BECOMING A PRIEST: ‘Mountain top’ experience at Madonna House leads seminarian to priesthood

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  • April 17, 2007
TORONTO - Zachary Romanowsky heard his call to the priesthood while staying at Madonna House in Combermere, Ont.
Romanowsky had what he calls a “mountain top experience” while visiting his brother at the lay movement’s headquarters during one Easter season.

He was touched by the witness of the people living at Madonna House who were so focused on Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection. 

“It was a very different world for me. I left the stresses of work,” said Romanowsky, who at the time was a 25-year-old personal trainer working in Toronto.

He had such a powerful experience that he quit his job and went back to stay at Madonna House for six months, where he discerned his vocation.

Shortly after Romanowsky was born in New Hampshire 32 years ago, he moved to River John, N.S. He and his twin brother are the middle of 10 children. He left home at 18 to go to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., to study kinesiology. During his university years he didn’t set aside much time for his faith life.

“I lived the typical university experience. I lived in rez my first year. I tried to maximize my party time,” he said.

After graduation he moved to Rhode Island, lived with his older brother and worked as a personal fitness trainer for a few years.

His older brother, a practising Catholic, started to take Romanowsky to Sunday Mass. Due to limited job prospects the brothers split and Romanowsky moved to Boston to live with his sister. She too was a practising Catholic who took him to Sunday Mass.

The parish priest, a younger man, had a joy and enthusiasm that Romanowsky liked. So  when his sister moved away, Romanowsky kept going to church.

His father lived close to Boston so he would visit him on weekends. At one point his father showed him a letter he’d received from a friend that said, “you are able to turn to Jesus, pour out your pain, your troubles. He will support you.” This was particularly special coming from his father whom he didn’t grow up knowing very well. His mother was his primary caregiver after his parents separated when he was seven.

This experience was his first insight into what it meant to know Jesus in a personal way. A month later he went to Confession. He said this is when he felt he came back to the fullness of the church.

Shortly afterwards, he moved to Toronto to pursue a chiropractic degree, but that plan changed after his visit to Madonna House. Romanowsky hopes to continue to live out the spirituality of Madonna House as an associate priest with the movement.

“I go forward with some uncertainties of how will I do... but I go in faith and trust that God will provide for my particular needs,” said Romanowsky.

Romanowsky will be ordained for the archdiocese of Halifax at that city’s St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 4.Â

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