties at Mercy Health and Rehabilitation Center in Auburn, where he still serves twice a week.
Father Sierotowicz left Good Shepherd Catholic Community in April 2002 to become sacramental minister at St. Michael Parish in Lyons. In December of that year he left Lyons for his current assignment as sacramental minister for Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn and St. Ann Parish in Owasco.
He also serves as chaplain at Cayuga Correctional Facility in Moravia and Butler Correctional Facility in Red Creek.
“The people with whom I work in each place are very diverse populations,” Father Sierotowicz said. “My ministries give me a lot of opportunities to relate to people on many different levels and to challenge my English skills.”