By Bill Brewer
Father Marcin Gladysz took the scenic route on his way to the Diocese of Knoxville, and that route was not without its detours and brushes with danger.
East Tennessee’s newest priest was incardinated into the Diocese of Knoxville on May 19 during the Chrism Mass, a fitting addition to the annual celebration where Bishop Richard F. Stika consecrates the sacred chrism and blesses the oils of the catechumens and the sick as well as leads diocesan priests in the renewal of their commitment to priestly service.
During the Mass, Bishop Stika, Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, and Father Gladysz signed documents at the altar making his transfer from the Archdiocese of Czestochowa official.
Father Gladysz, who prefers to be called Father Martin, is a native of Poland who was born in Krakow. He earned his master’s degree at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, and he was ordained a priest in 2002 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family in Czestochowa, Poland.
He has ministered for eight years in Papua New Guinea and also has served in Chicago.
When he introduced Father Gladysz in the incardination ceremony during the Chrism Mass, Bishop Stika said Father Gladysz is a true missionary who has brought Jesus to remote parts of the world.
“We have a true missionary in our presence: Father Martin, who has been working in our diocese for over a year. If you don’t know much about Father Martin, his home diocese is Czestochowa. And Czestochowa has a long history of missionary zeal and spirit. I hear from one of his classmates that he was kind of a rowdy seminarian. But he was willing to live out that missionary spirit,” Bishop Stika said. “So where did he go? To Haiti, the Caribbean, Papua New Guinea.”
Bishop Stika spoke of the challenges Father Gladysz faced while teaching about Jesus in New Guinea.
Father Gladysz explained that he served in a war-torn area of New Guinea, where tribes were fighting each other.
He said as the battles spilled over into the Catholic communities where he ministered, he was forced several times to rescue the holy Eucharist from its tabernacles that were being threatened and move the Body of Jesus to safer environs.
When asked what being incardinated into the Diocese of Knoxville means to him, Father Gladysz said,
“For me, it means that I’ve found my place. When I became a priest I spent three years in Poland and then eight years in Papua New Guinea. After I moved to Chicago, in one moment of my life I asked God, ‘Please, I want to find a place where I will stay. I will not go anymore, and I will be devoted to the people of this Church.”
“So during my prayer I find out that here in Tennessee, Knoxville, it is my place,” Father Gladysz continued.
“I am so thankful to God today and to Bishop Stika that I belong to the Church in Knoxville in East Tennessee.”
A primary reason Bishop Stika asked Father Gladysz to consider relocating to East Tennessee and then requested his transfer from the Archdiocese of Czestochowa was to minister to the growing Polish Catholic community in Knoxville.
Father Gladysz has been ministering to them since January 2019, and he has been celebrating Mass in Polish on a regular basis at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, where he also is an associate pastor.
“There was a request by the Polish community in Knoxville for a Polish priest. We do not understand the ways of God so many times. This is so amazing. His request came to me almost at the same moment I made the request. Then I said ‘I am going. I am ready.’”
Father Gladysz’s ministry may begin with the Sacred Heart and Knoxville Polish Catholic communities. But it doesn’t end there. He also serves as a chaplain for the Knoxville Police Department.