Deacon Roger Niedzielski Interview from Archdiocese of Edmonton on Vimeo.
By Andrew Ehrkamp
Deacon Roger Niedzielski has been ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Basilica, surrounded by his fellow seminarians in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
On June 27, sitting in a pew, was Xavier Videla, who predicted his future decades earlier.
“One friend in particular has always said, since Grade 2, ‘Oh, you’ll be a pope or a bishop or a priest. You’re going to be one of those religious people. You‘ll do that kind of stuff,” joked Niedzielski, who entered St. Joseph Seminary at age 17. “He always saw it within me.”
Growing up in southwest Edmonton, Niedzielski’s family would host a visiting Polish priest or seminarian. At eight, he was an altar server at his home parish, Our Lady Queen of Poland. The family was always around priests, and also talked about vocations.
“It was funny because everyone would be saying ‘Have you ever thought of the priesthood?’ or ‘I could see you becoming a priest one day or a monk’ … and I would take these things in and sort of dismiss them,” Niedzielski said.
“I really sort of wanted to be an archaeologist or an architect or a race car driver.”
Niedzielski said those options came and went, but what remained was the priesthood.
“That focus really just intensified. It was even more present in my life. I could really see it everywhere I was going, the thought of the priesthood,” said Niedzielski. He decided to attend a Come and See Weekend open house retreat at St. Joseph Seminary, unsure of what to expect.
He recalls heard yelling and screaming from the hall near his room.
“I’m confused. Is someone dying down the hall? … I walked into the TV room, and it’s two seminarians playing Mario Kart on the Wii. One guy is winning and the other guy is losing pretty badly!”
Niedzielski said he learned a lesson from that encounter.
“God doesn’t pick these pre-figured holy men to be priests, seminarians or those discerning. He picks regular people. These are people that I could mistake in the street as regular, normal people. It’s at that moment I realized I’m a regular person. God could be calling me … That’s insane.”
It was then that Niedzielski decided to enter the seminary and begin a rigorous eight years of philosophy and theology classes, academic and psychological exams, followed by an internship.
“It almost feels, at times, like a rock tumbler,” Niedzielski said. “You’re really polishing off all the edges to make sure that what comes out is a smooth stone, is a stone that can be worked with and doesn’t have those sharp edges.”
Are there days at the seminary when he had doubts?
“Every other day!” he said. “I can’t do this on my own … It’s God’s work. That doesn’t mean give up and don’t do anything. But at the end of the day, God has the last word. God is the one who’s getting this vocation to do what He needs to do in my life.”
Some may say he’s sacrificing family life or privacy as a priest, but Niedzielski doesn’t see it that way.
“That wasn’t my call. I can’t give up something that wasn’t mine to begin with. If anything, what I’ve gained is what God wants of me,” he said. “I don’t feel doors have been closed. If anything, I feel doors have been opened more. I could still be a race car driver if I had to go to a hospital quite quickly!”
Looking back, if Niedzielski could speak to his 17-year-old self, just entering the seminary, he would provide some much-needed advice.
“I would probably tell him some the answers for the tests that I needed to do better on,” Niedzielski joked. “I would probably just reiterate … trust in God more. You can never have enough of that.”
After his own ordination, Niedzielski plans to make a few road trips to attend the ceremonies for his fellow deacons. He will then celebrate his first Mass on July 2 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady Queen of Poland, the church that gave him his start. On August 16, he will begin his first appointment as Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Basilica.
“I’m feeling almost everything at the moment. I’m feeling inadequacy. I’m feeling excitement. I’m feeling God’s grace. I’m feeling my own littleness,” Niedzielski said.
“It’s a great trust in God. I know at the end of the day God is going to get what God wants. The interesting part is the story in between.”
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