From Our Clergy
Happy to Serve God’s People When I was asked to share my thoughts about my ministry as a priest, I said, “Yes.” But after a few hours of introspective reflection, I realized that everything that I am doing in my life is relative to my ministry as a priest. At this stage of my ministry, sharing this and my role as the Parochial Vicar of my current parish assignment is comprehensive.
I was ordained to the Priesthood on June 1, 2013 at St. Michael Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts. On that day, I learned that my first assignment as a priest was to be the Parochial Vicar at Saint Mary’s Parish in Ware where I am now in the midst of my third year of service.
A parish is a family – a living cell of the one family of God. No two parishes are the same any more than two ordinary families. Each has its own special challenges, needs and blessings. My ministry at Saint Mary’s is very simple and is indeed full of joy and challenges every day. Some of my brother priests are amazed that one person can do all that my position calls me to do. I always respond to their observational inquiry with my faith-filled response, "With help from God, everything is possible.”
From the beginning of my journey in Ware, my pastor asked me to supervise altar servers, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers; visit the sick; and oversee the RCIA program and Confirmation classes. You may think that this is an overwhelming list, but I truly enjoy every responsibility.
An additional assignment brought me much joy. Over the past two years, I was blessed to be a religion teacher at Saint Mary’s Parochial School. The first year, I taught grades 4-7, and last year, grades 4-8. As I reflect on my past experiences, I easily see that teaching was a tremendous amount of work. I organized each class separately every evening; I prepared myself to understand the content of each grade level class as well. Indeed, the planning and preparation did consume many hours in every day. Attending school daily from 9 AM - 2 PM also took time from my various other ministry duties.
My understanding of the priesthood is that it is no specific job, nor specific time frame for being a priest. The whole of priestly life requires full and complete dedication to God’s people. Each person receives a cross to carry. One day someone asked me a very easy question, "Father what about your private life?” I answered, “Being with all and for all at the parish is my private life.” Priestly vocation is not about the priest himself, but about the flock to whom he is sent to serve. I can only make good decisions if I really know my parishioners, as a good shepherd knows his flock.
In my personal life, nine months after my Ordination my dear mother passed away tragically. I will never forget that precise moment: Thursday, February 13, 2014. I had lunch with my pastor; school was closed because of a snowstorm. Shortly after we finished lunch, my father called me and said that there had been a fire at home and sadly, my mother had died from fire related causes. I do not wish anyone to deal with the tragic death of a beloved person; an overwhelming sadness shadowed my every move once I heard my father's explanation. I immediately flew to Poland for my mom's funeral and, even now, I have no idea from whom I received the power to be a Presider at her funeral, but I did it. God gave me the strength I needed!
When I returned to the U.S., I knew my life would be different. As time moves forward, I believe that I am becoming more like my mother with each passing day. I have her way of speaking with people, praying for and with people, and just being like her – I am always open to listen to people's problems and find the time to be patient and kind. Those are the traits of my dear mother that I have certainly adopted. Honestly, I can say that because of my mother, my faith is strong. I clearly remember what she said once: “How important it is to be able to see God in others and help them.”
My family members, friends and people from St. Mary's Parish, especially my pastor, Fr. Jeff, and all the children and staff from school helped me to put my smile back on my face. I will always be thankful to them for all the support they offered me.
Last April my pastor left for service as a United States Air Force Reserve chaplain. I recall that when he asked me if I would take care of the Parish while he was away, I asked him what he meant. He explained to me that from time to time he needed to report for his military duty assignment, and this time he anticipated it would be for a six month absence.
Since April 2015, I have added learning how to be a pastor and taking care of administrative aspects of parish life to my teaching responsibilities and the rest of my previously established parish related tasks. This means that I also attend all parish meetings and events – First Communion, Confirmation, and Eighth Grade Graduation defined May; June focused on the annual Parish Carnival; and August brought the opening of the new school year.
During the last few months, I learned about and experienced the various aspects of parish life. In the beginning, it was not easy. As time moves on, I have established a rhythm and pace. Initially, some people approached me and said that since the pastor was not present, perhaps some changes could be made. They were surprised when I responded that only the pastor could approve and make the changes. Most importantly, I learned that the pastor must be a good steward by paying the bills on time and ensuring that the parish and school have sufficient finances for the coming months as well.
It is very important to openly share with parishioners when money and funds are needed. I remember the day I received a bill related to the maintenance and repair of the church's organ. In Mass that weekend, I publicly shared that I did not have enough money to pay the repair bill on time and I asked for help. The response was amazing; I received enough donations to pay that bill and still have some money remaining for future organ expenses.
In my ministry, I try to create an atmosphere of prayer and loving care; a community where people feel they belong, and are valued and accepted. Every parishioner has an integral role in building our caring family – our parish community.
At my ordination, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield, said our goal was to bring people to God and His teachings, and His true presence in His sacraments to the people. This is why I am happy to be with my parishioners – to offer Mass for them, teach at school, instruct confirmation class, meet with Parish Council, and coordinate and supervise the youth members of our new Saint Mary’s Youth Ministry. I never know who will be the next caller at the door or on the phone. People come for a chat about almost anything. They come for help with a problem, for prayer, for spiritual direction and for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This is my greatest joy in the priesthood – to be an instrument in God’s hands in so many different ways: through prayers, being with people, teaching, preaching, but always by being God’s messenger to bring the Good News by saying to others, “Do not be afraid to follow me.” Priesthood is about Jesus Christ and His Church, not about us, not about our private will. I am happy to be with and for my parishioners – my people.
Rev. Piotr Calik, Parochial Vicar, Saint Mary’s Ware, MA