The following story appeared in the May 14 Idaho Catholic Register.
by Gene Fadness
There are likely not many better ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a Cathedral than to witness the ordination of four men to the priesthood.
On Thursday, June 3, Bishop Peter Christensen will ordain four men as priests, the most the Diocese has ordained in 11 years. (In 2008, there were six ordained and in 2010 there were also four ordained.) The ordination happens just four days after the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on May 30, 1921.
Bishop Peter said the ordinations are a perfect way to launch what he calls “a fresh new start after a time of darkness due to the COVID virus.”
“So often I hear that people are praying for vocations. You’re prayers are being heard, not only for the number of vocations we celebrate this year, but the quality of all the men who are stepping forward,” the Bishop said. “I’ve had a number of opportunities to spend time with our seminarians this past year, and I can honestly say I’m impressed with the caliber of men who are stepping forward.”
Scheduled to be ordained are Deacon Aleksander Dembowski, Deacon Joshua Falce, Deacon Adrian Leszko and Deacon Pawel Pawliszko. Three of the four, natives of Poland, are graduates of Saints Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich., near Detroit, while Deacon Falce is a graduate from Mount Angel Seminary, south of Portland.
Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary is the only seminary in the United States dedicated to preparing foreign-born seminarians, primarily from Poland, to serve the Catholic Church in the United States. Because the seminary is not tied to any one diocese, the seminarians not only discern their call to priesthood, but also where they will serve.
Father Mariusz Majewski, the rector of the Cathedral where the men will be ordained, is also a native of Poland and attended undergraduate studies at Ss. Methodius and Cyril Seminary before attending his final years in theology at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.
While the Polish deacons had not met Father Mariusz until just before their ordination as deacons last year, his presence here was definitely a factor in their decision to come to this Diocese. “I’ve heard a lot of good opinions about him and his mission here,” said Deacon Leszko in an earlier edition of the Idaho Catholic Register.
The Ordination Mass, which is open to the public, begins at 11 a.m.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all three men from Poland, say family members will not be able to attend the ordination Mass. The event will be livestreamed by the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for those not able to attend the Mass.
Here is some information about the men to be ordained.
Deacon Aleksander Dembowski was born in Warsaw and grew up in Mińsk Mazowiecki, a small city near the Polish capital.
He graduated from Salesian High School in Mińsk Mazowiecki and then studied public relations, marketing, and social communications at the University of Warsaw. He worked as journalist for a newspaper, then for a public relations agency and, later, a real estate agency. He also worked as a bartender in a hotel.
A cradle Catholic, he attended children’s rosary meetings as a boy. He began to think about priesthood when he was in Rome for the 2011 beatification of St. John Paul II, the world’s first Polish Pope, and also while attending World Youth Day in Madrid that same year. Also influential were his numerous pilgrimages to the Our Lady in Czestochowa Shrine, a venerated icon of the Blessed Virgin about 160 miles from his home.
“What encouraged me to become a priest was the desire to lead young people to Jesus,” Deacon Dembowski said.
He attended seminary in Warsaw for the Diocese of Warszawa-Praga. After six years’ study, he graduated with distinction with a Master of Divinity. The topic of his master’s thesis was public relations in the Catholic Church in an era of new media.
During his time in seminary, he helped organize vocations retreats and coordinated the Polish pilgrims who would attend World Youth Day in Kra-kow, Poland, in 2016 and in Panama in 2019.
Deacon Dembowski visited Idaho during Christmas break last year. “I was welcomed there just like at home. I am very happy and thank God and the people that I can be part of the Diocese of Boise in Idaho.”
Deacon Dembowski’s interests include new media, soccer, movies and reading crime stories. “I prefer to spend my free time writing and, sometimes, cooking.” After ordination, he will be assigned as a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise.
Deacon Falce was born in Mount Pleasant, Mich., but spent most of his growing up years in Washington state. Even though he lived in the Diocese of Yakima, Deacon Falce chose the Diocese of Boise because of his association with the St. Augustine Center on the University of Idaho campus and the willingness of Father Caleb Vogel to meet with him for spiritual direction.
While a student at Washington State University in Pullman, Falce began dating a girl who attended St. Augustine’s on the UI campus, which is only about 15 miles away from the WSU campus. Even though the relationship with the girl ended, Falce continued to attend St. Augustine. “I had peers there who loved and were on fire for the faith,” he said.
At the invitation of his home bishop in Yakima, Falce agreed to attend a discernment weekend at Mount Angel. “I told him I would think about it afterward, but didn’t make any kind of commitment.”
He did, however, have lots of questions for Father Vogel, then the pastor at St. Augustine’s and now the Vicar General for the Diocese of Boise. “He very generously gave his time and resources to help me, though he never asked or pressured me to come to the Diocese of Boise,” Deacon Falce said of Father Vogel.
After his meetings with Father Vogel, Falce returned for a second week-end at Mount Angel. “At the end of that weekend, I knew that was where I was supposed to be,” he said. What he didn’t know was which diocese would be his home diocese: Yakima or Boise.
The deadline to apply looming, Falce went on a retreat to Rome and Assisi. “I prayed at every basilica and holy site I went to, praying about two places to serve.” At the end of the 10-day pilgrimage, “I had the same internal, concrete certainty about the Diocese of Boise as I had when I finally decided to enter seminary,” he said. Most helpful was some advice he got from a priest in the Diocese of Yakima: “You go where your vocation becomes alive.” That, Falce said, was in the Diocese of Boise. “Every year in the seminary since, and every summer assignment in Idaho, has continually reaffirmed for me that this is where I’m supposed to be.”
