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DECEMBER 2017 PRIEST OF THE MONTH - REV. JOHN KWIECIEN

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“I always liked history and had a special interest in the Civil War.”, remarked Fr. John. You would think weekends are busy enough for priests but he finds time to reenact Civil War events during the summers. He noted that, “Thirty years ago I started visiting Civil War sites and just kind of got into it.”

 His history began in Buffalo. He then moved to Tonawanda where he, his sister and two brothers grew up. John attended All Saints and Blessed Sacrament elementary schools in Kenmore. He was an altar server and had good relationships with the priests whom he encountered. When he was in the eighth grade he recalled that a vocations presentation was given and he thought, “Why not?” From there he entered the Diocesan Prep Seminary which was on Dodge Street but is now closed. Then it was on to St. John Vianney Seminary (now Christ the King) and he was ordained to the priesthood in 1976. He is considered a “Lifer,” the term used to describe men who went directly into studies for the priesthood after elementary school.

 He was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Gowanda and Annunciation Parish on the West Side as a young parochial vicar. He then taught Religion and European Cultures for a year at Archbishop Walsh High School. For about three years, he spent time looking into the possibility of becoming an order priest with the Glenmary Home Missions. After living and working with them in rural areas of Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina, Fr. John decided not to leave diocesan priesthood. He recalled, “They wanted me to get a taste of the missions and, if at the end of three years I liked them and they liked me, I would have stayed with them. It was a great three years and I still have some friends in Glenmary parishes but we have rural here.”

He went on to serve at St. Ambrose in South Buffalo and St. Paul in Kenmore before being assigned as pastor of three parishes; St. Joan of Arc in Perrysburg, St. John Fisher in South Dayton and St. Louis in Cherry Creek. At least those three were located relatively close together. Compared to his time spent with the Glenmary Missions where he would have three parishes in two or three different counties, he remarked, “Traveling and managing that number of parishes was nothing new to me.” After 12 years as pastor of those three parishes, he spent six years as pastor of St. Aloysius in Springville. He then spent four months studying at the Vatican II Institute outside of San Francisco and returned to spend five years as pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in North Collins. Seven years ago he was assigned as pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Angola where he currently resides. Most of his time has been spent in rural settings and he is just fine with that.

Father John is part-time chaplain at Collins Correctional Facility and he has been chaplain during the summer for Camp Turner. He proudly stated, “I have been working at Camp Turner for over 50 years. I started when I was in the seminary and continued straight through.”

Father John enjoys singing, playing his 1850s guitar and reproduction banjo. He uses his musical skills when participating in reenactments of the Civil War. Recently in Cedar Creek, VA for the 153rd anniversary of that battle, he has also been to Gettysburg, PA, Mumford, OH and many other places, including schools, in his Civil War attire. Luckily for him, he has a few retired priests in the parish who are more than happy to help out with weekend Masses when he’s gone. He attends national events of Civil War reenactments as chaplain for a large group called the United States Volunteers. He commented, “It’s another parish as far as I’m concerned.” With no school at his parish, he looks forward to the fall when things slow down a bit. He said, “Most people think summer time is our time to relax. That is one of the busiest for me!”

Father John relates that, “Just being out there for the people, being there when they have a need,” is an important part of priesthood for him. He continued, “Sometimes your response is just being there because you represent God’s presence. You might not have anything to say, they may not want to hear anything but just being there, it means something.” He believes that someone considering becoming a priest should, “Know your heart. Make sure this is what you want. Like anything there are good and very rewarding parts, there are also challenges to the vocation. Sometimes being on call is a challenge as well as realizing your own limitations. We want to be able to help everyone and you can’t.” Like any commitment in life, Fr. John advises, “Hang in there. Seminary can be challenging.”

It’s nice to know that the gifts and talents God has given to men, as well as the things they have taken an interest in, can still be pursued and enjoyed while living out their vocations as priests.

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