• Four young men from the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend are preparing for their ordination into the diaconate this year. William Meininger, Jonathan Norton and Matthew Soberalski will be ordained by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on May 24. Royce Gregorson will be ordained in Rome in October.

    Matthew Soberalski brings a heart ready and willing to serve in the diaconate

    Matthew Soberalski

    FORT WAYNE — Matthew Robert Soberalski is working on turning everything over to God through prayer and spiritual direction as he prepares for his diaconate ordination on May 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He is “allowing Him to form and transform me into a servant after His own heart,” he says.

    A native of Michigan, and only son of three children born to Edward and Se Ann Soberalski, the young seminarian, who attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, currently attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne.

    The support and encouragement he has received from his family has been instrumental in his faith formation, he says, as he journeys toward ordination. “I think the greatest influences for my formation in the faith rests in my family. While my parents certainly played an important role, my grandparents were key figures,” he notes gratefully.

    It was in high school that Soberalski first considered a vocation in the Priesthood. But he says, “…it was not until probably my second year in seminary that I really felt the call and began to personally respond to the call. Before seminary the call was a response to a longing in me for more and while in seminary it became a response to God the source of the call.”

    The experience of seminary life has been richly fulfilling to the soon-to-be deacon. “It is a chance to grow and to be nourished spiritually, intellectually, humanly and pastorally. Seminary life provides a man an atmosphere to really meditate and listen for the voice of God speaking to him, a voice that is often very difficult to hear amidst the business and noise of society,” he says, adding, “…seminary life is also a place filled with much joy and a place where men learn how to be great fathers, regardless of whether they discover that call in the Priesthood or are led by God to the vocation to marriage.”

    In seminary formation Soberalski has been assigned to several diocesan parishes, including St. Pius X, Granger, St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Wayne, to learn under the competent tutelage of seasoned priests and minister to the faithful. Living out the service learned in the classroom was most beneficial, says Soberalski.

    “It provides us a chance to encounter what we learn about from our professors and in books in an actual real life parish. The assignments give us the opportunity to learn at the feet of real men who have heard the call, responded to the call and who now assist us in doing likewise. In a very real way the assignments teach us more than we probably even realize and form is ways we can’t even comprehend,” he says.

    As deacon of the Church, Soberalski looks forward to “getting to know and serving the people of God as a servant of Christ.” He hopes to bring to his ministry a “heart ready and willing to serve as Christ served and to follow wherever God leads.” And in his experience he has learned that God will provide “beyond anything I can think up.”

    As Soberalski anticipates the rich and meaningful Mass of Ordination he is grateful for the love and encouragement of his family. “My mom, dad, sisters, brother-in-law and nieces have all been very supportive and have been getting very excited as I have been also. They have been a great blessing all the way through the process, from the time I entered seminary eight years ago to today.”

    William Meininger to conform his life to Christ the Servant in diaconate

    William Meininger

    FORT WAYNE — Since entering the seminary in 2008, William Anthony Meininger has been preparing for May 24, his day of ordination into the diaconate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, with prayer and study. His humility underscores his excitement of the event as he says, “Approaching this sacrament I feel so unworthy, though I trust in the Lord Jesus who chooses the weak to make them strong.”

    Born to Bruce and Margaret Meininger in Canton, Ohio, this soon-to-be deacon first heard the call to a priestly vocation at the tender age of 13, much like his great uncle who entered seminary at that age. His father, who joined the Catholic Church in 1979, he says, has been “a major influence” in his discernment process. “While my sister and I were schooled in the teachings of the Church primarily from our mother, my father’s example of what it means to be a faith-filled and devout Catholic man had a great influence on me,” he says, adding that his family has always been supportive of his vocation.

    While speaking with his parents about the Priesthood, they assured him that he had time to grow and pray about his vocation. “I did just that, and after finishing college, I entered into formation,” he says. Meininger earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at the College of Wooster in 2007.

