Have You Ever Thought of Being a Priest
Meet Father Charles Pawlowski
By Simcha Fisher
In this series, Parable travels the deaneries of New Hampshire to profile a priest from each region. Father Charles Pawlowski serves the Upper Valley. In the next issue, we head north to the White Mountain deanery to meet with a priest there.
If you pass by Sacred Heart Parish in Lebanon, you may see the pastor, Father Charles H. Pawlowski, out mowing the lawn. In his characteristic “what you see is what you get” style, Fr. Charles will tell you that mowing, painting or spreading bark mulch gives him “down time” where he can “mellow out.” “It's just part of who I am,” he says.
Fr. Charles, 42, is also pastor of St. Helena Parish in Enfield and St. Mary Mission Church in Canaan. Ordained in 2012, he has been involved with the Church in New Hampshire his whole life. His father served on several parish committees; his mother was parish secretary and bookkeeper at parishes in Nashua. After a short stint in retail, he took a job doing maintenance at St. Stanislaus Church in Nashua when he was 23.
SINCE YOU GREW UP SO INVOLVED WITH THE CHURCH, WAS YOUR VOCATION ALMOST A GIVEN?
Not really. One day after religious ed, I was waiting in the back of the church for my parents to pick me up. Sister Cornelia [the faith formation teacher] was standing next to me, and Mass had begun. She pointed to the priest and said, “That will be you one day.” I put it at the back of my mind, thinking, “You're crazy; I'm happy the way I am.”
WHAT DID SHE SEE IN YOU?
People maybe picked up on the fact that I had the desire to serve. I enjoyed helping out in any way I could. But the priesthood was nothing I really thought about heavily until I began working at the parish. A lot of people see a priest at Mass for a few hours and think he's done for the week. But there are so many more aspects of priestly ministry that people don't see.
WHAT'S ONE THING PEOPLE DON'T SEE?
The swing of emotions. You will bury someone in the morning, come back from the cemetery, and within an hour, you're baptizing a baby or two. You have to be able to adjust and minister to the people in front of you at any given moment.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR LIFE AS A PRIEST?
The joy I get from being welcomed into families' lives. If I show up at the house or nursing home when an individual is sick or near death, it's: “Come right in.” It's being the presence of Christ to those families.
DOES BEING CHRIST FOR PEOPLE PUT A LOT OF PRESSURE ON YOU?
There's a prayer I always say before I go in to administer a sacrament: “Lord, be with me. Give me the words to speak to the people of God.” It has not failed me yet, that I'm aware of!