Father Jim Kaczorowski shared this reflection on his vocation in 2009. He has served the Archdiocese of Chicago in various ways since he was ordained in 1973, including working with the poor, as well as serving as Vicar for Priests. He currently serves as pastor of Queen of Angels Parish in Chicago.
The first time I thought about becoming a priest was when I was 13 or 14. I was in eighth grade. My uncle, my dad’s brother, was a priest. I really admired the work he had done – and was doing. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I knew that I really wanted to be a priest. It happened during the 12 weeks I spent as a chaplain in training in Boston. I really embraced “loving service” and I really felt Christ was found and encountered in loving service for other people. I think that’s what we’re called to do. It’s always about being of service.
My friends were really excited about my entering the seminary. It’s always an honor to be a priest, but when you were studying to be a priest years ago, it was what everyone looked up to. My parents were supportive, but passively supportive. After my parents passed away, people would tell me about how proud my parents were that I was a priest.
My advice for those considering a vocation is to get some mentoring from a good priest. Talk to other people about what they think about you becoming a priest. You have to be able to listen to how God speaks through other people.
I spend a couple hours every night reflecting on the Scripture of the next day. I do some spiritual reading. I do some reading in the breviary and I do some meditation. If I didn’t find time for reflection, I would become spiritually bankrupt. I believe it is important for a priest to pray, because if I didn’t pray, I wouldn’t continue being a priest. Prayer is a time to empty ourselves of whatever is going on in our lives.
“If I didn’t find time for reflection, I would become spiritually bankrupt. I believe it is important for a priest to pray, because if I didn’t pray, I wouldn’t continue being a priest. Prayer is a time to empty ourselves of whatever is going on in our lives.”
My preparation for the Eucharist on a weekday is to spend at least an hour with the readings. For Sunday, I spend three or four hours in preparation for the readings. People want to hear what Christ is saying to us as a community of God’s people so that we can continue to build God’s kingdom.
Our parish is diverse, both culturally and financially. There may be different challenges in the lives of the wealthy that may not be among the poor, and there are challenges among the poor that aren’t in the lives of the wealthy. So the message would basically be the same, but it would be tweaked to see how God is speaking to them.
Rarely do I ever get nervous. I would feel nervous if I didn’t live what I preach. I would be disingenuous and I wouldn’t be transparent. Obedience is a blessing. Christ was obedient to God. Being obedient is living the commandments and obeying the church laws because they make you freer.
What I love most about my life is interacting with people and watching them grow through the years; watching families grow and being a part of those families. I love being invited into the most intimate times of their lives: funerals, weddings and baptisms. Those blessings are amazing.
Henri Nouwen says our interruptions are our lives. I really believe that. We have to prioritize and we have to change our schedule. I was a pastor for 19 years in the inner city; from 2000 to 2005, I worked The Resurrection Project. We were in the poorest neighborhood in Chicago. There were gangs on every block and we ended up buying these lots for a buck a piece from the city and we got $2 million from the Homes for Chicago plan. We built these beautiful homes on these lots so there are beautiful homes now in this area.
I try not to work seven days a week. I connect with my priest friends to talk about our ministries and to just relax. You’ve just got to take some time away, because it will all still be there when you get back.