'The priesthood is about washing feet, it's about walking and journeying with the people.'
Fr. Frank Kucera, omi | Pastor of St. Charles Parish is happy doing the Lord's work
Oblate Father Frank Kuczera says his priestly calling "wasn't a moment of transfiguration" filled with thunder and lighting and prophetic words from above.
It was a simple journey of faith with many detours that began in childhood in a Polish mining village and culminated with a definite "yes" to the Lord.
"My journey wasn't a straight line. There were detours and hills and valleys and I think that's what life is. Life is lived in the valley and for me it was like that too, this day by day journeying with God and with the people that God placed in my journey."
Kuczera, a member of the Oblate Fathers for over 20 years, was ordained a priest 11 years ago.
Since then he has served in the Western Arctic, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. For the past four years, he has been the pastor of St. Charles Parish in Edmonton's northwest.
Kuczera, 42, is not an introvert. "I'm a daredevil," he declares with a perky smile. "I'm not kidding you. I do bungee jumping. I did that here in Edmonton."
Soon he will be going on a balloon trip with a gift certificate his staff gave him for his birthday last year.
"I want to skydive. I'm a daredevil. If you have something that you want to do that's kind of a fine line between life and death, count me in; I'll be there."
Kuczera was one of three children born and raised in a village southwest of Krakow, Poland.
"I grew up in a very Catholic and religious family, definitely, but that didn't necessarily play a big part in me becoming an Oblate," he stressed. "It did play a part, though, in planting the seed of faith in me and trying to cultivate it too."
Kuczera was in elementary school when he first met the Oblates, whom he grew to admire. "People talked about them; they talked about the way the Oblates ministered to them."
Later he went to a high school run by the congregation. He didn't know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life but he prayed about it.
It worked. After graduation Kuczera decided to explore the Oblate order and entered its novitiate. At the end of that year he thought, "I want to belong to this order" and asked to be admitted to his first vows.
"You journey with vows, you journey with fears but at the same time you try to see God's footsteps on your journey until you come to a place when you are ready to profess your perpetual vows."
In 1995, following the novitiate, Kuczera left the Polish Oblates to come to Canada and join the Canadian Oblates. He professed his perpetual vows in Canada in 2000 and was ordained a priest in Saskatoon a year later.
"It may strike you as strange but to me being a priest is secondary," he said. "Being an Oblate is more important to me because you belong to a very specific family. It's a wonderful community of imperfect people like myself."
Many "beautiful and amazing people" touched and supported Kuczera in his journey and not all of them were Catholic or religious people. "God placed them in my journey for a reason."
He seems happy and content doing the Lord's work. "It has been a very rewarding journey," he says matter-of-factly. "I've received far more than I have given."
For Kuczera the priesthood is a ministry like no other.
"It's about washing feet, it's about walking and journeying with the people, rejoicing with them when they rejoice and sharing their pain when they suffer, listening to them and trying to be human, compassionate and authentic."
He's had the opportunity to journey with many of God's people since his arrival in Canada, including the Inuit on King William Island in the Western Arctic.
"You can never imagine the Arctic," he said referring to the cold weather. "You can read about it in books but it would never prepare you for it. But you know what, it was a blessing for me to be there and to have that experience."
Kuczera also spent mere than two years in Winnipeg and Saskatoon learning English before he coming to Edmonton to complete his priestly studies at Newman Theological College.
Following that, he went to Langley, B.C. to the Canadian Institute of Linguistics to complete his studies in the English language. He did his pastoral year at St. Patrick's Parish in Saskatoon, where he was ordained. He was immediately assigned to Iqaluit in Baffin Island for one year before going to Smithers, B.C.
In 2008 he came to St. Charles Parish, a young and vibrant parish of 3,000 families that has been served by the Oblate Fathers for decades. "It's a welcoming community and I love that about it. Personally, I see the face of Christ in this community."
His pastoral duties at St. Charles extend to the four Catholic elementary schools in the parish.
At Bishop Greschuk School he is the soccer coach. "It's nice to have that connection with the school," he explains. "They see you at church all dressed up and they don't know if they can approach you and all of a sudden they see you in the gym as a very human person.
"This is not just the priest over there. This is Frank. We can talk to him."
One of Kuczera's parishioners, Arnie Petterson, recently sent an email to comment on Kuczera's fine homilies.
"This is a man who, week after week, delivers the absolutely most amazing inspirational Gospel homilies," Petterson said. "His homilies always have a well thought-out message, thought provoking, with deep analysis, and he delivers them in a style whereby nobody in the congregation can wave away from thinking about the message."
Kuczera thanks God for his gift, saying he is happy to be an instrument where Christ can touch other people through him.
"I could tell you 'Don't believe everything people say,' but at the same time I realize people have a right to be nourished (by the Word of God)," he says.
"I spend a lot of time on my homilies and I challenge myself first. I try to put myself in the pew listening to the readings and trying to ask myself, 'What is God trying to tell me through this; how is this relevant to my life today?'"