    His formation at Pontifical Josephinum, Athenaeum and Mount Saint Mary’s seminaries has been six years of joy, he says. “Having the opportunity to come together with men who are all seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ and discern their truest purpose in life has been such a blessing for me. Our daily routine of prayer, classes and fraternity have served me well in helping me begin the process of lifelong growth in the best version of the man God created me to be.”

    Meininger feels his summer parish assignments at St. Pius X in Granger and Most Precious Blood in Fort Wayne, during his formation have prepared him in many ways for his diaconate. “I always anxiously await the opportunity to spend several months immersed in parish life with the people of God. Being able to work with parishioners, parish staff and pastors has really affirmed my sense of calling and the joy that comes from being exhausted after a long day in the vineyard is unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

    Becoming a deacon of the Church has Meininger eager to serve the people of God. “I am always so humbled to be present in some of the most joyful and sorrowful moments in the lives of parishioners and be considered as a part of their families and lives. I hope to bring joy through service and excitement about the Gospel of Christ, which is so needed in our world,” he says, adding that he looks forward most to baptizing. “I have been blessed to be present for a great many number of Baptisms during my years in the seminary, but being able to regularly bestow this sacrament, opening the doors of grace to these newly born children, is most humbling and exciting.”

    Meininger hopes to learn to live every day for Jesus and His people. “The process of formation is a continual dying to self, and a putting-on of the new self as St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24. In ordination to the diaconate, a man is conformed to Christ the Servant. I pray that this special grace will teach me to be continually selfless and live at the service of the Church and Her members.”

    Meininger, who is the third male in his family to be ordained into the Priesthood, encourages anyone seeking the truth of their vocation to investigate the call. “I encourage any man who is discerning a call to the Priesthood to take the chance, trust in God and pursue formation. Even for those who discern that they are not called while in the seminary, the experience is nonetheless worthwhile, as we are not only trained to be priests, but also simply strong Catholic men,” he offers.

    Meininger’s home parish is St. Pius X in Granger.

    Jonathan Norton hopes to give all of himself in diaconate

    Jonathan Norton

    FORT WAYNE — Jonathan Blake Norton has been praying fervently in anticipation of his upcoming ordination into the diaconate on May 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He not only prays for graces for himself and fellow seminarians but for the families of his next parish assignment. “I am praying that I will just rely on the strength of Jesus Christ and cooperate with the grace that will come from my ordination. … I know that there will be people and families who invite me into their lives, sharing their hopes, joys, fears and struggles. I have faith in the Lord that He will use me to provide them with grace,” he says.

    Norton is the son of Grant and Nola Norton and has two siblings, one brother and one sister. The family attends Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne. A graduate of Bishop Luers High School with the class of 2000 Norton began his higher education at Indiana Tech studying engineering, but says he “quickly realized that it was not for me.” After eight years of work experience, Norton went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2011 while in formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary.

    Norton credits his supportive family, particularly his mother, who was instrumental in getting the Norton children to Mass each Sunday and educated in a Catholic high school and his deeply devoted grandparents for his faith formation.

    After a rough start in his teen years, he found himself at Bishop Luers and is grateful to his parents who worked extra jobs to assure his place at the school.

    “Those four years were very beneficial to me. I was given a real chance to excel and see my peers taking their faith seriously,” he says, adding, “I am grateful to my parents for making the sacrifice to send me to a Catholic high school.”

    The young seminarian also gives credit to Redeemer Radio’s broadcasts of Church teachings. “The programing on Redeemer Radio in a way mentored me and helped me to appreciate the beauty of our Catholic faith, seeing that it was the answer to the true desires in my heart,” he notes.

    The true desires of his heart came to fruition years after he first heard the call to a vocation when he was a boy. Serving at Mass on his father’s military base he became acquainted with the Marine chaplain there who invited him to consider the Priesthood. “Because he was a chaplain we often saw him in Marine uniform and so there was nothing more impressive to me as a kid than seeing a ‘Marine-priest.’ Thanks to the influence of Father (James) O’Kielty I have considered the Priesthood throughout my life, and now military chaplaincy,” says Norton.

