Discerning a path to the priesthood wasn’t easy, but was rewarding

Deacon Mark Ostrowski will join five others in being ordained a priest on May 25 at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The path of discernment to a priestly vocation is different for every man, but it usually includes at least three things: time, prayer and patience. 

And at no time is it easy — at least not for Deacon Mark David Ostrowski.

“Discernment is a long process and it’s all very necessary,” said Deacon Ostrowski, “but [a vocational call] sure isn’t easy to refine, to constantly put it to the test, and to wrestle and go through battles . . . [T]here are so many questions that come along.

“It isn’t easy, but it’s very rewarding, and I’m excited and looking forward to [ordination].”

Deacon Ostrowski will join five other men to be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on May 25 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

Deacon Ostrowski is one of five children of John and Kathy Ostrowski, born and raised in Topeka. John is an attorney and Kathy was the long-serving legislative director for Kansans for Life.

One thing was very clear in the Ostrowski home: Living the Catholic faith was a very high priority.

Deacon Ostrowski was home-schooled until he was in the fourth grade, and then he attended Most Pure Heart of Mary School for fifth grade. There, he contemplated the priesthood for the first time.

“I was sitting on the left side at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church,” he said, “and I thought, ‘I think I’d like to do what [the priest] is doing.’ And I filed it away.”

After a year, his parents became part of the Latin Mass Community of St. John-Mary Vianney in Maple Hill, a small town west of Topeka. 

He attended the community’s school and received a “nuts-and-bolts, foundational-Catholicism” kind of education. The students went to Mass every day and, consequently, he had many opportunities to be an altar server.

“As a family . . . we would have a Holy Hour of eucharistic adoration on Friday nights,” he said. “We’d drive out to [St. John-Mary Vianney] or stay there, especially in the summer. It was very beautiful and peaceful to do that [as a family] — Mass, Holy Hour and eucharistic adoration.”

When the school eventually closed, Deacon Ostrowski was home-schooled through high school. In 2002, he enrolled at Benedictine College in Atchison.

While at Benedictine, he studied, continued to mature in his faith and seriously dated — even becoming engaged to be married. After a while, however, that path didn’t seem to be the right one for him. After graduation, he became a missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) for two years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

As a FOCUS missionary, he lived, prayed and evangelized with other men who were also FOCUS missionaries. They didn’t sit around and talk about the priesthood, but they strove for holiness and to know God’s will.

“A high percentage of [men] from that little prayer group went on to [the] seminary,” said Deacon Ostrowski. “You gain courage from talking to each other, or at least the confidence to try. You don’t go to a mountain top to discern.”

He decided to explore the priesthood, if that were God’s will for him, so he applied to become an archdiocesan seminarian and entered Kenrick-  Glennon Seminary in St. Louis in fall 2008.

On May 18, 2013, he was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka. As a deacon, he did pastoral ministry at two parishes and the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas. He also did further discernment and returned to Kenrick-Glennon in 2018 to continue formation and complete his last year of theological studies.

Why does he want to be a priest?

“My purpose in this world is to be a ministerial priest, and that is where I find peace and joy,” said Deacon Ostrowski. “Everything else doesn’t measure up the same way.

“It’s not like you’re choosing between something good and bad, but you’re choosing among goods, and that’s the hardest kind of choice. . . . It’s the most difficult kind of decision. When you’re choosing among vocations, you pray, you talk to other people and you have the help of a spiritual director.”

A well-discerned man is a good thing for the church, he said. When there are storms in one’s life, it’s that relationship with the Lord built up through discernment that guides one through.

Deacon Ostrowski’s advice to men considering the priesthood is to not go it alone. His best progress was made when he became transparent and forthcoming, and became willing to talk to others.

“Listen and trust the Lord,” he said. “Don’t discern alone. And don’t compare your journey to others’ journeys.”

Personally speaking

Name: Deacon Mark David Ostrowski
Age: 35
Born: Topeka
Raised: Topeka
Parents: John and Kathy
Siblings: Dan, Jeff, Tim and Kristy
Home parish: Sacred Heart-St. Joseph, Topeka
Education:
• Home-schooled, completed high school 2002
• Benedictine College, Atchison; double major: Bachelor of Arts in History and Theology, 2006
• Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis, Master of Divinity, 2019
Favorite TV, Netflix, YouTube or other show: “Binging with Babish,” a YouTube cooking show
Tech I can’t live without: My cellphone
Favorite musical style/band/performer: Adele, the Oh Hellos
My most notable encounter with the famous/infamous: I sang with the Benedictine choir for Pope John Paul II, and I met Kansas City Royals color commentator Rex Hudler while filling gas.
Most inspirational Christian(s) I’ve ever met: Jason Evert
Favorite saint: St. Peter, because his temperament and story are relatable, and he helped St. Mark write his Gospel.
Favorite devotion: The Examen. It’s easy to overlook where God is working in my life, so it’s very helpful for staying on track.
Book to recommend: “Searchingfor and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart,” by Jacques Philippe
Favorite food: Short ribs. And coffee. And chocolate. And peanut butter.
Least favorite food: Lima beans
Favorite childhood toy: Joe Bunny (Named after Joe Montana)
Favorite place: An adoration chapel
Dream vacation: New Zealand
Worst job I’ve ever had: Dillard’s. Stay in school, my friends.
Best job I’ve ever had: A FOCUS missionary at the University of Missouri- Kansas City
Hobbies/things I like to do: Cook, cheer on Tottenham Hotspur soccer club, travel and watching airplanes land and take off
Guilty pleasure: Clicking on the recommended videos in YouTube
My hidden talent/party trick: Showing how wide my hands can spread, because of years of piano playing.
My final four saints: St. Giorgio Frassati, St. John Paul II, Blessed Chiara Badano and Venerable Michael McGivney
Best advice I’ve received seeking my vocation: “Be not afraid!” Pope John Paul II
What I’m looking forward to: Hearing confessions, offering Mass and no longer being a transitional deacon

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