You all know the old saying: “If something is not broken, don’t fix it!” That is how I felt about the parish as far as the priests are concerned. We have a great team and I was happy that we get along wonderfully and work well together. Fr John is completing five years here as associate and it was time for him to become a pastor. I did encourage him to apply but at the same time told him that he was welcome to stay. I am happy for him that he is becoming the pastor of a great parish. I am also happy for the people of St Gilbert’s because they are getting a warm, loving pastor.
Then came the double whammy! All along I was hoping that Fr Muraya will be with us for the full five-year term. More than two months ago I received an unusual phone call from Fr Robert Barron, the rector of the Mundelein Seminary. I always get nervous when I get such a call. He informed me that the faculty there unanimously wanted Fr Muraya to pursue graduate studies in theology and eventually become a full-time theology professor. I tried hard to keep Fr Muraya for another year but the seminary won out in the end. As you know, he is leaving us sometime in late August to start his doctorate at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.
When both our wonderful associate priests were taking off for greener pastures, the burden fell on me to find worthy replacements. I got a list of prospective candidates but the pickings were slim. There were over 20 parishes looking for associates whereas there were only 12 or 13 available priests. After studying their brief resumes, I personally spoke to or interviewed 6 to 8 candidates. I have to honestly say that Fr Michael Knotek, the secretary of the Priests’ Placement Board, was extremely helpful all through the process. As a result, we managed to get two good priests as our associates.
I have been waiting for the official letter to arrive before I make public the names of the new priests. Since I have had official communication from the archdiocese, even though the letter is not in my hands, I can at least give you some information. In all sincerity I can say that they are very good priests who are eager to work. You are going to love them. Last week they came to our staff meeting and our parish staff had an opportunity to get to know them.
Fr Peter Gnoinski is our young associate who was ordained in 2005. He is coming to us from St John the Evangelist parish in Streamwood where he served for four years. From my first meeting with him I was sure that he would be a good fit for our parish. He is not afraid of hard work and seems to enjoy interacting with people. He is not at all shy and shows sparks of a quirky sense of humor. He loves his priesthood and his pastoral zeal is quite evident.
Fr Matthew Kowalski is our other associate pastor. He is a little older (closer in age to Fr John) and has a little more pastoral experience. He has served as an associate the last two years at St Mary’s in Lake Forest. His congregation there is somewhat comparable to our own. Presently he is in the process of incardination into the archdiocese. He is not a diocesan priest but a Benedictine. For lack of younger monks, his original monastery in South Dakota had to close. As a result, he moved back to Chicago where his family lives, and he is now in the process of joining the diocese. Since I went through a similar process several years ago, I am able to guide him through this phase of his priestly life. Fr Matt is a friendly person and he is easy to talk to. He loves serving in a parish and I am sure his ministry here will bless us all.
In the coming weeks both our new associates will introduce themselves to the parish. As you know, they will begin their tenure here on July 1. As we bid goodbye to Frs John and Muraya, let us say welcome to Frs Peter and Matthew. Please hold these four priests in prayer. I request you also to pray for the parish. Let us hope and pray that our parish family will continue to flourish. Let us ask God to bless the ministries of our new associate pastors just as He blessed the pastoral work of Fr John and Fr Muraya.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...