SOUTH CANAAN, PA – Today, St. Tikhon’s Seminary proudly celebrates the 45th Anniversary of Archpriest John Kowalczyk’s Ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Father John is the longest-serving adjunct faculty member of our theological school, teaching in the Department of Pastoral Praxis since 1987, and serving as Director of Field Education.
Father John is a graduate of St. Tikhon’s Seminary (1975), Marywood University (M.S. in Religious Education in 1981), and the Moscow Theological Academy (Candidate of Science in Theology in 1996).
He received full privileges for group psychotherapy from Fairview Hospital and Medical Staff in 1994, and serves as contract chaplain at S.C.I. Waymart’s Forensic Treatment Center, where he has completed over 7,500 Preliminary Religious Assessments on forensic inmates for the Treatment Team since 1987. Through his efforts, St. Tikhon’s seminarians are able to pursue semester internships in prison ministry at the S.C.I. Center in nearby Waymart as part of their field education.
He was recently appointed executive member of the Board of Directors of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, having previously served as secretary of the organization for ten years. He has traveled extensively throughout the country on behalf of OCPM, advocating for prison inmates in need of Christ and pastoral care. He has addressed the All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, the National Convention of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, and the Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, on behalf of OCPM.
He has been a guest lecturer at Drexel University’s College of Medicine for the past three years, and most recently presented a workshop at the Annual Forensic Rights and Treatment Conference, entitled “Exploring the Spiritual Dynamic of Healing When Working through Bereavement, Especially When Dealing with the Trauma of Death Notification for the Mentally Ill Inmate.” He has also guest lectured at Marquette University, Villanova University, and the University of Scranton.
He has written numerous articles on Prison Ministry and has been interviewed several times by Ancient Faith Radio regarding the work of prison ministry and the OCN. He has also produced numerous teaching videos on prison ministry, available on the official OCPM website.
The son of Walter, of blessed memory, and Zofia Kowalczyk, Fr. John was born in Dresdenko, Poland. He immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1958 and grew up in Yonkers, NY. He was married to the former Katherine Labick on October 12, 1975; she has worked together with him throughout his career, as Matushka in the parish, and bursar in the finance office at the Seminary. They are the proud parents of two children, Sophia (married to Robert Wolf) and Nicholas.
Father Kowalczyk was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on December 14, 1975 by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, of blessed memory, at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Yonkers, New York. Over the next ten years, he served as an assistant priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN; rector of St. Mark’s Church in Wrightstown, PA; and rector of Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church in Philadelphia, PA.
On February 1, 1985, Fr. Kowalczyk was transferred to St. Michael’s Church in Jermyn, where he has faithfully served the large parish family there for the past 35 years. His pastorate in Jermyn has been marked by significant improvements of the church complex: an expansion of the temple, the addition of numerous beautiful icons, and the renovation of the parish hall, as well as monumental spiritual and numerical growth of the community.
Over these many years, he has shepherded diverse flocks of immigrants from overseas, native-born North Americans, and those who have chosen Holy Orthodoxy as the one, true Faith. He has been personally committed to the growth of each one of his sheep, leading them in “The Way” of Christ, and to the growth of the parishes and dioceses he has served, as well as the entire Orthodox Church in America.
During the past four decades of service in the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, he has served as Diocesan Chancellor to three hierarchs (Archbishop Herman, Archbishop Tikhon, and Archbishop Mark). He also worked from 1987 to 2005 as the Editor of the Eastern PA publication, Your Diocese Alive in Christ. During that time, he provided the “Interview with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church” and “Canonization of Fr. Alexis Toth by the Orthodox Church in America” in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and “The Millennium Pilgrimage” in The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Father John has been one of the earliest members and a long-time champion of Orthodox Christians for Life, the pro-life movement of our Church in this country. He has appeared on the national stage for decades and walked with hierarchs, clergy and laypersons alike in the annual “March for Life” in our nation’s capital almost every year. He has authored An Orthodox View of Abortion, published in 1977 by Light and Life Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, and he has also written numerous articles on the Sanctity of Life.
Additionally, he has served as the Guest Speaker at the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, and at the Annual Christianity Conference.
On the world scene, he represented St. Tikhon’s Seminary at the SYNDESMOS International Theological Conference in Poland (1989), Moscow (1992), and Finland (1998). He is the recipient of four prestigious awards: the Order of St. Mary Magdalene, presented by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Vasily of Poland, of blessed memory; the Jeweled Cross and the Order of St. Innocent, awarded by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America; and the Jeweled Cross, presented by His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow, of blessed memory.
An exemplary priest, an outstanding professor, and a loving pastor, Father Kowalczyk is best known for his teaching on “the ministry of presence” – the need for those in ministry to be present, to “be there,” for those in difficulty – to listen with one’s heart as well as one’s ears – and to offer the empathy of Christ, the Good Shepherd Who loves us more than we love ourselves.
In congratulating Archpriest John on his 45th Anniversary, Archbishop Michael, Rector of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, lauded his remarkable service: “Your many and varied labors have not been for your own glory or personal gain, but that the Holy Church might be strengthened. We give thanks to the Lord for all you have done in His Name with excellence over the past 45 years, together with Matushka Kathy, who has been the consummate help-mate and co-laborer in your ministry.
“On this milestone anniversary, it is my joy to join with all those who love you throughout our Church in wishing you good health, much happiness, and continued success in your every effort on behalf of our Lord. May your work in the Vineyard of Christ continue to prosper, and may the Holy Spirit by whose grace you were ordained to the Priesthood continue to guide you for many blessed years to come. Mnogaya Lyeta!”