After earning bachelor’s degrees in both history and philosophy from Washington State in 2014, he enrolled at Mount Angel Seminary. While at Mount Angel, he completed a summer Spanish immersion in Morelia, Mexico, chaplaincy training at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise and a pastoral year at St. Bernard’s in Blackfoot.
After ordination, he will be assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Edward’s Parish in Twin Falls.
The ministry of the altar is what attracted Deacon Leszko to the priesthood. He decided he would be a priest as a 10-year-old altar server.
But even before that, the devout faith of his parents had a deep influence on him. “I am a deeply religious person. I received my first steps in faith from my parents who taught me how to pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the rosary. They were, for me, the first church that I experienced.”
Born and raised in Białystok, Poland, Deacon Leszko said his “serious relationship with God started when I was 10, when I joined the group of altar boys in my native parish.”
“My participation in the Holy Mass and daily Adoration increased my faith, and my love to God and the Catholic Church.” After conversations with his pastor and parochial vicars, he decided “to become a priest and sacrifice my life to God and my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Deacon Leszko said it was during his time as an altar server that he said he “felt that God was calling me to be His exclusive instrument,” he said. It helped also, he said, that he had priests in his home parish who were powerful examples of what a priest should be. “These were saint-like priests who led me to Christ, showing me the way to holiness and helping me in my discernment.”
At 16, Leszko enrolled in a minor seminary operated by the Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel in the village of Miejsce Piastowe, about 60 miles from Rzeszów, in southeastern Poland.
After one year’s notiviate with the Congregation of Saint Michael, he was sent to Italy in 2012 to study Italian, philosophy and theology at the Institute of St. Peter in Viterbo. After his first year in theology, he decided to leave religious life at the Congregation of Saint Michael to allow another year to reflect on his vocation as a layman. After that year, he decided to discern diocesan priesthood in the United States, resuming his studies in theology at John Paul II University in Krakow.
After one semester, his superiors sent him to the United States to complete his studies and find a diocese in which he would serve after graduation.
During the summer of 2019, while Deacon Leszko was studying in Michigan, Father Nathan Dail, vocations director for recruitment and parochial vicar at All Saints Parish in Lewiston, emailed Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary inquiring as to whether any seminarians there might be considering the Diocese of Boise. Deacon Leszko responded expressing an interest, but Father Dail did not see his email. He did, however, see a follow-up email from Deacon Adrian indicating that perhaps Boise was not the place.
Father Dail immediately contacted Deacon Adrian and invited him to a “Quo Vadis” (Latin for, “Where are you going?”) retreat he was organizing for men discerning seminary that just so happened to be a week later in Hailey.
By the next day, Deacon Leszko had his airline tickets. “It was one of the smoothest things that could take place,” Father Dail said, noting the timing just before the retreat would provide Deacon Leszko a prime opportunity to meet priests and fellow seminarians in the Diocese of Boise. “He fit in so well with the seminarians and got a chance to meet Father (Justin) Brady, Father Vogel and Father Jose,” he said, referring to Father Jose Ramirez, who, at the time, was vocations director for Hispanic seminarians.
Deacon Leszko was impressed with what he witnessed. “I was so amazed about Idaho,” he said. “I found very profound faith and devotional people. I saw Christ in those young people who, with their whole heart, were participating in this holy time.”
The Quo Vadis retreat was a deciding factor in his decision to choose the Diocese of Boise, as well as his decision to tell his friends and fellow seminarians, Pawel Pawliszko and Aleksander Dembowski, who also then chose Boise.
“It was such a grace, I felt like God pulled them here with so little effort on my part,” Father Dail said. “I’m confident the Holy Spirit was working behind this because it was just so smooth and they both fit in so well.”
After ordination, he will be assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Mark’s in Boise.
Pawel Pawliszko’s parents taught him about the Catholic faith from a young age, convincing him to become an altar boy, a 10-year experience that deepened his faith even more. “My parents not only supported me on the path of faith but also in my education. They were always open to help me with homework or preparation for exams. I could count on them in every matter and circumstance,” he said.
Like the other deacons from Poland, Deacon Pawliszko is disappointed his family will not be able to attend the ordination. “Despite the distance, we regularly talk, maintaining constant contact,” he said.
Deacon Pawliszko said his decision to become a priest was largely impacted by an event in high school. The prime minister of Poland awarded him a prize for achieving the best results in science in his region. “Thanks to this award, I learned a very interesting thing,” he said. “When I received the award, very educated people and politicians were present on the stage, and then I realized that without God it would be vanity. Without the help of God’s grace and a relationship with Jesus, I would never have dealt with the rush of work and effort that I had to put in order to gain this honor. In retrospect, I know that a wise man cannot be selfish, but he must share his wisdom with others and help even more.”
Shortly after that, he entered seminary at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Wroclaw where he studied for three years before coming to the United States.
Deacon Pawliszko heard about the Diocese of Boise from Deacon Leszko while the two were studying at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary. “He told me a lot of good things about the Diocese and faithful people who need good priests,” he said. “Even though I am a native of Poland, I am very much interested to work with all the people of different nationalities.”
“I am a deeply believing person whose faith and understanding is strengthened by receiving the Holy Eucharist daily,” Deacon Pawliszko said. “This helps me to develop a spirit of love and to find God in every human being.”
He also prays the rosary daily. “I would like to be a priest who is like Mary, one who gives of himself to people; always smiling, open, wise, and who always has time for others.”
After ordination, he will be assigned as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell.
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