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Come With Me Through The Gates Of Heaven

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Poster Boy Priest

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Before the experience of March 3, 1993, I was a person that fully enjoyed my personhood and vocation to the priesthood. When I was ordained in 1970, I was standing on the runway awaiting my journey into a new space.

My life and roots began in the central part of Massachusetts.  I was born on October 7, 1944 in a small New England mill town of Ware, Massachusetts. I then lived for 17 years in the town of West Warren (Warren) which was next door to Ware. West Warren was a small mill town of 1,100 people that had Worcester to the east and Springfield to the west. It had three industries and three churches (Catholic Polish Church, Catholic French Church and a Protestant Methodist Church). West Warren had one traffic light, four family grocery stores, two spas (variety stores), one drug store, five taverns, and a community center that had bowling alleys, pool tables and Ping-Pong tables. We had Comins Pond for swimming and a baseball park for Little League and regular baseball with large wooden stands (bleachers) for seating.  The Quabog River flowed through the town from which at one time powered the industries and recreational fishing. The town, in one sense, was a self-contained little village.

During the year that I was born, 176,000 troops, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, Rome (June), Paris (August), and Brussels           (September) were all liberated.  General Douglas MacArthur invades the Central Philippines. The Japanese Navy was destroyed in the Pacific.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term. The Supreme Court ruled that an American couldn’t be denied the right to vote because of color. The GI Bill of Rights was signed into law.

A loaf of bread cost 8 cents. Eggs cost 54 cent a dozen.  Milk was 62 cents a gallon. A gallon of gas cost 21 cents. A stamp cost 3 cents. Coffee was priced 30 cents a pound. The average income was $2, 260.00. A new home cost $3,475.00. A new auto sold at $1,000 No cars were sold between 1943-’46 due to the war. Top price for a ticket to see a Broadway show was $3.

The radio waves were full of Roy Rogers, Art Linkletter’s “House Party,” Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny and Walter Winchell. Popular songs included Sentimental Journey, Would You Like to Swing on a Star? and Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Rah.

My parents were Tadeus J. Kardas and Caroline C Bish of West Warren, Massachusetts. I was named a junior at birth. They were first generation Americans of Polish ancestry. Both sets of my grandparents emigrated from Poland in the early 1900’s. My mother and father were married in 1940. They lived West Warren in a duplex house, next door to my maternal grandparents. This was where I lived most of my first 17 years.

At the age of 3, my father was killed in a construction accident while working at Monsanto Chemical Plant in Ludlow, Massachusetts in 1949. He was 36 year old at the time of this accident.

My mother reared me while working at the local winding mill factory. My grandmother watched me while my mother worked.

My mother re-married when I was 12 years old. But, she died in 1963 at the age of 48 of cancer. I was 18 year old.

I worked since the age of 16 doing different jobs. I paid for my total education of college and theology by working each summer and part-time work on holidays and vacations by doing different work. One summer, I worked one summer at Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan. Another summer, I worked at my school in Michigan by doing building painting, custodial work and being a school driver in the Detroit area. I, actually, worked at odd jobs until the day of my ordination.

My religious journey began on December 31, 1944 when I was baptized in the Church of the Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church, Ware, Massachusetts. This was the Church that my parents were married in. I made my First Communion and Confirmation in 1953 on the same day in this Church. .

My family did not attend regular weekly Sunday Mass nor participated in any church life. I began asking questions about religion. This was when I asked to join the Roman Catholic Church in my hometown because I wanted to attend Mass and obtain a religious education, which I was not receiving, belonging to the Polish National Catholic Church. I did question the difference between one Polish Church and the other Polish Church. I learned that the Roman Catholic Church had a longer Tradition with Rome and the Pope as the center of the Church. I sensed more of a “faith community” by belonging to the Roman Catholic Polish Parish.

So, I was received into Roman Catholic Church in 1955 by making my First Communion at the age of 11.

I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church in 1959. I attended weekly religious education (C.C.D.) programs until I entered St. Mary’s High School, Worcester, Here; I had daily classes in religion.

While attending St. Mary’s College, Orchard Lake, Michigan, the Second Vatican Council was called and opened by Pope John XXIII. This Council was from 1962- 1965.

So, during my college and theology education, it was under the umbrella of the church renewal of the Second Vatican Council. I was very fortunate to have professors that offered me the study of Documents of Vatican II with background lectures and research that presented “Process Theology.”

This was a time that when Pope John XXIII called for a General Council of the Catholic Church to “open the windows.”  America was divided on moral lines and the anti-Vietnam protests”morphed into a generalized counterculture movement” that challenged a wide range of traditional values and systems. 

I was, also, fortunate that my moral/ethics professor presented an ecumenical perspective of religion being a “Religionness Christianity” teaching of Dietrick Bonhoeffer’s writings.  This professor, Fr. Anthony Kosnik, published Moral Theology articles that were presented under the direction of “Principle of Totality.” He emphasized by his teaching and research work the area of human sexuality.

