From his earliest days, Father Dawid Krzeszowski had much in common with one of the newest saints of the Catholic Church. Now parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist in Kenmore, Father Krzeszowski was born in Poland near the birthplace of St. John Paul II. Today, he continues to share his faith and his heritage with many American parishioners.
Father Kzeszowski, who came to the United States in 2012, was born in 1981 in Gorlice, Poland, a city with a population of 30,000. This is only 100 miles east of Wadowice, where St. John Paul II was born in 1920. Father Krzeszowski cited the Holy Father as influencing his own faith.
"I consider it a blessing to have lived in the part of Poland which was so dear to our Holy Father," said Father Kzeszowski. "From the guidance of our parents, Adam and Maria, my brother Father Waldemar and I developed a deep faith in God, a love of the Church and respect for our country, Poland. We were, and continue to be, a traditional Catholic family."
Father Krzeszowski grew up in a rural area and enjoyed playing various sports with his friends in his free time. In their youth, the Krzeszowski brothers were cantors and altar servers, which made their parents "very proud." After completing a total of eight years of elementary school and four years of music school, all in Gorlice, the young Dawid continued to secondary school to study economics and finance for four years. After this, he considered the priesthood.
"When I was 19, I decided to go to the seminary," Father Krzeszowski said. "My parish priests were a good example for me. They helped me make this very important decision in my life."
In 2000, Father Krzeszowski joined the seminary in Rzeszów, Poland, a city of more than 170,000. While in the seminary, Father Krzeszowski studied philosophy and theology for six years. After finishing studies there in 2006, he went on to graduate from the Pontifical School of Theology at the University of Krakow, Poland.
He called his experience in the seminary "very eventful." In addition to taking classes, seminarians had to perform physical work, such as taking care of the seminary's gardens, cleaning the seminary halls and gathering up the produce area farmers had grown.
However, Father Krzeszowski said the physical work "made us feel useful" and "complemented our intellectual work" while studying to be priests.
Father Krzeszowski came to Buffalo on Aug. 27, 2012. Although it was his first time permanently living on American soil, he had been "emotionally involved with the U.S." since childhood. His mother's family members living in America included two uncles: Father Francis J. Sysol of the Archdiocese of Detroit, who died in 1977, and John E. Joniec, a World War II veteran who died earlier this year.
On his father's side, Father Walter G. Michalik, who died in 2002, and Brother Eduardo Michalik, CSC, who died in 2012, both ministered in Notre Dame, Ind. An aunt, Stephanie Ryznar of Detroit, made family visits to Poland, and Father Krzeszowski had traveled to Chicago and Niagara Falls.
"I'm very grateful to Bishop (Richard J.) Malone, Bishop (Edward U.) Kmiec, Msgr. Paul Litwin and Father Józef Dudzik, who helped me to come to the Diocese of Buffalo," Father Krzeszowski said.
Father Krzeszowski began serving at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Orchard Park before starting a new assignment at St. John the Baptist Parish in 2013. He said he had "fond memories" of serving Nativity, where he worked with others to improve his English as a newcomer to the country.
"I had worked with 13 great volunteer English teachers, who instructed me particularly in the liturgical language," he said. "From September to December 2012, daily for four hours, I had English language lessons with them. They were, for me, more than just teachers. They were like mothers and fathers to me. They treated me like this son. Because of this, I used to say I have only one mother and father in Poland, but in the U.S., I have many American moms and dads. We are still in touch and meet from time to time."
Today, Father Krzeszowski is in residence at St. John the Baptist, a parish with rich history that St. John Neumann began. He said Father Michael Parker is "known for his great kindness toward priests from various parts of the world," and the rectory at St. John the Baptist has housed priests from many countries.
Father Krzeszowski said the parishioners are very friendly, kind and patient as he learns English. He thanked Sister Jolene Ellis, OSF, Deacon James Waggoner and Edward and Geraldine Szemraj for their help.
In 2014, Father Krzeszowski began attending the State University of New York at Buffalo, a school well known in Western New York for its large population of international students. Since enrolling in the Intensive English Program of the university's English Language Institute, Father Krzeszowski practices reading, writing, speaking and listening to the language five hours a day, Monday through Friday.
He continues to live by the motto, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
"I strongly believe that my faith is able to grow as long as I live in the truth before Jesus and myself," he said. "I would like to develop my faith by living in the truth, which I can attain by daily prayer, the Word of God and the sacraments, especially the sacrament of penance and reconciliation."