Tag Archives: Monsignor Charles Kosanke

Meet the Chaplain: Concurrent pastor of two parishes also shepherds Detroit Chapter

Monsignor Charles Kosanke, the chaplain of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, is the pastor of the Motor City’s two oldest operating parishes.

Monsignor Kosanke, 59, who was ordained a priest in December 1985, is also the chairman of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Detroit and a member of the Catholic Biblical Association. He has been a Legatus chaplain for 14 years, and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How would you describe your experience as a Legatus chaplain?

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful, dedicated and generous Catholics who support the Church and many other worthy charities. Our monthly program and speakers not only inspire and inform the members of the chapter, but I experience that same inspiration and knowledge as well.

How did you discern your vocation?

The birth of my vocation was really in my home parish, where my family was very involved, as well as my siblings and me. I was an altar server for many years, which gave me a close-up view of a parish priest. I looked into religious orders like the Capuchins, but I really felt called to be a parish priest in a diocese. So after high school, I entered the seminary. But though I never became a Franciscan, many of my parish assignments have brought me into contact with the poor and suffering.

What is your current assignment?

I’m the pastor of two parishes in Detroit: St. Anne Church, which was founded in 1701 and is the second-oldest operating parish in the United States, and the oldest church in Detroit. I’m also the pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit, which is our second oldest parish founded in 1834.

In what ways is it unique for you being pastor of two historical parishes?

These two particular parishes are very special to the city of Detroit, not only for their history, but also for their legacy of service. Most Holy Trinity has one of the few Catholic schools left in the city of Detroit. It also has the longest operating free medical clinic in the country. In fact, Most Holy Trinity Church was the first hospital in Detroit because it was the place where they brought people suffering from the cholera epidemic in 1834. With St. Anne Church, the vision of Archbishop [Allen Henry] Vigneron is for St. Anne’s to become an apostolic center for the diocese, especially in the area of evangelization, with programs and services that would benefit all of the Catholics in Detroit.

How do you balance everything?

Two things are very important to me. One, is to get eight hours of sleep a night. Second, a daily holy hour in the morning. Those two things really keep me physically and spiritually strong, and keep me able to balance my various responsibilities. Plus, the parishes and Catholic Charities have very good staff, so it certainly makes it easier when you’re working with competent and dedicated people.

What do you do in your free time?

In my downtime, there are three things I like to do. I like to read, especially history. I also like to golf and swim.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading two books. One is called 1861, which is about the start of the Civil War after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The other is more Detroit-based, called The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Streets. These two books dovetail with one another about that time in history. Also, St. Anne’s was the only place of worship in the city of Detroit for 110 years, so anything that happened in the first 100 years of the city certainly has to do with my parish.

How would you describe your day-today life?

 When it comes down to it, my life is really the Church. It’s not like I’m a priest 40 hours a week and the other time is my own. I’m basically immersed in the Life of the Church, which gives me great joy.

Redemptive suffering

Detroit Legates Lud and Trudy Koci have carried heavy crosses that led them to Catholicism . . . 

Lud and Trudy Koci had braved a seemingly senseless storm of suffering — until they embraced the crucified Christ of Catholicism.

The storm started with the death of the Detroit Legates’ son Chuck in 1986. Married and studying for a doctorate in education, Chuck was riding his bike to the summer camp for handicapped children where he worked when he was struck by a bus full of camp-bound kids.

“I was just lost,” remembered Trudy. “I think the two of us just sat on the couch in the living room every night for the next 18 months and just stared into space.”

Lud and Trudy Koci with their children.

Lud and Trudy Koci with their children.

Carrying the cross

At the time, the Kocis were passionate Protestants and committed to their Lutheran church, where they taught a Bible class.

“I had a strong relationship with Jesus,” added Trudy, “but I didn’t feel his presence any more. To lose our first child, what had we done to deserve this?”

Lutheranism’s cross without the corpus offered no answers to their suffering, so they decided to move on. “Maybe another church would help us find our way again,” thought Lud (short for Ludvik). They joined an Evangelical church for two years and delved ever more deeply into Scripture.

“They were nice people,” continued Lud, 77, a longtime executive and active board member of the Penske Corporation. “But they worship the resurrection without the crucifixion, that everything is up-up and there’s no recognition of suffering. It became obvious to us that they didn’t have the answers we needed.”

More answers would soon be needed.