During this time, I was, again, challenged by Who am I? Why am I here? approach to my religious journey.

I was ordained to the Roman Catholic Priesthood on May 23, 1970 at my home parish of St. Stanislaw, West Warren, Massachusetts for the Diocese of Worcester by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan.

I was able to do part-time studies at Assumption College from 1973-’76. I was able to develop a holistic insight to religion and spirituality. I, also, was able to preview many different schools of thought on religion and one’s spiritual development from a psychological and counseling orientation. The predominate area of counseling at this time was Carl Rogers’ Non-Directiveness. I specialized in “Reality Therapy” of Robert Glasser’s orientation of religion.

Then in 1985, the Church promulgated the R.C.I. A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). This opened the door for the challenge of continuos, ongoing conversion that is renewed each Easter day. This is addressed as a process that is carried out by Mystagogy (Breaking open the mystery).  The issue of action was the predominate principle in this undertaking. I found this as a culmination of my religious development that became continuous and making “The Challenge is now!” statement at the conclusion of my homilies.

I was educated in the town’s public school system for 9 years beginning in 1950. My mother had a concern about me entering Grade 1 because I was unable to speak fluent English. My first language at that time was Polish. It was not an issue because I looked forward to go to school. I adjusted and passed from Grade 1 to Grade 2 without any problems.

I attended what was named the West School of the Warren Public School System. We had two grades in one room with a total of four classrooms. We had one teacher for two grades through grammar school. I had three women and then a male teacher in the 7th and 8th grade.

 I, then, attended freshman year of high school at Warren High. I transferred to St. Mary’s High School, Worcester from which I graduated in 1962. This was my first experience of religious sister teaching me besides my First Communion class in religious education.

I then attended St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake Michigan from 1962-’66. This college was located outside of Detroit I graduated with a B.A in Philosophy. The reason for attending and traveling to Michigan was that the school was a Minor Seminary and I was able to work summers and vacations to pay my tuition. I was able to study with students from a number of other locations in our country and some students from Poland and Eastern Europe.

I finally entered SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Michigan in 1966 for the School of Theology. It was a Polish-American school of study. I graduated in Pastoral Theology in 1970 with Ordination. This education experience was influenced by the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. I had a diversity of education and pastoral experiences due to the fact that I was near Detroit, Michigan and suburban parishes. The faculty of the school was United States, Rome and Poland educated. There were many different facets of education presented to me especially the issue of conscience and moral development from a Second Vatican Council perspective.

The Vietnam War was occurring while I was in college and seminary. I was fortunate to have the professors and faculty to introduce me to so many different avenues of a moral and political issue for my ministry as a priest. It was tough to always implement the “principle of totality” in any an all undertakings. Basically, this was to be a process of searching, reading, investigating, discussing and praying in all of my endeavors.

One of my professors in our last session of class before ordination reminded us that we were shown what source material we would need to be updated in our ministry by suggesting what we shooed read for periodical and books. Besides this, he suggested we attend workshops each year. But, what I most recalled from this professor at this time was that I would be outdated in the priesthood in 5 years and every 5 years. Continuing education and spiritual renewal was going to be a constant challenge. 

After Ordination to the Priesthood in 1970, I attended Assumption College as a part-time student from 1973-’76 doing graduate studies. I graduated from this school in 1976 with an MA in Psychology and Counseling. This education gave me the opportunity to continue all my undertakings with an outlook of diversity and openness and those issues were not black and white. I further developed in understanding that the human being is a very complex human being from a religious and spiritual nature. I was; also, shown that one had to specialize in a school of psychology to have a foundation to understand all the other schools of psychology all of this helped me more in my ministry as a parish priest.

In 1973, I was able after ordination to obtain a Massachusetts Teachers Certificate in Secondary Education in English and Polish.

When growing-up in my hometown, I participated in baseball, basketball and Boy Scouts.  Baseball was the main sport I played because we used to play practically anywhere we would gather by throwing, pick-up games in an open field or Little League ball. If the weather was anywhere decent, we played ball. Then, we would listen to the Red Sox by keeping score and follow then with the daily newspaper with standings and batting averages with pitchers statistics.

What, also, made baseball interesting was that half the town was Red Sox and the other was N. Y. Yankee fans. What was peculiar was that the location of the town between Boston and New York created some interesting debates at the local spas and gathering places. You learned how to debate. But, you had to know that daily update to participate in these get encounters

The game of baseball did teach me that you do your best as an individual. But, you are part of a team. Each game you do your best to excel. You, always, hope to win. But, you don’t win every game.  There is, always, a next day, new game.

Basketball was played in the school playground and the town community center. The Boston Celtics was the team I followed. But, there was the N.Y. Knicks to revile the Celtics in town. But, it was not as intense as baseball.

