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AUGUST 2017 PRIEST OF THE MONTH - REV. DANIEL SERBICKI

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Sometimes God uses seemingly inconsequential moments to call our attention to the big picture he has in mind for us. For Fr. Dan Serbicki, it was the look on the priest’s face as he was washing the vessels after distributing Holy Communion during a Mass that caught his attention.

The oldest of five children, young Dan was born in Greece, NY, a suburb of Rochester. His parents both worked for Kodak but after the children came along, his mother stayed home to raise them full time. The Serbicki family moved to Holley, NY when Dan was six years old which also moved them from the Diocese of Rochester to the Diocese of Buffalo. In addition to raising their children full time, Dan’s mother also home schooled them through high school. Father Dan recalled his earliest thoughts of becoming a priest occurred one day at Mass. “After Fr. Frank Skupien distributed Holy Communion he was standing at the altar, ‘doing the dishes’ (purifying the vessels). What caught my attention was this little smile he had. I was probably around junior high school age at the time. Something about that smile just clicked for me – that he just shared something so beautiful with everyone. He had connected everyone with Christ at that moment and it was clear that he loved what he did. So it started with Mass but strangely at a time (doing the dishes after the meal) when you would least expect!”

Young Dan had enjoyed many a youth conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He considers that a big part of his religious experience growing up; so much so, that he decided to go there for college. By this time he had discerned that God was calling him to the priesthood. He entered into a Pre-Theology program which was a sub section of the university geared towards those interested in priesthood. He believes, “It was a way for me to take college classes while praying with a community of people who were thinking about priesthood. It was a wonderful, supportive experience.” As part of his college experience, Dan got to spend a semester in Austria. While abroad he visited Rome and Assisi in Italy. He prayed a lot about what path God wanted him to follow in his priesthood. Was he called to become a diocesan priest or to join an order? The life of St. Francis of Assisi was always very attractive to him. Most people are impressed by his life of poverty and concern for the poor but Fr. Dan exclaimed, “I saw in him someone of great boldness who took the gospel and his love of God very seriously and was willing to do even crazy things or look crazy (like trying to stop a crusade by converting the Muslim leader to Christianity, etc.) because he believed this was what God was asking him to do. Young Dan even took Francis as his Confirmation name and when he visited Assisi he thought for sure God would reveal to him which path of priesthood he should choose. But Assisi was empty in the sense that he did not have a spiritual experience that lead him to believe God was calling him to become a Franciscan and so he pursued diocesan priesthood.

He struggled to see himself as a future priest because he was shy and he thought he might not be effective at such a public ministry. He thought to himself, “Okay, God, I’m not really sure I can do this but I trust that you know what you’re doing.” After undergraduate school, Dan spent the next five years at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. He was ordained at the age of 26 and considers himself a modern day “Lifer” like the priests who attended the Diocesan Preparatory High School and went right into the seminary after. His first assignment was to Queen of Heaven Parish in West Seneca where he spent three years as a parochial vicar. He was then assigned for another three years to South Eastern Allegany County with Fr. Sean DiMaria who is the pastor of seven worship sites including Alfred, Andover, Almond, Bolivar, Belmont, Wellsville and an oratory in Scio. Father Dan was recently named pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Corfu, NY.

He enjoys fixing things like computers as well as construction and home repair. When he was home schooled he spent time helping teach his younger siblings. He remarked, “I think that’s something that has helped me a bit in ministry, those experiences of sharing knowledge, teaching and encouraging when I was growing up.” Fixing computers and home repair work have helped him cultivate patience. His parents have an old farm house so there has been plenty of opportunity to become proficient in repair skills. He learned a lot from working with his father on these projects and finds these skills very useful now that he is a pastor. Both patience and the ability to fix things come in handy for a priest in charge of a parish.

Father Dan also enjoys board gaming with friends. He played a lot of board games with his family growing up and finds that while playing there is also time to have conversations which lead to great bonding experiences. His father also instilled in him a love of the outdoors. Father Dan recalled that his dad was always saying, “Let’s go for a hike! Let’s go for a bike ride…” Every year his family travels to the Adirondacks over the Independence Day weekend for a family reunion with extended relatives. They stay in cottages, tents, and enjoy the great outdoors as well as each other’s company.

There are two aspects of priesthood that Fr. Dan enjoys the most. He noted, “The first is obviously the Mass – to stand there at that altar and hold the one you love in your hands is incredible!” The second is actually the Sacrament of Confession. He explains, “There is an anxiety about going to Confession that we all share but being on the other side of it, you’re not seeing people at their worst (they think that’s the way the priest sees them, their burdens, struggles, etc.) The experience of the priest on the other side of it is usually the opposite. I see people who are moved by grace to face the struggles they’ve been having and who have found the courage to go to Confession, to be open about this, to try to move ahead in their struggles. It’s been for me an encounter of profound hope and I had not expected that when I got ordained. It’s so encouraging as a priest to see people who are having these struggles say, ‘I can’t deal with this on my own, I need God’s help.”

Concerning advice on priesthood to those who may be discerning, Fr. Dan believes that, “It’s a relationship with God, with a diocese or a religious order and ultimately it’s a relationship with God’s people. It’s not something that you can force or you can just decide – I’m doing this, but I also think that in the end it’s not something you can decide – I’m not doing this. If God is calling, the Hound of Heaven will track you down. The stronger your relationship is with God and with his people, the more clear it will be what God is asking you to do.”

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