    During his teen years, Norton put his dream of the Priesthood “on the shelf” until 2005 when he realized “God was not going to stop calling me. So I finally took some time to really discern and then finally applied for seminary.”

    Seminary has been a meaningful experience for this soon-to-be deacon. “It has been a great blessing to have this time to develop a close relationship with Jesus Christ. … I have developed friendships with my brother seminarians that will last for a lifetime. I have seen and experienced the love that the people have for their priests. I have learned that the Lord can never be out done in generosity. Every time I give of myself He rewards me with even more blessings,” he says.

    On his path to the Priesthood Norton has experienced summer parish assignments at St. Pius X in Granger and St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol where he “learned a great deal about being a good shepherd.”

    He says of the experiences, “Summer parish assignments have allowed me to see the highs and lows of parish life. I believe that it is a beautiful life. …”

    In anticipation of his diaconate duties, Norton humbly expresses, “I hope that I can give all of myself as a deacon.”

    As a deacon Norton says, “I expect that I will continue to learn that it is wise and more efficient to trust in Christ rather than myself! … I am excited about the entire experience. I have been told that deacon year is very special because it is the first time that a man experiences the grace of Holy Orders. I hope that it will help me grow in my identity as a spiritual father.”

    Posted on May 13, 2014, to:

  • Nineteen diocesan priests recently completed 18 months of training in the Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program coordinated by Father Bill Dickinson of the Catholic Leadership Institute based in Wayne, Pa. A graduation ceremony was held Thursday, May 1, with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, center, and instructor Father Bill Dickinson, far right, at the Lindenwood Retreat Center in Donaldson.

    By Tim Johnson

    DONALDSON — Nineteen priests from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend recently completed classes with intense training offered through the Catholic Leadership Institute’s Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program.

    The training began in November of 2012 and spanned for six modules or sessions over the course of 18 months. Also included were one-day sessions in between each of the modules for a total of 29 training days.

    The priest graduates include Father Andrew Budzinski, Father Daniel Chukwuleta, Father Stephen Colchin, Father Matthew Coonan, Father Terrence Coonan, Father Andrew Curry, Father Dan Durkin, Father Lourdino Fernandes, Father Jason Freiburger, Father Pius Ilechukwu, Father Fernando Jimenez, Father Glenn Kohrman, Father Bill Kummer, Father Bob Lengerich, Father Jacob Meyer, Father Ben Muhlenkamp, Father David Ruppert, Father Tom Shoemaker, Father Tony Steinacker and Father Dave Voors.

    Father Bill Dickinson is the vice-president for Episcopal and Client Services for the Catholic Leadership Institute, and he was responsible for managing the implementation and delivery of Good Leaders, Good Shepherds in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

    The Catholic Leadership Institute is a not-for-profit apostolate that provides world-class leadership formation, training and consulting to the Roman Catholic community nationally and internationally, Father Dickinson told Today’s Catholic.

    “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds supports the Governing Office of the ordained Priesthood,” Father Dickinson said. “The Governing Office is the leadership office associated with Holy Orders, and parish life and ministry. Thus, we have been providing pastoral and priestly leadership training to the participating priests of Fort Wayne-South Bend.”

    “Our mission, in part, is to set them up for sacred success as they become ever more confident and competent in their own leadership skills and practices in service to both the people of the parish and the parish overall,” Father Dickinson said.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who is a member of the Episcopal board of the Catholic Leadership Institute told Today’s Catholic, “I think it is the best program in the country in helping priests in leadership skills and abilities as shepherds according to the mind of Christ.”

    “I was happy that we could offer this excellent program to our priests,” he said. “The priests have shared with me how beneficial the program has been for them. I was really happy to see how much they appreciated the sessions as well as the priestly fraternity during their days together. I know this will bear much good fruit in the lives of our priests and in their leadership of our parishes.”

