Long journey, easy rider

Father Mucha follows his heart

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

PULASKI — Last July, the parishioners at Christ Our Light Church were truly blessed with the longjourneyappointment of Father Jozef Mucha as temporary administrator to their parish. Parishioners have described him as a person who is extremely dedicated to his work as a priest.

William Buckley, a lector and Eucharistic Minister at Christ Our Light, feels thankful for Father Mucha’s presence. “With all the churches that are closing and merging, I’m glad that we still have a priest,” said Buckley. “I don’t know how much longer we will have a priest. Father Mucha is a really nice person and he has a very warm personality.”

Father Mucha is a native of Rzeszow in Poland, but he feels right at home in the village of Pulaski, which is located in northern Oswego County. “The people here have been very friendly and helpful,” said Father Mucha. He is an avid fisherman and enjoys catching salmon, which is very plentiful in the area.

Father Mucha is one of a trio of Polish priests who came to the Syracuse Diocese to help relieve the clerical shortage. The priests are serving in the diocese as a result of Bishop James Moynihan’s summer 2007 trip to Poland.

While the U.S. has a major priest and vocation shortage, Poland has an abundance of clerics. Father Mucha’s home diocese, Rzeszow, is home to more than 500 priests.

When Bishop Moynihan asked Father Mucha to consider serving in the Syracuse Diocese, the young priest had begun studying for his doctorate in political science at the University of Warsaw and was planning to travel to Austria to continue his studies there. Father Mucha agreed to come to Syracuse after his bishop, Bishop Kazimierz Gorny, encouraged him to change his plans.

“This is a joyful time to serve others,” said Father Mucha. “I feel God’s presence and I can feel him leading me by the hand to different places.”

Father Mucha is the youngest of three siblings. His two older sisters live in New Jersey and Toronto. He said he had a relatively carefree childhood in which he was well provided for. His father died when he was 18 years old and he was close to his mother throughout his high school and seminary years. After his father’s death, he ran the small farm that his family owned. It is there, he said, that he learned how to milk a cow, bake bread and fix a roof, among other things.

Father Mucha also attended a culinary school after graduating from high school. Father Mucha feels that everything he has learned has benefited him in completing his present duties. For example, he uses the cooking skills he learned in culinary school to prepare meals for his parishioners.

Father Mucha credits the strong influence of his family and friends for determining his decision to enter the priesthood. “Mom is a strict Catholic,” he said. “We celebrated all the devotions and Sundays were kept holy. It was a day of rest and we spent it with family and friends. My mom told me that she prayed that I would become a priest.”

Father Mucha said his uncle, who is a priest, also influenced him. He lives in Poland and will retire soon. “I learned by his example,” Father Mucha said. “He would frequently give me religious books and articles to read.”

Father Mucha completed his theological studies at Major Seminary of Przemgsl in Rzeszow, Poland and was ordained May 2001. He then served as associate pastor at St. Roch Parish in Rzeszow from 2001–2005 and then at Divine Mercy Parish in Jaslo until 2007.

In 2008, Father Mucha came to the U.S. and resided at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal where he learned how to speak and think in English. He said that before he came to the U.S., he had learned a little English from his two sisters who had come back to Poland to visit a number of times. He and the other two Polish priests learned English from Sister Catherine Laboure Bresnock, SSCM, and he said he still keeps in touch with her. Sometimes he needs her assistance with the pronunciation of certain words.

Father Mucha was assigned to Holy Family Church in Fairmount as parochial vicar in January 2008. He said he misses teaching religion at Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. “Children need a base to build their faith on,” he said. He also remembers leading a group of 25 parishioners from Holy Family and Sacred Heart Basilica on a trip to Poland last summer. “That was another one of God’s ways of leading me,” Father Mucha noted.

Father Mucha has many interests. “It’s what keeps life interesting,” he said. In addition to cooking, Father Mucha enjoys photography, fishing, reading, racquetball, writing poetry and riding his motorcycle.

“I’m happy to be a priest,” said Father Mucha. “My work gives me great satisfaction and it’s fun to work with people.”

Father Mucha said the thing he enjoys the most about his vocation is teaching and confession. He has added some time for confessions at Christ Our Light Church. Previously, parishioners needed to make their confessions by appointment, but now they can make their confessions one hour before the Mass on Saturday. “I love helping people — especially when they come to confession,” he said. “I try to show them that it’s a healing encounter with Jesus and that they can receive strength from it.”

Father Mucha enjoys teaching the confirmation class at Christ Our Light and various grade school classes on Sunday.

Since arriving at Christ Our Light Parish, Father Mucha has made some changes to enrich the faith of its parishioners. In addition to the extension of the hours for confession, the rosary is now being recited every day before Mass and First Friday devotion is now being practiced.

Warren Leib has been a parishioner at Christ Our Light for the last 30 years and serves as a lector and on the parish council. “Father Mucha is very committed to th faith,” said Leib. “We’re very pleased with him and we respect him highly for what he is trying to do.”

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