Father Mark Kiszelewski’s story is an uncommon one. The priest, who was recently ordained, is a divorced father of two and, obviously, an unlikely candidate to serve as a clergyman. The intriguing story of his foray into ministry is told on the Archdiocese of Seattle website.
In his early years, Kiszelewski had actually considered joining the faith. As a young man, he even had religious training, but his path diverted when he considered taking a break from the ministry. The diocese’s website explains:
He graduated from Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale and Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, Queens, and even did a year of theology training at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, on Long Island.
But in the post-Vatican II ’70s, many seminarians were encouraged to “step back” and experience the “real world,” he said.
He decided to take some time off, and was soon enjoying the excitement of working and dating in New York City. But “I still thought that I would go back” to the seminary, he said.
Decades passed, though, and the secular life took hold. After marrying, having children and becoming a financial adviser, Kiszelewski eventually joined St. Therese Parish, a house of worship in Seattle. Little did he know that his career and lifestyle would inevitably be turned upside down, leading him back on his path of becoming a priest.
Following a divorce in 2001 after being married for 17 years, Kiszelewski received an annulment. It was after the divorce that the priest, a father to two sons who are now 24 and 21 years of age, began thinking, again, about serving the church. A question from his pastor, Father Paul Magnano, reignited his journey.
“After the annulment was over, (Father Magnano) asked me, ‘So now what?’ And I said, ‘In my prayer, some things keep coming back up about serving the church in some form or another,’” Kiszelewski explained in an article published on the diocese website. “And he said, ‘Well, keep praying about it,’ and I decided to pursue it further.”
A few years later, in 2007, Kiszelewski started his application with the Archdiocese of Seattle to enter the seminary — an enrollment he felt would be unlikely due to his status as a divorced individual. That said, he was accepted in 2008 and graduated May 3 of this year.
His decision stunned his children, as they initially were surprised that their father, who had a successful career and a good life, would choose to enter the priesthood.
“Dad, what are you doing? You have a house, you have a nice job, you’ve got a boat, you have all your friends — why would you want to go off and do this?,” his son Alex originally asked — clearly speaking in awe.
But Kiszelewski felt called to the ministry and this calling guided his actions. He believes that his testimony as a divorced priest who has experienced many of life’s challenges first-hand will actually assist in his ministry.
Today, his children fully support his decision.
“A lot of people that I talk to say to me, ‘You have a great background, in terms of you’ve done a lot of things. You’ve been married — you know what marriage is about, the pros and the cons, what happens and how things can go wrong,’” he said. “‘You know what it’s like to try to raise children and the difficulties of parenting children.’”
His experience, Kiszelewski believes, will help him guide others in the faith.
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