Fr Andrew Kwiatkowski is one our newest ordained priests, together with Fr Brian Muling and Fr Ignatius Tan. The three were ordained on 15 July at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne. During the ordination, Fr Gregory Pritchard of St Joseph’s parish in Chelsea vested Fr Andrew in recognition of the support Fr Gregory gave during Fr Andrew’s call to priesthood. Here, Fr Andrew shares his vocation story, and the deep gratitude he feels for a blessed life.
Fr Andrew Kwiatkowski (pronounced Kvēat-kȯf-skē) was born in Poland and came to Australia with his parents and brother when he was three years old. Though the family has moved around a lot since their arrival, they have called St Joseph’s parish in Chelsea home for the past 15 years. Fr Andrew says the family were always ‘culturally Catholic’, going to Mass each weekend. However, towards the end of his high school years, he found he wanted to practise his faith more seriously.
So, during his university years at Monash, where he studied accounting and business management, he started reading more, praying more and taking the sacraments more seriously. ‘And then I really started to fall in love with our faith, with the intellectual side, and seeing the truth,’ he says. After a couple of years, he started taking more seriously the idea that priesthood was for him, ‘which was strange’, he says, ‘because I didn’t want to be a priest. I was planning on starting a nice career. I wanted a family, and all the normal kinds of things.’
During the remainder of his studies, he continued deepening and growing in his faith as much as possible. Though he still considered joining the seminary when he finished university, he was offered a job at an accounting firm, and took it. ‘I wasn’t yet sure on the seminary and wanted to see if this path was for me,’ he says. ‘I started working, but even after a couple of years, I thought, “No, I still really feel called to the seminary,” and so I thought, “Well, I’ll just have to give it up and actually join the seminary, to discern it even more deeply.” That’s what happened and I haven’t looked back since.’
Fr Andrew says his parish priest, Fr Gregory Pritchard, was very supportive and influential along the way. ‘Providentially, Fr Pritchard noticed my interest and helped bring me closer to the faith, giving me books and helping me grow in the faith. It was also God’s grace.’ Fr Gregory vested the newly ordained Fr Andrew during his Ordination Mass last July.
Upon entering Corpus Christi seminary in 2015, aged 25, Fr Andrew studied philosophy for three years and spent six months on placement at St Francis Xavier Parish in Mill Park with Fr Anthony Girolami. He recently visited the Mill Park Parish to conduct a Mass of Thanksgiving, which he says was ‘incredible’. ‘Everyone was incredibly supportive and congratulatory, and Fr Anthony was a great mentor.’
During his years in the seminary, he was also sent to Rome to study theology and one year of a licensed masters program. He will depart for Rome in coming weeks to spend another year overseas to complete his masters.
Fr Andrew is not sure where he’ll be posted upon his return, but the important thing for him now is the ability to celebrate the sacraments. This is what he’s looking forward to the most, and something he’s already enjoyed doing while on temporary placement at St Anne’s in Seaford. ‘The most beautiful thing as a priest is to celebrate the sacraments. That’s what you’re ordained to do: to make God present, especially in the Eucharist.’
Once settled in a parish upon his return, he hopes to help his parishioners strengthen their faith by providing regular times of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and in providing good homilies that help ‘break open the Word’. ‘I don’t have any revolutionary ideas,’ he says, ‘It’s about helping people take the sacraments more seriously, perhaps offering different workshops in the parish for Scripture or catechism, and encouraging the good basics of prayer and keeping close to the sacraments.’
He is conscious that in this post-COVID era, the Catholic Church in Australia is facing a significant challenge in re-engaging the faithful, many of whom haven’t returned to Mass on the weekends. His focus will be on ‘evangelisation done well’, reaching out through schools and various ministries that will help bring people back.
He also recognises the challenges of living in a society that is becoming less sympathetic to Christian faith. ‘So we need to think about how to strengthen the faith of Mass goers, as well as lapsed Catholics, to encourage them to keep coming (or to return), and to live the faith in our society, even if it looks down on our faith or is even hostile to it.’
Fr Andrew encourages all to pray, which is where he finds nourishment, as well as in the Mass. He also finds inspiration in people like St Ignatius of Loyola, who was ‘very strong and influential’ in his discernment about doing God’s will, and St Francis of Assisi, admiring his ‘unbelievable love of God, to give up everything, to live a life of poverty. But in that, he had complete charity by giving himself to God and to people. He kept giving himself to God and to people.’
Reflecting on vocation, Fr Andrew says that ‘it’s a calling from God for what he desires you to do in your life. It’s what his plan is for you, in this world.’ For those discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life, he advises them to ‘pray consistently, keeping a strong relationship with God so they can actually hear God’s voice clearly.
Take discernment seriously. If someone feels the call or if they have a sense of it, then take it seriously. Find someone to discern with. It’s not a once-off; it’s usually a consistent calling.
Fr Andrew also recommends taking time away from the world and its busy schedules to stop and pray in silence and stillness. In so doing, ‘you can actually hear God’s voice’ he says.
‘It’s important to take the time away to dialogue with God about your sense of vocation. Talk about your life. You’ll see how grace is working within your life and where God’s leading you, but you need to create that space for silence to talk and listen.’
Fr Andrew says he is grateful for everything, and that his gratitude in life has been a great source of his vocation. Even in his struggles, he has recognised God’s ongoing presence and ‘protecting hand’. ‘I am always thankful for the blessed life I’ve had’, he says, ‘I mean, it was nothing special, but I think things have definitely been providential, especially when it comes to my vocation—God’s constant call, his patience and perseverance in my formation. Literally, everything!’
For more information, visit Vocations Melbourne.
All images by Casamento Photography.
Fiona Basile10 August 2022
Fiona Basile10 August 2022