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JUNE 2018 PRIEST OF THE MONTH - REV. DENNIS FRONCKOWIAK 

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Born the only child of Ann and Frank Fronckowiak, Fr. Dennis grew up on the east side of Buffalo. He was baptized at St. Stanislaus but not long after, his parents moved and they became parishioners of St. Luke Church. There he celebrated all his Sacraments and eventually his first Mass as a priest.

As a young altar server, he felt a call to the priesthood. He made his intentions known concerning his plan to become a priest and visited the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary High School in anticipation of attending.  When the time came to declare his high school choice he chose Bishop Fallon. His eighth grade teacher, a Felician Sister, said, “I thought you wanted to become a priest.” To which young Dennis replied, “I do, but I don’t think I want to go to that seminary high school because it will be too difficult.” She sent him to see the parochial vicar at St. Luke’s who convinced him to try the seminary high school. He told him, “If you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else afterword.”

He ended up attending the seminary high school followed by studies at Wadhams Hall Minor Seminary in Ogdensburg. He didn’t care for his experience there and told his father about it when he was home on a break. His father said, “This is going to be your life. You choose what you want to do. You’ve always said you wanted to be a priest so don’t let this school determine who you’re going to be.” He took his father’s advice, finished up in Ogdensburg, continued on to Christ the King Seminary and eventually ordination, earning himself the status of “A lifer.”

Father Dennis was ordained in 1977. He recalled, “It was a rainy Friday night but there was something really special about being in the cathedral with all of the other priests present, especially that moment when you’re kneeling there and they were coming up to you and imposing their hands on you. I think that was the moment I realized that this was real. I was being ordained as a priest!”

His first assignment was to St. Margaret Parish on Hertel Avenue. It was there that he met Norm Paolini. He remarked, “Norm and I have been best friends for some years.” He and Norm took many college age students on pilgrimages to Fatima, Portugal. Norm would play guitar and sing at Mass as well as when they were together in the evenings. Father Dennis recalled that, “It was a special, spiritual time.” Eventually, Norm went on to found St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy at the then closed St. Luke Church where Fr. Dennis grew up. Norm passed away on April 30, 2018 and Fr. Dennis was given the honor of preaching the homily at his funeral.

Father Dennis spent twelve years at St. Margaret’s and then moved to Blessed Sacrament Church in Kenmore. When an opening for a pastor became available at Our Lady of Czestochowa in North Tonawanda, Fr. Dennis applied and was accepted. He was the pastor there for thirteen years and then left in 2010 to become the pastor of St. Timothy Parish in Tonawanda where he currently resides. 

When he finds time to relax, Fr. Dennis heads for a condominium he purchased as a home away from home. He likes to travel and recently visited Poland with seminarian Patryk Sobczyk and his family.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist brings great joy to Fr. Dennis. He exclaimed, “To know that you are bringing Jesus to that holy altar and sharing Him with the people who are present there, I think is the greatest miracle of priesthood.”

One of the greatest challenges Fr. Dennis faces as a priest is attracting young people to be a part of the church community. He sadly notes, “They have so many things they are involved in with their own lives that somehow church becomes the bottom part instead of one of the priorities. It’s hard to convince them that God is to be the center of their lives and with God, the church.”

He believes that those who feel a call to priesthood should look into it. “They shouldn’t just let it go and think it’s not there. They should pursue it. In doing so they are really going to be able to discern if it’s for them.” Father Dennis is very glad he listened to the priest who told him to try the seminary high school and his father who told him to stick to it when the going got tough. “Here I am today 41 years later! It’s hard to believe the time has passed so quickly.”

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