    Father Dickinson said, “Bishop Rhoades wanted to provide a sustainable as well as fraternal professional development opportunity for these men — his priests. The bishop’s clear support reflects his care and love for his priests and the parishes entrusted to their care. We, too, are very proud of and happy for these men. And, we are grateful to the bishop for his own leadership with the men and as he serves on our Episcopal Advisory Board.”

    Father Bill Kummer, administrator of St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel Parish in Fort Wayne, said, “By the gift of ordination to the Priesthood, we ordained share in the ministry of the bishop, indeed, with Christ Himself. We are to teach, sanctify and to govern in the Church. Good Leaders, Good Shepherds provides a priest with a set of tools that make the ministry of governance more manageable.”

    “This training,” he said, “… has helped me to be more aware of types of persons in the Church, and to better use practices for calling together people into various teams and committees and councils in the parish. It enriches the teaching and sanctifying, but most of all, this experience helps us, me, to better manage myself and the organizations of the parish.”

    Father Dickinson said of the priests in the program, “We saw growth and excitement; we experienced gratefulness and pastoral application.”

    “The men in Fort Wayne-South Bend have been just excellent in their participation and in their expression of how they are able to apply their learned leadership skills to parish life,” Father Dickinson said. “They are a fraternal, supportive group of men who clearly respect each other and love the people of God they serve.”

    Father Andrew Curry, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine in North Manchester and St. Francis Xavier in Pierceton, said the top thing he learned was “leading people is all about forming a team or a group that journeys to excellence, and that for an effective team, we need people of many different temperments.”

    Father Jason Freiburger, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, Elkhart, said, “I learned how to work effectively with teams. … There are tools available to help navigate different situations that arise that can help anyone be a more effective leader.”

    “The top thing that I learned was to understand my parish’s vast needs and identifying key individuals who can help me lead and direct the whole congregation in the direction Christ is calling us,” said Father Tony Steinacker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Goshen.

    Another strength of the program was the sense of fraternity. “For me the best part of the training was to learn together. There are 19 brothers with which I have a connection that in certain circumstances I can trust and learn from them,” said Father Kummer.

    “The fraternity that developed among the priests’ part of this cohort of Good Leaders, Good Shepherds was priceless,” said Father Freiburger. “We bonded by working through together some of the questions and challenges that we have faced in ministry in the parish and beyond. Celebrating our completion of the program with our bishop and recalling all the knowledge gained and realizing our capability to implement it was a good feeling of confident assurance.”

    Father Kummer said, “I plan to use this experience for the rest of my ministry by following the leadership skills I have learned, and to further my learning by sharing and refining my goals with other priests, and to ask my parish to use better organizational tools so that we move ahead and grow in faith and love. We shall not be stuck, but will find a path of growth and faith.”

    Father Steinacker said the highlights continue. “Our learning has not ended. Nor has the fruits of our learning.”

    Posted on May 13, 2014, to:

  • The 33 graduates receiving certificates from the Education for Ministry program in Fort Wayne gather for the graduation ceremony on May 7 in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offered Evening Vespers at the ceremony. The program began in 1991 and 719 laity from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have received certificates.

    By Tim Johnson

    FORT WAYNE — Education for Ministry students experienced a milestone on May 7 receiving certificates for two years of diligent study about the Church and their faith. The celebration took place in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offered his congratulations and Evening Vespers.

    Since 1991, a grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute in Huntington provides the two-year training for those who work in parish ministry, teach or just want to learn more about their Catholic faith. Classes are offered in Fort Wayne, South Bend, and the Spanish-speaking Catholic community is served through the sister program, Educacion para el Ministerio.

    The Education for Ministry certificate is obtained by completing courses on Old Testament, New Testament, creed, ecclesiology, sacraments, liturgy, morality, prayer, catechesis and theology of ministry said Christina Emilian, who is the diocesan director of the program.

    “The program has been revised to be more accessible for those we serve,” Emilian said. “The program is now modular based, allowing participants to take each unit when it fits in their schedule over several years.”

