Brooklyn, N.Y. – Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will ordain three men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Brooklyn at a Mass at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, 250 Cathedral Place, Downtown Brooklyn, on Saturday, June 4, at 11 a.m.
The three men are Father Dariusz Strzelecki, Father Daniel Krzysztof Rajski, and Father Rodnev Pierre Lapommeray.
“The ordination to the priesthood is among the most important days in the life of the diocese,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “It will be through the hands of these young men that the Lord will become truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity to nourish God’s people. In their ministry, they will forgive sins and provide comfort and healing to the sick.”
Father Darius Strzelecki, 31, is a native of Poland. He pursued his calling to the priesthood after graduating high school, when he withdrew his application to study history in college and prayerfully realized the Holy Spirit was leading him to enter Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Krakow, Poland.
He holds a Masters of Divinity from Adam Mckiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and came to the U.S. to complete studies at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich. While there, he visited St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, Borough Park, and accepted Bishop DiMarzio’s invitation to join the Diocese of Brooklyn. He has served the last year leading up to his ordination at Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir parish, Sunset Park, where he participated in various pastoral duties.
Father Strzelecki will celebrate his First Mass of Thanksgiving on Monday, June 6, at Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir, where he will celebrate with his parents and brother who have traveled from Poland, in addition to the friends and parish family he has met in the U.S. On Tuesday, June 7, he will travel to Poland and celebrate Mass with his family in the Basilica of St. Vincent de Paul.
“In Brooklyn, there is spontaneity and an openness,” he said. “In all the cultures and religions, there is a great openness and friendship… I feel incredible happiness. I am an instrument in the hands of God.”
Father Daniel Krzysztof Rajski, 28, is also a native of Poland. He pursued his calling to the priesthood after knowing from a young age he had a vocation, including an experience at the age of eight, when he envisioned himself in the role of a priest. He was further inspired by the examples of Blessed Pope John Paul II and his parish priests.
He recently completed studies at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich. He also studied at seminary in Poland, where he was involved in the Focolare Movement and spent a year studying in Loppiano, Italy. Since accepting Bishop DiMarzio’s invitation to serve the diocese, he has served at Holy Cross, Maspeth; St. Matthias, Ridgewood; St. Josaphat, Bayside; and St. Patrick, Bay Ridge. He said his hours devoted to homeless outreach efforts at Holy Cross, St. Matthias and St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus, Greenpoint, were particularly rewarding.
His mother and brother will be present at the ordination, as well as one of the priests who inspired him, his pastor, Father Kolodziejski.
Father Rajski will celebrate his First Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Cross, Maspeth, on Sunday, June 5, at 11 a.m., and his second at St. Patrick, Bay Ridge, on Sunday, June 12, at 11 a.m. He will celebrate a third Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish, Transfiguration, Budziszewice, Poland, on Sunday, June 19.
Through prayer, he said, “I have come to understand that it (accepting God’s call) is not so much a question of worthiness, but more a question of service. So I ask myself, ‘Am I willing to serve God?’ My answer is ‘Yes.’”
Father Rodnev Pierre Lapommeray, 28, was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he grew up in St. Jerome’s parish, East Flatbush. The son of Haitian-born parents, he always felt called to the spiritual life and was inspired by his pastor, the future Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq.
He is a graduate of St. Jerome’s School, East Flatbush; Regis High School, Manhattan; and Yale University, where he earned a degree in Psychology. After working two years for the New Haven Board of Education in Conn., he began the process of applying for seminary. He was accepted and attended Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington. As a seminarian, he has served at St. Therese of Lisieux, East Flatbush; Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush; and Queen of All Saints, Fort Greene.
Father Lapommeray will celebrate his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Jerome’s Church on Sunday, June 5 at 4 p.m.
Reflecting on his journey to the priesthood, he said that during high school at Regis, there was an emphasis on service to the greater community. At Yale, he found other ways to serve, particularly working with at-risk children in New Haven. During this time, “the mystery of the Mass and the mystery of the celebration of the Eucharist attracted me, and I saw the examples of holy priests and their sacrificial service.”
And while he is “open to where the Holy Spirit guides” him, he said he would like to work in evangelizing young people.
