A missionary spirit brought Polish-born Father Lukasz Lech, 30, to the Brooklyn Diocese, where he hopes to build bridges between God and His people.
Born in Czestochowa, he is the oldest of three sons born to Bozena and Kazimierz Lech, longtime parishioners of St. Zygmunt Church.
Inspired by his parish priests, especially Father Mariusz Foltynski, who also organized diocesan youth ministry events, Father Lech first started thinking about the priesthood as a young altar server.
After completing his primary education at his local Public School n.35, he attended St. Joseph Archdiocesan Minor Seminary, Czestochowa, where he “had the chance to be close to the Lord. I realized this (priesthood) was what the Lord was calling me to do.”
While he was certain of God’s call, he needed time to understand how it would be made manifest in his future life. So after a year in Czestochowa’s archdiocesan major seminary, he took a break from his studies to work with his uncle, a hatter.
As he discerned his path, he often turned to Polish patroness, Our Lady of Czestochowa, for assistance.
“Whenever there were decisions to make, I was always going in front of her. I always felt her love and guidance,” he said.
Through prayer, he came to realize a missionary zeal was welling up in his heart.
He began studying at the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Rome, Italy, and had a three-month overseas training program in Japan as part of his formation. He traveled from Tokyo to Fukuoka.
“A small percentage of the population is Catholic, but you can see their faith is strong,” he said.
“They’re not believers just because it’s a tradition. In the course of their lives, they heard about Jesus. He changed their lives and they’re trying to live their faith.”
He earned a philosophy degree from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, and aware of the need for priests in the U.S., he enrolled in SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich., where he earned his master of divinity degree.
After becoming affiliated with the Brooklyn Diocese in 2011, he spent summers and vacations at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg, and most recently, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish, Ridgewood, where his fellow countrymen turn out in large numbers for the 9 a.m. Polish Mass on Sundays.
“To be a priest in Brooklyn, you have to have a missionary spirit because there are so many people who have never heard about Jesus or who just forgot about Him,” he said. “I want to bring them home.”
His fluency in Polish, English and Italian will serve him well in this regard.
Need for Reconciliation
In his priesthood, Father Lech says he wants to focus on being “a bridge between God and people,” especially in the confessional.
“There is a need for reconciliation,” said the priest, who thinks the sacrament of reconciliation is one of the greatest gifts God has given His people. “If we want to be holy and go to heaven and meet our Lord, we first have to reconcile with Him.”
Father Lech credits his mother with having had the “greatest impact” on his vocation because she taught him how to “love the Lord, how to pray the rosary, to always say my prayers and to go to Sunday Mass.
“She shared the faith she had with me so now I can share it with others,” he said.
He is particularly excited to be ministering in a diocese where the pope has recently named a Polish priest to the post of auxiliary bishop.
“When I found out I was very happy,” he said of Bishop-elect Witold Mroziewski. “He’s a very good guy and there is a big Polish community in the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
His brother Marcin will attend his ordination. His parents and youngest brother Przemek hope to watch the Mass online at NET-TV’s website.
Father Lech will offer his first Mass of thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church on Sunday, June 28 at 10 a.m. A first Mass in his native Poland will be celebrated at a later date.