From Jesuit to Legatus chaplain
Father Andrew Wawrzyn thought he was called to serve the Church as a Jesuit priest. He spent 13 years as a member of the Society of Jesus and was ordained a deacon, but he discerned that his true calling was to be a diocesan priest. In 2010, Cardinal Francis George ordained him a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Father Wawrzyn, 43, obtained a degree in philosophy and two in theology while a Jesuit before earning a graduate degree in theology (STL) in 2011. He has taught in high schools, directed retreats, served in parishes and offered spiritual direction. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he is associate pastor at Chicago’s St. Alphonsus Parish and has served as the chaplain of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter since spring of 2013. He spoke to Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
When did you first discern your call to the priesthood?
When I was an altar boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help where I went to grade school, K-8, in a suburb of Chicago called Glenview. We had very good priests and nuns. It was a good school. I started serving Mass in sixth grade. It was probably by eighth grade that I realized this was something I was interested in.
You began your studies with the Jesuits.
Yes. I went to a Jesuit high school, Loyola Academy, and then I went to a Jesuit university, Marquette University. I had a lot of exposure to Jesuits as teachers and, as we are in our teens, we can be very impressionable. I was quite taken with the order.
What led you to become a diocesan priest?
I had sort of been going back and forth. But once I became a deacon, I thought it best to serve as a priest in my local archdiocese. I grew up in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It was sort of a homecoming in that sense.
What hobbies and interests do you enjoy?
For exercise, I still like swimming. I still do that three to four times a week. When I was a kid, I used to play piano, and I recently started that up again with the music director at the parish. I like to read. I’m a big baseball fan, and my favorite team is the Cubs.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
A friend of mine, a Jesuit priest, was the chaplain of the Chicago Chapter. He asked if I would be able to cover the meetings when he was gone on a six-month sabbatical. I was able to cover five meetings. When he was done with his sabbatical, his superiors sent him to a new apostolate in Indianapolis, so the chapter president asked me if I’d be interested in being the chaplain. Cardinal George approved and that’s how I got involved.
What value do you see Legatus having for its members and the Church?
I am impressed with the commitment to the faith. At the meetings, I always enjoy being able to talk to Catholics who are taking the New Evangelization seriously — and taking their faith seriously. The other thing I like about it is that it was an idea of Tom Monaghan approved by John Paul the Great. I’m a big John Paul fan. I like the fact that it was born out of that whole John Paul II era.
What is one thing people are surprised to learn about you?
I think of myself as a run-of-the-mill priest. I sometimes feel intimidated because the folks in Legatus are so accomplished, successful and intelligent. Sometimes I say to myself that I hope I’m doing a good enough job, preaching well and giving folks what they want from a priest as far as ministry is concerned.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.