Fr. Piotr Dudek, OMI was born in Poland. After graduating from high school with majors in biology and chemistry, he began the Oblate Noviciate at Święty Krzyż and a year later studied at the Oblate Seminary in Obra (Poland). As a deacon, he completed his pastoral internship in Ukraine, where he was ordained by the Apostolic Nuncio Abp. Nikola Eterović. After nine years of working in Ukraine, Fr. Piotr stood on Canadian soil beginning a ministry among the Poles outside of Poland. He likes to travel and read.
AN INTERVIEW WITH FR. PIOTR DUDEK, OMI - OUR NEW PASTOR
First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you for such a warm welcome. I am happy to share with you a few thoughts about my faith journey as a priest and religious.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Poland. My childhood elementary and secondary education were revolved around Zduńska Wola, a city name famous for being the birthplace of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Also, Saint Faustyna Kowalska was born just 60 km from my place of birth.
2. Can you share a bit about your family: parents, siblings?
I grew up in the difficult time of the economic crisis and Solidarity movement in Poland. In the eighties, some of my family members were imprisoned by the communist government. My father and mother courageously risked his career in the name of freedom and truth. I thank God for my parents every day. They gave me an example of defending Christian values and beliefs and immense trust in God. They showed me the strength of love in our family. My beloved mother past away in 2005. My father lives in Poland. Providence has designed for me to be an only child.
3. How long have you been a priest?
I have been a priest for 21 years (2000). On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I have received my priestly ordination from the hands of Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, papal Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. I also grateful for the 30 years (1991) of my religious and missionary life and I pray, through the intercession of Immaculate Mary to be continually blessed in my Oblate vocation.
4. Have you always wanted/felt/called to be a priest? Was there any defining moment or event where you felt God's call?
I remember that as a little boy I “celebrated masses” in my room. At the age of six, I began ministering as an altar server, then as a lector. I really wanted to be an altar server, to be close to the altar. My parish church was also a major Seminary church for the Orionine Fathers (FDP). It was this environment that gave birth to my vocation as a religious and a priest. After completing matriculation examination in the biochemical field, I entered the Oblate Noviciate at Święty Krzyż (Poland) and on the 8th of September 1991, I had made my first profession as a Missionary Oblate. Later that same year, I started studies in philosophy and theology at a major Oblate Seminary in Obra (Poland). In due time, I graduated with a Master’s Degree from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
On the 17th of February 1996, I had made my perpetual oblation in the presence of Father Superior General Marcello Zago OMI. In June of the same year, I had received my ordination to diaconate from the hands of Bishop Eugeniusz Jureczko OMI from Cameroon. Then my superiors had sent me to minister in our relatively new mission in Ukraine. During my stay in Ukraine, I had ministered in various Ukrainian, Polish and Russian ethnic parishes. For the first five years, I worked in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. My next placement was a village parish in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, in Chernihiv (in the northern Ukraine, close to Chernobyl and the border with Belarus), and in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Along with Oblate brothers, we worked hard to develop and organize the community and spiritual life in the area previously heavily laicized. The time I have spent working in the Lord’s Vineyard overlooking the Dnieper river was a time of a witness to God’s great power working through our missionary effort and among the faithful. It was also a time to gain a deeper understanding of human frailty as well as the strength of the human spirit. My approach to ministry and to the faithful has undergone a number of revisions. I began to be more hopeful as to the actual fruits of my missionary effort.
5. In which parishes have you worked before being assigned to come to St. Casimir?
I am grateful to God for having a missionary experience of both, the Eastern Tradition, and Latin Tradition of the Church. Saint John Paul II wrote in his document Ut Unum Sint that the Church must breathe with her two lungs. Both, the Latin and Eastern traditions contribute to the health of the Church. After 9 years of my ministry in Ukraine, I began my ministry in the Western Church. I stood on Canadian soil, facing new challenges and new experiences. I begin a ministry among the Poles outside of Poland, in an Oblate parish in Toronto Area under the auspice of our founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. He knew all too well what it meant to be an immigrant. Then I served in our missions and parishes in New Foundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia. Besides, I had a wonderful time to discover the beauty and power of the Catholic church in the U.S. ministering at St. Joseph the Worker Shrine in Lowell, MA. My last assignment was St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Mississauga (ON) - the largest ethnic Polish parish outside of Poland.
Now, I am in Thunder Bay beginning my journey with you in St. Casimir's. I entrust my ministry to the care of Our Immaculate Mary and St. Joseph - the Patron Saint of this 2021 year.
6. What's your message to the entire parishioners of St. Casimir's?
Beloved Parishioners, I will begin my ministry with you by taking time and making a concerted effort to get to know you, personally, and as a faith community. I would like to listen to you and to hear about your hopes and joys, as well as your concerns and struggles. The primary goal of my leadership is to encourage and inspire you to embrace your Baptismal commitment, striving always towards building a joyful and welcoming faith community.
God bless you in all you do and will do to the community of St. Casimir's. Let's start our journey of faith together holding fast to the hand of Our Mather, Virgin Mary and St. Casimir.