Boy Scouting was the more organized activity that I participated in. I attended weekly meetings, weekend camping trips, activities, and the annual two-week summer camp. Actually, this was my summer vacation in addition to go see a Red Sox game. It was this way because I had summer jobs and my overall situation.

I enjoyed scouting because it was a very good experience for me. I had some very good adult leaders. The scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster were dedicated and good role models. One time, the scoutmaster took a number of us on a winter sleepover in sub-freezing temperatures. We were prepared for this experience, which were very cold weather conditions. We did fine, overall. But, when we tried to make breakfast in the morning, the eggs we were to have were frozen solid. I, actually, threw an egg at a shovel leaning on a tree. I knocked the shovel over. The egg rolled another twenty feet down the trail. It was solid as a rock. The lesson, I learned was be conscious of all the details in any undertaking.

Another interesting lesson, I learned from the elderly Assistant Scoutmaster was the “Buffalo Walk.” What this was that in hiking, you go up a hill in a zigzag manner instead of a direct straight line. We used to laugh in doing on a hike. But, one of life lessons is that many times a direct approach is not what is needed in solving a situation. It was through scouting that I achieved the rank of Life Scout, Senior Patrol Leader, and Assistant Scoutmaster. I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow that is a special group in scouting.

My Ordination to the Presbyter (Priesthood) in 1970 had me first assigned as Associate Pastor to St. George’s Parish, Worcester. I was put in charge of Religious Education and the parish Youth Group besides the regular duties of sacramental life and spiritual duties. I was at this assignment from 1970 to 1976.

I then was assigned to Holy Family Parish, Leominster, Massachusetts from 1976 to 1981.My duties and pastoral ministry was very much similar to what I did in my previous assignment. This was when I sought treatment for alcoholism at Beach Hill Hospital in NH for 19 days. I entered Beech Hill on October 21, 1977. This is the day that I established as my sobriety date and have maintained as such.

My counselor at Beech Hill was a Paul Barnicle who was very helpful. He emphasized “One day at a time. Keep it in the 24 hours.” This became the major part of my journey in sobriety.

Then from 1981 to 1984, I was sent to St. Peter’s Parish, Northbridge, Massachusetts.

After this assignment, I was then made a pastor in 1984 of St. Edward’s Parish, Westminster. I became a Permanent Pastor (PP) due to an administrative situation. This PP had special canonical clarification. What was more interesting was that my Bishop did not want me to be aware of this status. A priest of the Personal Board in a passing conversation doing my parish hospital calls informed me of this.

As Pastor, I ministered with a Vatican II spirit of renewal, collaborative and shared minister. I established a Parish (Pastoral) Council, Finance Committee, Liturgical Committee and a R.C.I.A. total parish model with Sacraments, Mystagogy (Breaking open the mystery by activism) and overall spirituality. I instated Lay Presides.  Altar girls and a parish financial stewardship program were instated. Parish projects that were undertaken and completed by me were a total church and Chapel renovations with a new steeple, built a Faith Community Center (classrooms and meeting rooms), refurbished the parish rectory and had all the roofs restored. This project totaled a million dollars, which was 99.6% paid for on my watch in March of 1993.

I, also, was serving a term on the Diocesan Expansion Fund (DEF). This committee handled loans to parishes that conducted business meeting once a month at the Worcester Chancery Office.

I enjoyed traveling (Europe and the U.S.A. especially New England), reading, music, and hiking and daily culture trips in New England, neighboring states plus Canada I had the opportunity to travel in 1977 to Europe and visit Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. This was a trip of 3 weeks. Then in 1979, I went to England where I visited London/Westminster and Bath for 10 days.

In my travels, I was able to visit places that I had studied and read about. After trips, I would save material and books that I added to my personal library.

I read from a professional level Theology and Church History especially the Second Vatican Council period and previous Church Councils. Specific works that are part of my reading are Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, BL John XXIII writings and letters, Edward Schillebex, George Tyrell and the period of Modernism, Dietrick Bonhoeffer and Thomas Merton. Since the Church has promulgated the R.C.I.A. in 1985, I have read materials extensively in this area with emphasis of the writings of the 4th Century Church Fathers.

Besides reading World, U.S. and Church History, I enjoy researching materials of World War II, Vietnam and Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg has been my latest interest for me to do extensive reading. .

Also, I enjoy reading the works of Bill Wilson of Alcoholics Anonymous, military publications, historical novels, short stories and poetry.

My interests in music are Rock, Folk, Polkas, Blues and Jazz. Artists and groups I enjoy are the Beatles, Grateful Dead, Yes, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Nora Jones, Melanie, Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapman, Ray Charles, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Harry Chapin, Pink Floyd and Jethrol Tull.

Due to all of this, I have looked upon people that I encounter as a mystery of diversity and openness in God’s creation. I relate this to my continuous quest in answering: Who am I? and Why am I here? This, always, has been a part of my orientation.

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