“I promise I will work hard to be your pastor,” said Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, as he brought the US Province Election Assembly to a close.
Held June 19-20, 2018, at the Provincial Conference Center in Hales Corners, WI, the primary task of the gathering was to elect a new provincial administration. By the end of the first day, Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, was elected to a second term as provincial superior, and Fr. Quang Nguyen, SCJ, and Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, were re-elected as councilors. The rest of the council was elected the second day: Fr. Christianus Hendrick, SCJ (he also served during Fr. Ed’s first term), Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ (he was on council during Fr. Tom Cassidy’s administration) and Br. Andy Gancarczyk, SCJ. Originally from Poland, this is Br. Andy’s first experience in provincial administration.
“You are family to me,” continued Fr. Ed in his closing words to fellow SCJs. “You are very special men doing good ministry. When I was pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe I told parishioners that every night I prayed for them.
“Now, every single night before I go to sleep I pray for each and every one of you. If we do not pray, we are nothing more than businessmen trying to do business. We are about spreading the gospel, the kingdom of God, the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We have a mission that is very valuable in the Church; we have a charism that speaks to the need for healing and reconciliation in our country and world.”
“A privilege to serve”
A Buffalo native, Fr. Ed, 63, said that he felt called to the priesthood for as long as he can remember. There is an often-told story of him as a child about when he let his parents parent know that not only did he want to be a priest, but perhaps he was pope material as well.
“When I was seven years old Pope John XXIII died and on the radio they said that he wanted to be a priest when he was 11 years old,” said Fr. Ed. “I said to my mom and dad that, ‘I’m only seven and I want to be a priest, does that mean that someday I’ll be the pope?’
“They laughed as everyone does when I tell the story but somehow I knew that one day I would be a priest.”
He went to the SCJs’ Immaculate Heart of Mary High School Seminary in Lenox, Mass., and then entered the SCJs’ formation program in Chicago. He studied at Northeastern Illinois University, and earned a degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy.
Midway through his undergraduate studies he entered the novitiate in Victorville, Calif. Fr. Ed professed his first vows in 1975.
After completing his bachelor’s degree he went back to where he started – Immaculate Heart of Mary – to teach, coach basketball and soccer, and serve as assistant dean of students. In 1979 he began his theology studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. In 1982 he earned his Master of Divinity.
On January 29, 1983, he was ordained to the priesthood at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish (now, St. Martin of Tours) in Franklin, Wis.
His first assignment as a priest was at Sacred Hearts, but after six months he was asked to do vocation ministry.
“I drove the entire United States meeting and interviewing young men who were interested in the priesthood or religious life,” he said. “I did this for seven-and-a-half years, becoming the director in 1985.” Although many of the men he met did not pursue a vocation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Ed said that he always felt as though he was doing an important service for the Church. “As an SCJ, I helped others discern their own vocation – wherever it might be – and help them find the path the God was leading them on.”
After vocations, Fr. Ed had a number of ministry assignments. In 1996 he moved to northern California, where he edited a newsletter and served as parochial vicar at St. Philip of Jesus in Occidental and St. Teresa of Avila in Bodega. It was in Bodega that he first felt called to Hispanic ministry. He began yearly visits to Oaxaca, Mexico, to study Spanish.
In 2004 he moved to Houston and ministered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. After a six-month study sabbatical in Mexico, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston in 2008.
In this year’s State of the Union report Fr. Ed told his fellow SCJs that “It has been a privilege to serve as your provincial, a position I neither sought nor desired. It has been a real ministry of love, service and challenge. I have seen my role and ministry as the servant of servants.
“Be assured of my gratitude, thoughts and prayers. Let us continue to promote, display, make known and celebrate with others our Dehonian charism. Fr. Dehon saw the refusal of the love of Christ as the deepest cause of human misery. Caught up in this often unrecognized love, he wanted to respond to it by being intimately united to the Heart of Christ and by restoring His Reign in individuals and in society. Let us try our best to follow his example.”
A new Provincial Council
Fr. Quang Nguyen, SCJ, was the first to be elected to the new Provincial Council; he is currently vice provincial superior, as well as province director of vocations. Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, executive director of Sacred Heart Southern Missions, was also re-elected, as was Fr. Christianus Hendrik, SCJ, a member of the Lower Brule Pastoral Team.
New to the council are Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, and Br. Andy Gancarczyk, SCJ. Fr. Vien recently recently earned his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, Calif. He is now on the staff of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Br. Andy, originally from Poland, is a member of the Houston community serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Previous to his ministry in the US Province, Br. Andy served as a missionary for five years in Uruguay.
The new administration begins its term in September.
Remembering those who went before us
The closing mass of the assembly was a Mass of Remembrance, remembering in a special way the 14 members of the US Province who had died since the last Provincial Chapter in 2014, but also, all members of the province who have died.
“Some of them may have been close friends, or classmates, or mentors,” said Fr. Jack Kurps in his homily. “Some may have acted as role models or played a significant role in your life. Perhaps you had harsh words or a difficult experience with one or the other. And perhaps some, you didn’t know at all.
“We remember each of them because they are our brothers – brothers who shared more than just the three letters after our names: SCJ. We are WHO we are today because of the lives of those who have gone before us. They are the foundation for our future and, as Dehon wrote, they are our best endowment.
“Each of them – and each of us – are united in faith, united in a common purpose. Together, as sons of Leo Dehon, we desire to help others experience the same love and mercy of the Sacred Heart that we ourselves have experienced.”