Pawel Tomczyk, Seminarian – Interview

Published June 10, 2013

335 Dover Chester Road
Randolph, NJ  07869

Paweł (aka Paul) Tomczyk, Seminarian of the Diocese of Paterson

Looking very much like the priest he intends to become, with quick-smiling blue eyes and military-short blond hair, garbed neck to toe in black, Paweł (Paul) Tomczyk is everywhere at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish, Randolph.  On his brief visit to his “adopted” home for the Easter Holy Week, Paul seamlessly resumes his role as assistant…everything!  Even before he speaks with his slight Polish accent, Paul is easily distinguished from other young men by his vibrant interest in each parishioner who warmly welcomes him home for the holiday, his willingness to serve the people of St. Matthew’s and the aura of peaceful faith that he projects.

“It Wasn’t a Celestial Vision!”

Paul Tomczyk

Paul Tomczyk

A seminarian of the Diocese of Paterson and currently attending SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, Paul is eagerly looking forward to receiving his Masters in Theology in May. In the fall, he hopes to transfer to Theological College in Washington, DC, to begin the last phase of his training and study before fulfilling his goal of becoming an ordained priest.

“It wasn’t a celestial vision!”  Paul protests when asked what led him to pursue becoming a priest.  Rather, it was his experience with his parish priests growing up in his hometown of Szczecinek, in the north-west corner of Poland, about 60 miles from the Baltic Sea.  His mother, an accountant, and his father, a truck driver, are devout Catholics and Paul and his sister, Agnieszka, attended Mass regularly with them.  “My parents are strong Catholics and we met very good priests.  I always felt that God was very close.”

When he was a senior in high school, the idea of dedicating his life to God and the vocation of priesthood presented itself.  “The important thing is that I did not say ‘no!’ right away and push the thought out of my head.  Instead, I said to myself, ‘Okay, this is a possibility.  Let me think about it for a while and see where it takes me.’  And, I gave myself a year to see if, at the end, the idea still appealed to me.  During that time, of course, I prayed about it, but I was also busy with the preoccupations of every teenager, like school and sports, and so on.  But, at the end of the year, I felt even more strongly that the decision was the right one for me,” he explains.  “I just couldn’t find a good excuse not to do it!  I knew it was God who was calling me and so I could not refuse Him!”

Journey to the USA

That was just the beginning of his journey from Szczecinek, a city founded in 1310 in rural Poland, to the United States and his future, which is unfolding according the God’s plan.  On February 15, 2013, Paul was installed as a lector and acolyte (extraordinary minister of the Eucharist).  With the blessing and approval of our Bishop Arthur Seratelli the ceremony of installation was held at SS. Cyril and Methodius, conducted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio from the Diocese of Brooklyn, who was visiting the seminary that week.

Who’s Your Favorite Saint?

Describing his favorite Saint, John Bosco, who is known for his joyful ministry and practice of rewarding children with praise and positive motivation vs. punishment, Paul’s voice softens while his gaze intensifies.  Already active with the youth ministry in Our Lady of Refuge parish in Michigan, Paul’s goal is to continue to cultivate faith formation in young people.  “The children are the future of the church and it is important to me to continue to nurture their faith, as the priests in my childhood inspired me.  I look forward to continuing my work with young people.”

Which is exactly what he did this past Easter, while “home” at St. Matthew’s.  Assisting Father Dan Murphy, Pastor at St. Matthew’s in directing the special Holy Week responsibilities of the altar servers, controlling the flow of traffic for the foot washing ceremony on Holy Thursday, and orchestrating the Good Friday “Teen Stations of the Cross” and veneration observance, his fresh voice and passionate dedication enriched the celebration for everyone.  As one parishioner remarked, “It’s lovely to be able to share our holy day with such an inspirational young man, and we miss him greatly when he’s gone.  He’s part of our family!”

Life in the Seminary

Adapting to the culture and fitting in is one of the primary goals of the seminary.  Although the seminary is just an hour from Detroit, the community in which it is located is similar to that of Morris County, with many opportunities for the seminarians to serve amongst the local parishes.  Most of the students are Polish-American; although the school accepts foreign-born students from Europe and Latin America, all of the classes are taught in English in an effort to help the students improve their understanding of the language and to obtain an academic degree

Study time is at a premium at the seminary, as most days are very busy, with morning prayers and Liturgy of the Hours beginning at 7:00am, followed by thirty minutes of quiet meditation and then Mass.  Breakfast precedes a full day of classes, studying and homework, evening prayer and adoration.  Saturday, after morning prayers, is when the students have most of their free time; however, much of it is spent in studying or doing other kinds of daily work (laundry, cleaning etc.).

Sundays, of course, are particularly busy.  Paul assists in serving at Mass in the Seminary Chapel or the Shrine Campus and indulges his passion of working with the youth ministry he supports on one of the nearby parishes.  Typical of his practical approach to the spirit of sacrifice, this Lent, Paul set his alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than usual, dedicating it as a form of sacrifice.  Of course, he often found himself arriving at the chapel for morning prayers early and using the few minutes to meditate.  However, sometimes he simply used the extra time to get things done, like cleaning his room or studying.  Paul decided also to remember about the souls in the purgatory by every day prayer in their intention.

Well Prepared for His Future

Clear in his direction, Paul feels that to be a sincere minister and leader, one must know and love God and His People.  Equally comfortable chatting about every-day social events and discussing pivotal tenets of the Church catechism, he successfully balances humble reverence with fierce intelligence and firmly founded beliefs, not hesitating for a moment to expresses his profound reverence for the divine leadership of our new Pope.  When one parishioner asked him what he’d like to tell Pope Francis if he could, Paul demurred – “Nothing!  I would not dare to suggest anything to our Holy Father!  I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit has appointed him through the voice of the cardinals and that He will also guide our new Pope in every decision he makes.”

Paul, earnest, inspiring, and persuasive, is an asset to our church and a future leader!  If you have not encountered anyone truly extraordinary lately, spend some time with Paul, St. Matt’s “adopted” seminarian.


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