A native of Poland, Father Dariusz Strzelecki, 31, had no idea where his vocation to the priesthood would lead him when he entered the seminary in his home country after graduating high school.
With the support of his family, he withdrew his application to study history in college and pursue his calling by earning his master’s of divinity at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland.
While still in his home country, the young seminarian attended an information session hosted by SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich. Although he was there only to gather information, he was offered an opportunity to come to the United States to continue his studies.
“I was so scared,” he said. “There was only a day or two to decide.”
After praying, he realized that this is where the Holy Spirit was calling him. He entered the Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Kraków, Poland, in 2007 and came to the U.S. in 2009 to finish his studies.
While in Michigan, he visited St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, Borough Park, which led him to accept Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s invitation to join the diocese.
“In Brooklyn there is spontaneity and an openness,” he said. “In all the cultures and religions, there is a great openness and friendship.”
In the last year before becoming a diocesan priest, Father Strzelecki worked in Our Lady of Czestochowa- St. Casimir parish, Sunset Park, performing various parochial duties including preparing students from the Saturday Polish school for their First Communion. He said he has come to think of the parish as his family.
Father Strzelecki will celebrate his First Mass of thanksgiving on June 6 in the church that has hosted him for the past year in the presence of his newly adopted family, his parents and brother who will have flown in from Poland, and various friends he has made since coming to the U.S.
The very next day, June 7, Father Strzelecki will celebrate Mass in Poland in the Basilica of St. Vincent de Paul where his entire family will gather to celebrate his new life.
For the first time in two years, Father Strzelecki will visit Poland for 20 days, after which he will come back to Brooklyn to start his ministry as a diocesan priest. Although he is looking forward to his visit, Father Strzelecki said he is eager to start his new responsibilities in Brooklyn.
“I feel incredible happiness,” said Father Strzelecki. “I am an instrument in the hands of God.”
- Antonina Zielinska
Father Daniel Krzysztof Rajski, 28, was born and raised in Poland. Originally from Brzeziny, he grew up on a farm in the small village of Eminów, southeast of Łódz, and attended Transfiguration Church, Budziszewice. He is the eldest son of Marian and Halina Rajski, and the older brother of Konrad, 21.
He attended elementary school in Jankow and high school in Koluszki before beginning priestly studies at the local seminary in Łódz. In the seminary, he was involved in the Focolare Movement and spent a year studying in Loppiano, Italy. He recently completed his studies for the priesthood at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich.
Father Rajski felt called to the priesthood from his youngest years. At age eight, he envisioned himself in the role of a priest while visiting the Polish National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
“Our first seminaries are our families,” he says. “I grew up in a strong Catholic family. My parents took me to church regularly and prayed the rosary with me.”
He was further inspired by the examples of Blessed Pope John Paul II and his parish priests, especially his pastor, Father Stanislaw Kolodziejski.
Through prayer, he says, “I have come to understand that it (accepting God’s call) is not so much a question of worthiness, but more a question of service. So I ask myself, ‘Am I willing to serve God?’ My answer is ‘Yes.’”
In 2008, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio invited him to consider being ordained to serve the faithful of Brooklyn and Queens.
“John Paul II said, ‘Do not be afraid’,” he recalled, “so I said ‘Yes.’”
Since then he’s has spent some time in the Brooklyn Diocese, serving at Holy Cross, Maspeth; St. Matthias, Ridgewood; St. Josaphat, Bayside; and St. Patrick, Bay Ridge. Particularly rewarding, he says, were hours devoted to homeless outreach efforts at Holy Cross, St. Matthias and St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus, Greenpoint.
“I am ready to serve the Diocese of Brooklyn. Wherever I am needed, I will go,” he said.
His mother and brother will be present at his ordination, along with his pastor, Father Kolodziejski.
Father Rajski will celebrate his First Mass of thanksgiving at Holy Cross, Maspeth, on Sunday, June 5, 11 a.m., and his second at St. Patrick, Bay Ridge, on Sunday, June 12, 11 a.m.
He will celebrate a third Mass of thanksgiving at his home parish, Transfiguration, Budziszewice, on Sunday, June 19.
- Marie Elena Giossi
Father Rodnev Pierre Lapommeray has always felt attracted to the interior, spiritual life. So his involvement in parish life at St. Jerome’s, East Flatbush, came naturally. He was an altar boy, a lector, a member of the Junior Legion of Mary and a member of the Youth for Jesus. And he was inspired by his pastor, the future Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq.
“For 13 1/2 years, I watched his example of holiness and humility and it made a mark on me. He is a man of prayer and a priest who cares deeply for people,” says Father Lapommeray.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Father Lapommeray is the son of Haitian-born parents, Pierre Mary and Marie Mirlande. He has two older brothers, Darnold, a 34-year-old police officer, and Wesley, 33, who is studying medicine.
After attending St. Jerome’s school, he was awarded a scholarship to Regis H.S., Manhattan, and then attended Yale University where he earned a degree in psychology.
He worked two years for the New Haven Board of Education in Connecticut and in 2005 began the process of applying for the seminary. He was accepted and attended Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington.
“I’ve always had the desire to pray. I naturally continued to go to church because of the good example of priests and good Christian people,” he said.
At Regis, he said, there was an emphasis on service to the greater community. At Yale, he continued to find ways to serve, especially working with at-risk children in New Haven.
All the while, “the mystery of the Mass and the mystery of the celebration of the Eucharist attracted me,” he explained, “and I saw the examples of holy priests and their sacrificial service.”
As a seminarian, he has served at St. Therese of Lisieux, East Flatbush; Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush; and Queen of All Saints, Fort Greene. While he is “open to where the Holy Spirit guides him,” he would like to work in evangelizing young people.
He hopes to stays close to members of a priest support group to bolster his ministry and prayer life.
Father Lapommeray will celebrate his First Mass of thanksgiving at St. Jerome’s church, on Sunday, June 5, at 4 p.m.
- Ed Wilkinson