The Rev. Dennis Ziomek
Updated: July 12, 2013 7:47PM
The big announcement was delivered on Father’s Day. Monsignor Michael Adams told the congregation of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn that the Rev. Dennis Ziomek will be taking over as pastor on Sept. 1.
On the same day, the congregation of St. Barbara Parish in Chicago’s Bridgeport community also heard the news that their pastor of the last three years was being reassigned to St. Catherine.
Rev. Ziomek will be filling the important role left vacant when the Rev. Patrick Henry died suddenly on March 11. Adams was appointed by the Archdiocese of Chicago to act as the parish administrator until a new pastor was appointed.
I recently spoke with Rev. Ziomek, and he graciously shared information about himself and spoke of his hopes for St. Catherine Parish.
He was born and raised in the Chicago area and attended kindergarten at St. Barbara. His family settled in Bridgeport, only two blocks from St. Barbara, and belonged to Immaculate Conception Parish (now known as the Monastery of the Holy Cross). Later, they relocated, and he completed elementary school at St. Symphorosa Parish near Midway Airport.
Rev. Ziomek said his Polish grandmother sent up prayers to heaven for him. She would often remind him, “Someday you be good priest!” He followed his calling to the priesthood by attending Quigley South High School (now home to St. Rita High School), Niles College and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.
Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1978, his first parish assignment was at St. Gall in Chicago’s Gage Park community, where his pastor was none other than the Rev. Michael Adams. Rev. Ziomek then joined Quigley South as a teacher, coach and spiritual director until the school closed in 2007.
Before being assigned to St. Barbara 12 years ago, Rev. Ziomek also served the parishes of St. Gerald in Oak Lawn and Our Lady of the Snows. In 2009, he was named an Archbishop James E. Quigley Distinguished Alumnus.
During his 12 years at St. Barbara, he was a resident for five years while on the faculty of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, four years as administrator and the last three as pastor.
Rev. Ziomek’s successor as St. Barbara pastor will be the Rev. Wojciech Artur Marat, who was ordained to the priesthood in Bialystok, Poland. Rev. Marat will join a fellow Pole, the Rev. Andrzej Beltowski, who is now associate pastor at St. Barbara.
Pondering all the new assignments, Rev. Ziomek (his good friends and past students call him Father Zi) wondered if he may be the first non-Irish pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, which has a long history of being a parish of mostly Irish-American families.
But research shows that he will be the second non-Irish pastor at St. Catherine — pastor emeritus, the Rev. William Lion, was the first — but Rev. Ziomek will be the parish’s first pastor of Polish descent.
Rev. Ziomek takes the role of pastor very seriously. In 2010, he was quoted as saying, “I believe the term ‘pastor’ means a great deal, and not just in terms of the church’s law. There is a spiritual and emotional connotation to the term that speaks about a special type of relationship that a priest has with his people, and they with him. “
He told me that he views his assignment to the people of St. Catherine of Alexandria as one of “healing,” especially following the passing of the popular and much admired pastor, “Father Pat.” He realizes that he will be following in the footsteps of some excellent pastors and hopes “to set a good spiritual leadership foundation.”
Rev. Ziomek has been involved in several major projects while serving as pastor at St. Barbara, including the parish’s Centennial Year of Celebration in 2010. With the help of parishioners, he led the parish’s Centennial Campaign, which helped retire St. Barbara’s debt with the archdiocese and raised funds for the church’s renovation.
Rev. Ziomek has been a large part of St. Barbara School and believes in the importance of fostering Catholic education. He has been very involved with the sacramental programs of the school as well as its youth program.
On a personal note, Rev. Ziomek enjoys running. He ran track both in high school and at Loyola University. Records show that in the Chicago Marathon his personal best was 3 hours and 36 minutes, but he now limits himself to no longer a race than a half marathon.
Rev. Ziomek said he may join his new parish for its 3rd annual Charge On 5K Run/Walk to be held Aug. 17, starting at 8 a.m. All are welcome to register at www.signmeup.com/93084.
I wish Rev. Ziomek all the best as he readies to take on his new role of pastor at St. Catherine of Alexandria. Based upon his successful track record at St. Barbara Parish, I’m confident he is the right man for the job.