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Notre Dame graduate takes vows of priesthood

Tori Roeck | Monday, April 16, 2012

More than 100 Holy Cross priests gathered in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Saturday to witness Notre Dame alumnus Matt Kuczora profess his final vows and become an ordained member of the priesthood.

Kuczora said the ordination Mass revolves around three important actions: the laying of hands, the handing over of the Eucharist and the anointing of chrism.

“[The bishop] lays his hands on my head, an ancient and biblical symbol of handing on authority and blessing,” Kuczora said. “After the offertory, he hands the chalice and paten on to me too as a symbol of my ministry at the Eucharist. Those actions, along with the anointing of my hands with chrism oil, really mark the ordination of a priest.”

Kuczora presided over his first Mass on Sunday. Despite his nerves, Kuczora said it was a “wonderful” and “freeing” experience.

“Before it started, I just said a quick prayer and said, ‘God, this is your prayer. This is your Mass, not mine,'” he said. “I let go, and let God take over from there.”

Kuczora said he was attracted to the priesthood because he wanted to serve others.

“I worked for a year after graduation from Notre Dame, and I found myself volunteering and teaching and coaching sports teams,” he said. “The more and more I thought about it, I wanted to make a life out of that kind of service and of helping people.”

According to a press release from the Congregation of Holy Cross, Kuczora has spent the past year putting his desire to serve others into practice as a deacon at Nuestra Madre Santisima de la Luz Parish in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

“Our parish there has over 40,000 parishioners,” Kuczora said. “There’s a lot of sacramental need.”

Kuczora said he performed a variety of sacramental duties while in Mexico.

“I did communion services in the absence of a priest. I brought communion to the sick and homebound,” he said. “I did weddings, many funerals and many baptisms. Sacramentally, I was very busy.”

He said he also assisted with the parish’s education program.

“I also helped to run the catechesis program for 900 children,” Kuczora said. “There was a lot of teaching with that and organizing that, and providing ongoing education for our Sunday school teachers as well.”

Kuczora said he plans to return to the same parish in Mexico for the next few years with the goal of “making God present to the people there.”

“There’s a lot of violence, especially related to drug trafficking right now in Mexico,” Kuczora said. “[It’s about] making God known to the people there, and letting them know God is with them in their suffering, and God cares about them and loves them. Despite all the violence in their lives, God is still there with them and is offering them healing in this life and in the life to come.”

In anticipation of his life as a priest, Kuczora said he is most excited to share in people’s spiritual lives.

“[I look forward to] serving people, helping them have experiences of God … and walking with people in their journeys, which are so different,” he said. “People have struggles, but also a lot of joys. [I look forward to] just being with them, helping them to see God and realize God is with them and loves them.”