I was born in the city of Newark in 1949 to my parents, Anna and Henry Iwanowski. I am the oldest of their six children. My four grandparents came to the United States from Poland just before the First World War.
When I was six years old, my family moved to North Arlington, NJ. The small apartment where we were living in Newark was too small for a growing family. So it was off to the “suburbs.” There we became members of Queen of Peace Parish. My siblings and I all attended Queen of Peace Grammar School and Queen of Peace High School. My brothers and sisters and I were blessed to have a “stay at home Mom” and a father who sacrificed and worked hard to allow my mother to completely devote herself to her family and her home.
During my senior year of high school, I decided to verbalize the thoughts that had been going through my head concerning a possible vocation to the priesthood. I was encouraged by my teachers to follow through on those thoughts. My parents were not sure that priesthood was for me, but they allowed me to apply to the seminary.
After graduating high school in 1967 I attended Seton Hall University and Immaculate Conception Seminary. They were wonderful, life-changing experiences. At the seminary I came to see that God truly was calling me to serve his Church.
In May of 1975 I was ordained a priest. I should mention that during my final year at the seminary I served as a deacon at St. Paul the Apostle Parish on Greenville Ave, in Jersey City.
My first assignment as a priest was to St. Catharine Parish in Glen Rock, NJ. The parish is in Bergen County near Paramus. I served there for six years. My pastor gave me responsibility for all aspects of parish liturgy including the training and on-going formation of liturgical ministers. He also put me in charge of the high school youth program. Both those responsibilities, liturgy and youth, have influenced and shaped my entire priesthood.
In 1981, I was assigned to Saint Joseph Parish in Oradell, some seven miles from Glen Rock. The parish serves not only Oradell but a large part of New Milford. I was there for 12 years. I was specifically asked to come to that parish to start a high school youth program. Working with some great young adults, we not only started a youth program for teenagers but also a very successful program of high school retreat weekends.
During my time at St. Joseph’s, I also was asked to work with the Office of Divine Worship of the Archdiocese. I got involved in helping to prepare people to serve as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Lectors, something I still do today.
In 1993, the Archbishop appointed me full time director of the Office of Divine Worship. As Director, I was involved in the building and renovation of churches, helping parishes improve their worship of God, and preparing future priests to celebrate Mass and the other liturgies of the Church.
Then in 1995, in addition to serving at the Worship Office, I was made pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in downtown Jersey City, just one block from St Peter’s Prep. I served there for 14 years. During that time I truly grew in my appreciation of Jersey City and the Hudson River Waterfront.
It was an interesting assignment since the waterfront was blossoming with new construction and property values were increasing by the day. It was also a time when the parish had to direct its attention not to its ethnic past but to what was taking place around it. There was a new, young population that was moving into the neighborhood, a population that the parish needed to reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I loved that assignment, and was very sorry to see it come to an end. I then was granted a sabbatical for one year. During that time I did some writing, reflecting, and renewing of my spirit. I co-authored three books of Lenten reflection published by Ave Maria Press.
In July of 2010, I was sent back to my previous assignment in Oradell, to serve as pastor. I was there for three years. After three years, I was offered the opportunity to return to Jersey City.
I began my ministry as parochial vicar here at Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Sorrows in February of 2014 while Father Jack was pastor. I am happy to be continuing my ministry under the pastorate of Father Marty. I find the people of both parishes warm and welcoming. I love celebrating the liturgy with you and sharing the Good News of Gospel. I am glad to be back in Jersey City with Hudson County people. They are the best!