    A certificate will be granted upon completion of one introductory course on Scripture and Tradition, and seven core classes.

    “In the future we hope to offer an advanced certificate for those who have completed the Education for Ministry basic certificate and would like to continue their faith formation,” Emilian added.

    During vespers Bishop Rhoades thanked the graduates for their two-year commitment “to the service of the Lord and His Church. I hope your participation in this program has been not only helpful in growing in your knowledge of the faith, but also in your own spiritual lives and journey of faith.”

    After reflection upon the reading to the Hebrews about Christ’s eternal priesthood, Bishop Rhoades told the graduates, “In completing the Education for Ministry program, you go out to continue the work of Christ the priest, prophet and king, in the activity of the Church. In cooperation with our ordained priests, who share in a unique way in Christ’s priesthood, you as laity are following a path of Christian discipleship and service that is so needed for the life and growth of the Church in our various parish communities and apostolates.”

    “The Lord has bestowed gifts and charisms on each of you to help build up His Body, the Church,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “I am deeply grateful for the various roles you fulfill in this regard. I am very grateful for your witness to Christ and for your generosity in service to the Church.”

    One of those earning certificates from the program, Brett Rupright, a teacher at St. Joseph School-Hessen Cassel, Fort Wayne, said, “It was a wonderful experience that I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in Education for Ministry Program.”

    He said the second year of the program “brought back many wonderful memories of my own Catholic education. I spent many Wednesday nights thinking to myself where have I heard this before. It was a combination of my wonderful teachers at St. Joseph School-Hessen Cassel and Bishop Luers High School. I’m very fortunate that this program was able to build upon the foundation that was started by my parents, George and Michelle Rupright, my grade school and high school educations.”

    Many of the graduates told Today’s Catholic they took the course because they wanted to grow in their faith.

    Barbara Cumberland, a teacher at St. John the Baptist School, Fort Wayne, said, “I felt it important to obtain knowledge and clarification of the Catholic religion so I could teach my students at St. John’s with confidence. Children are very perceptive. I know that I must give them precise, truthful and immediate answers. Any hesitation may cause them to doubt.”

    She added, “The journey was a positive in many ways. I learned new information, made new friends and received personal insights that allow me to continue my journey toward the ultimate goal of eternal life in heaven.”

    Dr. Denise Smith of St. Joseph Parish, Fort Wayne, said the instructional staff is “top notch.” Smith has been on the RCIA team at St. Joseph for the last six years and is also a catechist.

    “I will continue to be involved with catechesis at my parish and use the knowledge to continue my own growth in my faith,” she said, “and, of course, to evangelize as Pope Francis and his predecessors have asked us to.”

    Bishop Rhoades spoke of this special time of grace in the life of the Church with Pope Francis’ example and call to be a Church of missionary disciples that communicates the joy of the Gospel.

    “He is constantly calling us to be a Church that is not self-centered or self-referential,” Bishop Rhoades said. “He is calling us to go out, to go forth, especially to the edges of peripheries, to the poor, the sick, the suffering, the forgotten. This missionary impulse is so important and so needed. Each in our own way, according to our own gifts and responsibilities, has a part to play in this missionary task.”

    Bishop Rhoades encouraged the graduates to daily growth in the love of God and neighbor in their life and ministry.

    “We all need to cultivate our life of faith,” the bishop said. “This requires a faithful life of prayer and ever-deepening communion with the person of Jesus. This is foundational for all ministry and for true discipleship. Without our personal encounter with Jesus, our ministry will lack the vital soul and source needed to bear lasting fruit.”

    Martha Anderson, a great-grandmother from St. Therese Parish in Fort Wayne, told Today’s Catholic that a friend who had participated in Education for Ministry recommended it. A priest also encouraged Anderson to consider more Bible study.

    “It was very informative and very helpful to me,” she said. “Now I am reading the Bible daily, praying before I read the Bible and trying to say my morning prayers every day.”