After the Kocis’ three surviving children had grown up, they decided to adopt: two from Korea, one each from Costa Rica, India, and Vietnam. Eighteen months after Chuck’s death, the couple’s Vietnamese daughter died in a car accident — the day before the wedding of her natural-born sister, who had been adopted by a French couple.

“Instead of celebrating a wedding, we held a funeral,” said Trudy, “but that was the beginning of our journey into the Church.”

Marian intercession

Soon after, Trudy began having experiences  she hesitates to relate because they sound incredible to ears without faith. One day she was sitting in her living room after picking up some books about Mary.

“I really don’t know why I got them,” she recalled. “It must have been God.”

Then she distinctly heard a voice she believes was the Mother of God. “Her words were very simple: ‘Teach Adam how to pray the rosary.’”

Adam, from India, was already showing signs of the degenerating brain disease that finally claimed his life this past November. He was talking very little at the time, and Trudy felt the rosary would be easy for him to learn and maybe “perk him up.” But first she had to learn it herself.

With no Catholics in their family, Catholicism was foreign to the couple. “It wasn’t like the Church was something hidden in the back of my mind,” Trudy recalled. “But it was Mary who led me into the Church.”

Speaking from her home in West Bloomfield, Mich., Trudy revealed her communication with Mary:

“It was almost like infused learning. The more interested I became about the Church, the more [Mary] infused Catholic teachings [in my soul]. She talked in very simple sentences, and one thing really put me over the top: ‘You will be healed in the Eucharist.’ After that I developed a very strong desire for the Eucharist, and when I learned the Church’s teaching on suffering — that it’s redemptive when united with Christ’s suffering, not something horrible to run away from — I knew the reason for our journey.”

In-flight confessions

It was aboard a flight in 1990, accompanying Lud on one of his trips promoting the Penske race team, that Trudy revealed her Marian experiences and decision to become a Catholic.

Lud responded by telling his wife: “I think I’m going to become Catholic, too.” Unbeknownst to Trudy, he had been discovering Catholicism on his own. “She said this was a major thing that was going to change our lives and cause real shock and division in the family, which it ended up doing. Her sister didn’t talk with us for about six years. But I told her this wasn’t something I was going to do just for her. I was thinking about me, too.”

Several weeks earlier, Lud had taken a silent retreat and brought along a copy of Fr. John Hardon’s The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church. As he read it, he underlined every teaching that differed from Protestantism.

“Then I put a plus, zero or minus in the margin, signifying whether it made more, less, or no sense to me,” Lud explained. “Then I summarized each teaching and wrote it down in the blank pages at the back of the book. After two-and-a-half days, I looked at those pages and said, ‘Son of a gun, I’m Catholic!’”

Stunned for a moment, Trudy composed herself and said, “You always were an engineer!”

The Kocis were received into the Church at Easter 1992. “We were very strong Protestants,” Lud explained. “When we went through those tragedies, however, it seemed like there was something missing, but we had that strong faith to build upon. Mary, the Eucharist, and the Church’s teachings on suffering were the three missing parts.”

Giving back

Lud and Trudy Koci greet Pope John Paul II

Lud and Trudy Koci greet Pope John Paul II

“As St. Thomas Aquinas said: All we need to know about Jesus we can learn from studying the crucifix,” said Fr. Timothy F. Whalen, rector of St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Penn., and former chancellor of the Orchard Lake Schools in Michigan. “That’s something that Lud and Trudy, in their own way, have discovered.”

Father Whalen, who presided at Adam’s funeral Mass, has known the Kocis since Lud became involved with Orchard Lake Schools: a college prep school, Polish cultural mission, and seminary to train Polish men for priestly service in the United States.

“Our country is in a heck of a mess culturally,” said Lud. “If it can be turned around, the Church has got to lead the way, so we need priests willing to help serve that purpose.”

Orchard Lake Schools are one of several Catholic causes the Kocis have embraced. Another is Mary’s Children Family Center — a daycare for adults with brain injuries that Trudy co-founded after another heartbreak. Seven years ago the couple’s natural-born daughter Carla died after hitting her head.

“I think it’s the cross that’s helped them, not so much to understand suffering intellectually, but to be able to unite their sufferings to those of Jesus,” said Monsignor Charles Kosanke, chaplain of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter.

“People with little or no faith could choose to be angry with God or even abandon him,” he said. “The fact that Lud and Trudy have chosen to walk with God and carry their cross speaks of the level of their faith, which some people would find incomprehensible.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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