Answering the call to priesthood
Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org May 19, 2013 10:28AM
The procession into the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, where five men are ordained to the Order of Priesthood by The Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of the Joliet Diocese, Saturday, May 18, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2013 2:17AM
Saturday was a glorious spring day, inside and out. While plants bloomed back to life in yards surrounding St. Ray’s Cathedral in Joliet, inside its stained glass windows five men entered a new life as Catholic priests.
The five who traveled different paths to reach this destiny were chosen to be instruments of healing, forgiveness and salvation, said Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, who officiated the 21/2-hour ceremony.
“You must alleviate the anger and hurt that exists in the church,” Rev. Conlon told them, adding they must “stand for justice in society” and eliminate the source of pain, humiliation and injustice.
The young priests said they were eager to get to work. On Saturday, no matter what route they took to get there, they all answered what they said was a calling by God. For some, it was a calling that subtly nagged at them over time.
Even though his family did not attend church regularly when he was a child, John Lovitsch, a graduate of Hinsdale Central High School, liked church and would pretend to conduct Mass in the basement of his home. It wasn’t until high school that he learned more about the Catholic faith.
David Mowry, of Glen Ellyn, said he thought about being a clown or a fireman when he was young. He did not know what to study in college but was inspired by his parents to “do what you love.”
“I will always have a little bit of the clown in me. I like making people laugh. And firemen serve, are heroic and make a difference. That is what the priesthood is supposed to be,” he said.
As a high school student, Marcin Michalak, a native of Poland, discovered how much he enjoyed bringing hope to people who were in hospice care.
“They need medical treatment, but you can also bring them hope in a different way,” he said.
He opted to leave his native country because they have “plenty of priests” to share, he said. In Poland, a more “traditional society,” the calling from God is “very much alive,” but is “more rare in the US,” he said.
Rev. Michalak will go to St. Walter parish in Roselle.
Marek Herbut also came from Poland and first became an electrician before turning to theology. He also enjoys jet skis, boats, bicycling and motorcycles. He has been assigned to St. Joseph’s in Downers Grove.
Michael Pawlowicz enjoyed CCD classes and the idea of a “huge guy in the sky” who knew his name. He attended the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora and later the University of Illinois, where he began attending daily Mass and taking his faith more seriously. After a missionary trip to Peru, he felt confident about heeding God’s call and broke up with his girlfriend of four years. His first parish will be St. Mary’s in West Chicago.
For the Joliet Diocese, it was the second time in 10 years that five men were ordained in a given year. Ceremonies typically have had one, two or three new priests.
Rev. Lovitsch, who will serve at Sts. Peter and Paul in Naperville, said he believes this is the “golden age.”
“In the 1960s, there were priests everywhere. But that was an anomaly in the church’s life,” he said. Now, there are “huge numbers” of seminarians, he said, and yes, it is a challenge in this day and age.
“We are called to a higher standard, to a more peaceful life, to a better priestly life. That may be more challenging,” he said. “We have learned from the past. We know what we have to do. After being in seminary, I’m ready to get into the trenches.”
“God has planned great things for us. The more you are aware of Him, the more you can accept it,” Rev. Lovitsch said.
Entering the priesthood is “not as rare as people think,” said Rev. Mowry, who will be associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Elmhurst — returning to the town where he was born.
Initially, he was concerned whether he “could still have my own personality,” he said.
“I knew they all dressed the same and I didn’t want to be a robot.”
Rev. Mowry said he realized he “could be David and still be a priest.”
“After eight years in seminary, I have become more aware of who I am,” he said.
As family and friends filled St. Ray’s Cathedral they also were aware of the changes in these young men as they witnessed the bishop and all the priests lay their hands on their heads. They cried as the new priests received their stoles and chasubles and had their hands anointed with Sacred Chrism, symbolizing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
“This was a very moving ceremony,” said Larry Lovitsch, John’s father, who joined the Catholic church just four years ago. “I’m happy to see my son so happy. I know he will be a great priest. He could not be happier.”
“It is such joy to see the hand of God tap your son on the shoulder and call him. And it’s an even greater joy to see your son respond with all his heart,” Joan Mowry, mother of David, said.