    John Trok, a dentist and catechist at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, will carry what he learned to his fifth- and sixth-grade classes at St. Elizabeth, “but also with my family and friends, especially the ones that have fallen away from the Church.”

    Trok has decided to also get involved with prison ministry. “I’ve always had an inkling for getting involved with this ministry, because one of my patients has been doing a Bible study at the Allen County Jail for quite some time,” he noted.

    He took the classes because “I needed another spiritual booster shot. And, I just knew it was the right thing to do for my journey within the Catholic faith.”

    Trok has a sister who teaches first grade at Holy Family School in South Bend and is going through the Education for Ministry program that is offered in South Bend.

    Posted on May 13, 2014, to:

  • Donald J. Schmid

    GRANGER — A diocesan resident has been appointed to the National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. That board collaborates with the bishops’ conference in preventing the sexual abuse of minors by persons in the service of the Church.

    Donald J. Schmid of Granger, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, was nominated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. His appointment was announced May 1 by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the bishops’ conference.

    Schmid is the father of three children and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He has been a prosecutor with the Department of Justice since 1994 and has served on the diocesan review board since 2009. He also has served on the review board for the Midwest and United States Provinces of the Congregation of Holy Cross for several years.

    Bishop Rhoades told Today’s Catholic that he nominated Schmid for the National Review Board because of his “excellent” service on the Diocesan Review Board.

    “Donald’s expertise and counsel have been a great help to me and our diocese in our youth protection efforts,” Bishop Rhoades said. “His professional background and experience are extremely helpful, together with his good judgment and insight in these difficult matters. He has been a great help in the development of our diocesan policies for youth protection as well.”

    Schmid will join two other new appointees for a four-year term on the 12-member national board: Judge Mary. K. Huffman of Centerville, Ohio, and Nelle Moriarty, a marriage and family therapist in Rochester, Minn., who chairs the review board of the Diocese of Winona, Minn.

    The board meets several times a year in locales around the country. Some of its duties include: Advising the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People on matters of child and youth protection, specifically on policies and best practices; reviewing the work of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and making recommendations to its director; advising the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People on the annual diocesan audit process prescribed in the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including methods, scope and personnel; and making appropriate recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of minors.

    Schmid told Today’s Catholic that he was “genuinely looking forward” to working on the national board.

    “I hope to bring my experience and judgment as an attorney and prosecutor, as well as my experience and expertise with restorative justice practices, to assist the board in its role to advise and consult with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and specifically the conference’s Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People,” Schmid said.

    He told Today’s Catholic that he has considerable experience dealing with priest sexual abuse against children in his role as a member of the two local review boards. Schmid said that he was well aware of the work of the national board through his colleague on the diocesan board, Susan Steibe-Pasalich, who has served a term on the national board.

    Steibe-Pasalich, who is director of the Counseling Center at Notre Dame, told Today’s Catholic, “As a former member of the National Review Board, I have experienced how strongly the bishops of the United States rely on the advice of this body of laity in terms of protecting children.”

    Donald Schmid, she said, will be an excellent addition to that board.

    “As we have worked together on our Diocesan Review Board, I have personally witnessed his keen legal expertise, his strong leadership skills in helping to revise our diocesan guidelines and policies for addressing reports of sexual abuse, and his caring manner which draws others to carefully listen,” she said. “Donald is an insightful and critical thinker who is committed to his faith, and who will generously share his gifts on the national level.”

    Bishop Rhoades said that both Schmid and Steibe-Pasalich have given “outstanding” service to the diocesan board. Not only will Schmid’s expertise be helpful on the national level, the bishop said, but “Our diocese will also benefit since Donald will be able to share with us the experience of best practices and insights from the National Review Board.”

    Schmid will begin his service on the National Review Board June 1.

    Posted on May 13, 2014, to:

  • Father Matthew Sienkiewicz

    SOUTH BEND — Father Matthew Sienkiewicz, a retired priest of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend died on May 6 in Three Oaks, Mich., where he was residing. He was 90 years old.