Bishop DiMarzio called on the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn to join him “in praying for all priests, especially the newly ordained this week, that we might show the priesthood truly for what it is, a gift from God for the service of His Church.”
The Joyous Season of Ordinations
At this time of year, Ordinations to the Priesthood certainly add to the excitement in the diocese. Each year, as Ordination occurs, we recognize new life for the Church of Brooklyn and Queens, new priestly ministers who will tend to the sacramental needs of the Church while fulfilling many other priestly responsibilities. This year, the diocese is fortunate to have three ordinandi. Two are natives of Poland, Daniel Rajski and Dariusz Strzelecki. They have studied at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Michigan, a place that prepares Polish-born candidates for the priesthood to serve in various dioceses in the country. Our other Ordinand, Rodnev Lapommeray, is a native-born Haitian-American who did his undergraduate studies at Yale University and is a graduate of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington. These three candidates reflect our national trend where many of the new Ordinandi are foreign-born and also represent racial minorities.
The situation in our diocese has changed over the past seven years. When I became bishop, we had 27 seminarians in formation for philosophy and theology. Today, we have 62 seminarians in formation. In the meantime, I have ordained 24 men to the priesthood. This is a hopeful sign for our Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Although there will never be enough priests to serve all of our needs, the increased number of candidates, as well as the ordinations, remind us that we must pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send many more laborers into the vineyard, while at the same time recognizing that the vineyard is not left unattended.
My own approach to vocation recruitment has been to work closely with our vocation directors, first, Father Kevin Sweeney and, now, Father Kevin Abels. Both of them have contributed to the increased number of men in formation by their apostolic zeal and hard work. Our own program for recruitment consists of personal contact with the candidate. This is normally done on the parish level. The cooperation of our parish priests is essential, since direct contact cannot always be made by a vocation office or by myself. In order to assist our parish priests, we have asked for the re-establishment of parish vocation committees to assist in identifying those young people who may have vocations to the priesthood or religious life, while at the same time praying for vocations and assisting the Vocation Office in the various tasks that bring vocations to the fore.
One of the main means of recruiting vocations has been Project Andrew, named after St. Andrew who was the first to introduce Peter to Jesus. There are many Andrews in our diocese who have brought young men to me as bishop and successor of the Apostles to be introduced to the need for priestly vocations. We also run Project Miryam which supports women discerning a religious vocation.
The various modalities in preparation for the priesthood form a wonderful continuum from the Cathedral Preparatory Seminary to the Douglaston College Seminary Residence of the Immaculate Conception for philosophy students and pre-theologans, to the Huntington Theologate of the Immaculate Conception where most of the candidates for the diocese study.
This coming September, we are happy to announce that the Cathedral Seminary Residence of the Immaculate Conception at Douglaston will now form not only the seminarians for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, but also those from the Archdiocese of New York. Most of these men attend St. John’s University. There are also other dioceses that are joining us this year in Douglaston, and, hopefully, the purpose for which Douglaston was built will return to a house of formation for college-level students studying philosophy in preparation for theological studies.
Msgr. Robert Thelen will continue as rector, and will be assisted by Father Luis Saldana of the Archdiocese of New York as vice rector, as well as three spiritual directors – Father Fred Morano, rector of the high-school level Cathedral Preparatory Seminary; Father Joseph Fonti, Secretary for Pastoral Support; and also Father Joseph Kelly, from the Archdiocese of New York. Father Marc Swartvagher will serve as academic dean and continue on the faculty, which is supplemented by other adjunct faculty members. Father Brian Barr, from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, will serve as dean of Students. The program of priestly formation in Douglaston has the advantage of being in the same building with the Bishop Mugavero Residence for retired priests. I recently told our seminarians that they had 42 grandfathers watching over them. Many of our senior priests do assist the seminarians with tutorials when necessary.
As we put out into the deep of searching for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we must recognize the Lord’s command to lower the nets again and never to be discouraged. The work of recruitment for vocations really is the Lord’s work and we are instruments in His hands. Join me in praying for our newly ordained in our diocese and all over our country, that they may be an inspiration to others to join the work of the Church in bringing the presence of Christ to the world.