Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 24, 2000
Wroblewski ready for the altar
Former restaurant manager to be first ordination of 2000
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Like a groom about to get married, Jozef Wroblewski seems a bit nervous. "I wish the planning was over," he says.
But there will be no wedding bells for Wroblewski. A few years ago he renounced marriage and parenthood for a life of celibacy, simplicity and service.
What Wroblewski is planning for is his upcoming ordination as a priest, an event he has been anxiously waiting for since he entered the seminary in 1995.
"I can't wait for the day," he told the WCR three years ago. As the "day" approaches, Wroblewski is anxious. If he could only control the hands of the clock.
"When I started I didn't think it would be so quick," he reflects. "When you start the formation you think it's going to take forever. Five years is a long time, but in actual fact it seems to speed up."
Wroblewski will be ordained May 1 at St. Joseph's Basilica. His own guests will include his fellow seminarians, members of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Fort Saskatchewan where he is currently completing his internship and members of St. Thomas More Parish, where he spent a year learning the ropes.
The event will be somewhat historic for Wroblewski, 53, as he will be the first priest of the third millennium ordained for the Edmonton Archdiocese. He will be the second priest ordained by Archbishop Thomas Collins since he took over the reins of the Edmonton Archdiocese a year ago.
"I'm excited, very happy about it," Wroblewski said.
Stephen Hero will be ordained at the basilica June 29.
Does Wroblewski have any doubts about his choice? "Everyone has doubts," he replies without hesitation. "You doubt your worthiness but people reinforce you. I realize is not going to be easy; ordination is just one stage in the journey."
Wroblewski compares the journey to the priesthood to driving a car. "At first you are very hesitant about things but after a little practice you are able to take corners at 90 miles an hour."
Renouncing marriage and parenthood is hard but as Wroblewski put it, God had different plans for him. "I had several relationships in the past but they never led to marriage," he said. "I love children, though, and I love to see young people in church."
Following his ordination, Wroblewski will be assigned with a "veteran" priest for at least a year in preparation for his own future role as pastor.
He doesn't mind where he is assigned. "I enjoy the country and I can enjoy the city." His only goal, he says, is to be a "good priest" wherever he is. "That's what I want written on my tombstone: 'I was there when they needed me.'"
Wroblewski was born in Germany in 1947 and moved to Winnipeg with his parents at the age of three.
As a young boy he enjoyed attending Mass and liked hanging around the priests of his parish. Over time he would serve as an altar boy, lector and acolyte. At 14 he found his first job as a bus boy at a Winnipeg restaurant and eventually became a chef. When he got tired of the smell of fish and the grease, he became manager.
When the restaurant moved to Edmonton in 1978, Wroblewski moved with it. In 1989 he became manager of the Royal Canadian Legion and that's where he got his first hint that he was cut out for something different.
At the legion, he had to deal with older members, many of whom where sick and dying. Witnessing their pain and small joys sparked a desire for religious life.
But as Wroblewski put it, it was not a single event but a series of events that led him closer and closer to God. At the time he was volunteering for various organizations and was involved at Annunciation Parish as Eucharistic minister.
He took a course for lay presiders at Newman Theological College and that deepened his conviction. The pastor at Annunciation encouraged him and so did members of the congregation.
But what led Wroblewski to a decision was the Chrism Mass of 1994 at the basilica. Seeing the priests in procession overtook him with emotion. He wanted to be one of them. He saw an old, tired-looking priest dragging his feet in the procession and said to himself, "If he can do it, I can do it."
Nevertheless, Wroblewski was "very apprehensive." But after talking to some people in his parish, his apprehension vanished. "They encouraged me," he said. "They said they could see me as their priest."
Now it's just a matter of days before people can call him Father Wroblewski.