We invite readers to send short stories about the ways in which their lives have been personally blessed by the life and work of priests and religious in our diocese.
By Cathy Tilzey
Father Stanislaw Róg already had 15 years of experience as a priest in Poland, his homeland, before coming to the United States.
He was born in a Catholic family, has four sisters and one brother.
He graduated from high school in Bilgoraj in 1987, and from the diocesan seminary in Lublin. He also earned a master’s degree in moral theology and was ordained a priest in 1993. He served as a parochial vicar in Tomaszowa for three years and studied pastoral theology at the University of Lublin, receiving a licentiate in 1998.
Father Róg came to the United States in 1999, studying English at Rutgers University in New Jersey and serving at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Newark, N.J.
He returned to Poland, serving as parochial vicar in Zamosc for two years and as diocesan coordinator of Catholic families. He then became the pastor at parishes in Udycze for five years and at Moniatycze for a year.
In the summer of 2008, he met Father Józef Perehubka, a Polish priest at St. Joseph Parish in Libby. Their talks piqued Father Róg’s interest in western Montana. “It was always my intent to go outside the country,” he said.
Father Róg said his bishop in Poland has allowed him to remain in the United States for three years.
Last year, he served as a parochial vicar (associate pastor) at SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in East Helena.
“Father Thomas O’Donnell took very good care of me,” Father Róg said.
“The East Helena parish was the best place to start priestly ministry in U.S., and Father Tom was a very good teacher and mentor for me. He helped me understand American history and helped me improve my ability to speak English. He is a holy man.”
This year, on Aug. 1, Father Róg became an administrator at St. Michael Parish in Conrad and at Dutton’s St. William Parish, which has a mission, Guardian Angels, in Power.
The assignments give him the opportunity to meet Montanans and get to know them. Beyond the parishes, Father Róg has met people such as Helen Bartos, a native of Poland who lives in Helena, and her family.
“Helena is a nice area with nice people,” he said.
Being in the United States allows him to see his sister, who lives in South Elgin, Ill. Father Róg united his sister and her husband in marriage, and last summer he accompanied them on a trip to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. His sister and brother-in-law have two children.
Father Róg said he finds car travel the best way to see places. His travels have taken him to North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Idaho and Wyoming, and to some places in Canada.
Asked about religious traditions in his native land, he pointed out that Poland is 95 percent Catholic. Customs among Catholic families include gathering for special family breakfasts after Mass on Easter. Families want to get together at least twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter, Father Róg said.
Religious vocations are strong in Poland and a man wishing to enter the seminary ordinarily has family support.
Typically, a seminarian studies for six years before ordination. The average age for ordination in Poland is about 25-27, Father Róg said. In the United States, it is about 35.
Religious vocations among women are strong, as well. Sisters in Poland continue to wear special garments.
Father Róg said the sisters are living signs that life is more than simply the superficial, such as how one dresses.
“They show us that they are happy, because they are married to Jesus and His Church,” he said.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 25, No. 11, November 20, 2009.