Father Walter J. Szczesny and Father Jozef Dudzik have received new assignments from Bishop Richard J. Malone.
Vocations director for the diocese for nine years, Father Szczesny has taken on the new responsibility as pastor of All Saints Parish, Lockport, for a term of six years. Father Joseph E. Vatter, who formerly held the position, was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish, Kenmore, in February.
Born and raised in Batavia, Father Szczesny was ordained by Bishop Edward D. Head in 1990. His first two assignments were as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish, East Aurora, and then at SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Hamburg.
In 1999, Father Szczesny became an instructor at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, and took on the additional responsibilities as parish administrator at St. George Parish, West Falls, in 2000. Bishop Edward U. Kmiec appointed him vocations director in 2006 and Father Szczesny continued his role as administrator at St. George's. He was named full-time director of vocations in 2008 and also returned to teaching at the seminary.
"It was great to have a seminary office," Father Szczesny said, "as I often met discerners there for appointments and was able to walk the grounds with them as they met faculty, seminarians and staff. They were able to stay for Mass, a meal, sit in on a class or stay overnight and were able to get a natural view of what seminary life is like."
But handling more than one position in different locations takes organization and help and Father Szczesny has had plenty of experience with both. "What I thought at first was 'mission impossible' became 'mission realized' because of the Holy Spirit and the many dedicated people that came through to me when I needed them."
He may be calling on dedicated people a little longer as he juggles his position at All Saints while continuing to serve as vocations director until a new person is appointed. In addition, he will continue teaching at the seminary until the end of the semester. He will be busy, but he is happy about returning to parish ministry.
"I always explained to discerners that most diocesan priests are called to minister in parishes," Father Szczesny explained. "Some of us are called to work outside of parishes for a while in 'specialized ministry,' such as vocation work. I always told them that I loved seminary and vocation ministry, but deep in my heart, I dreamed some day of returning to parish ministry. It was the truth and it was important for them, as future laborers in parishes, to hear that."
During his years as vocations director, Father Szczesny has met with hundreds of candidates one-on-one to discuss a possible vocation. Fifty-two men applied for priestly formation; some have already been ordained while most are still in the seminary. For many men, the scholastic and training journey to priesthood is seven or nine years. Currently there are 38 seminarians studying for the Diocese of Buffalo, 34 at Christ the King Seminary and four are enrolled in the college seminary program at St. Mark Seminary in Erie, Pa.
Father Dudzik, pastor at St. Brendan on the Lake, Newfane, has been given the additional responsibility of canonical administrator of DeSales Catholic School, Lockport, for a term of three years. Father Dudzik, a native of Poland, came to the Diocese of Buffalo in 2006. Canonical administrators, among other things, are responsible for the Catholicity of a school and creating an environment where the Catholic school can thrive.
Bishop Malone also reappointed three pastors to second terms of six years at the parishes they are serving. Father Daniel J. Fawls continues at Holy Trinity Parish, Medina; Father Dennis F. Fronckowiak remains at St. Timothy Parish, Tonawanda; and Father Richard M. Poblocki continues as pastor at St. Josaphat Parish, Cheektowaga.