    Born Sept. 21, 1923, in Chicago, Ill., Father Sienkiewicz was the last of Julius and Julia Sienkiewicz’ four children. He attended Sacred Heart Grade School in Chicago and Tilden Technical High School and Allied School of Mechanical Trades in Chicago. After completing high school he joined the U.S. Army during WWII, where he served as an AA Machine Gun/Marksman. Father Sienkiewicz served in Europe from 1943 through 1946 and participated in the Ardennes Rhineland Central Europe Campaigns earning three bronze stars. After his discharge from the Army, Father Sienkiewicz entered Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich., in 1955.

    His interest in a religious vocation grew gradually, he told Today’s Catholic in a 2009 interview, “as I lived through the many personal and public situations, conditions and experiences during time spent as a layman. Reading the good news and trying to live it out in daily living prompted me to think of becoming a priest.”

    Father Sienkiewicz was ordained on May 30, 1959, by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

    His assignments have been at St. Jude, South Bend; St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne; St. Adalbert, South Bend; and St. Michael, Plymouth, all as an assistant pastor. He was appointed pastor at St. Hedwig, South Bend, in 1972 where he shepherded his flock there until 1986, when he was appointed to Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne. He also served as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne; St. Mary, Decatur; and St. Anthony de Padua, South Bend.

    Father Sienkiewicz told Today’s Catholic, “I always thank God that He made me a priest, before Vatican II, during Vatican II and after Vatican II — that I was able to see the vast changes in the Church.” He said, with Vatican II, “the Church was given back to the people.”

    Father Sienkiewicz embraced people of all ethnicities, class and economic status. His favorite assignment was working with social and interracial work in South Bend in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He enjoyed his work with ecumenical issues, the charismatic movement, the abortion issue and working with African-Americans in the community.

    Father Barry England, pastor of St. Bavo Parish in Mishawaka, came to know Father Sienkiewicz as assistant when they ministered together at St. Anthony de Padua Parish in South Bend beginning in 1991. Father England says of his friend, “He was very dedicated to his vocation. He was a man with a heart of gold, who took his ministry seriously. He befriended all kinds of people and cared for those in need.”

    On his deathbed, after receiving the Anointing of the Sick from Father England, Father Sienkiewicz asked for Father England’s blessing. “After I gave him my blessing,” Father England says, “I asked him to give me his. It was very touching.”

    Father Sienkiewicz’s niece Diane Rajzer says she will miss her dear uncle, who “marched to the beat of his own drum.” “He was ornery, but he was a gentle soul,” she says.

    Rajzer, who came to know her uncle well when he lived with her for a year, says, “We would eat fish crackers and drink wine together. He would tell stories about his experiences in the war and his parish life at St. Hedwig.” She notes that Father Sienkiewicz helped so many different people over the years. “He cared deeply about the needy, homeless and poor people. They all hold him in high esteem,” she says.

    Father Sienkiewicz enjoyed nature and animals and chose to retire in 1995 to his log cabin home beside a stream in Three Oaks, Mich., where he lived till just a few days before his death. His niece Maryanne Lamoreaux, who, along with other family members, nursed Father Sienkiewicz in her home in his final days, remembers her beloved uncle “especially had an affection for nature.” Even on his deathbed, she recalls, he made sure there was bread on his patio to feed the birds.

    “He loved his family,” she adds, “and was generous, loving and had a great sense of humor. … He was very humble and charitable. He was really a spiritual man.” She will always hold dear the memory of the beautific smile he wore amidst his tears when she asked him in his final moments if he had seen Jesus.

    In his retirement Father Sienkiewicz assisted in local parishes in the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

    Preceded in death by his parents, Father Sienkiewicz is survived by one brother and four nieces.

    Mass of Christian Burial for Father Sienkiewicz was held May 10 at St. Hedwig Church in South Bend. A private burial will take place at Resurrection Cemetery in Joliet, Ill., at a later date.

    Posted on May 13, 2014, to: