One of Niagara Falls biggest supporters hails from southwest Poland.
"I love Niagara Falls and people who live in this area," said the Rev. Jacek Mazur, originally from the Diocese of Wroclaw.
"I've found my new home here. Some say it's a depressing city. Not for me! I don't find it easy, but I find a lot of joy and fulfillment in this place. The needs are great, but 'the laborers are few.' We're praying for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
"There's still a lot to do in the City of Niagara Falls. I say, 'Jesus, I trust in you!' quite often, and this simple prayer carries me through the day."
He will soon pay a short visit to his hometown in Poland.
It's a well-deserved break for Mazur, who needed all the support he could muster, given the challenging task he was given. Last year, he was named pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in the Falls.
The parish is a merger of five small parishes: Our Lady of Lebanon, Holy Trinity, St. George, Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Stanislaus Kostka.
"In this huge project, I'm trying to blend gentleness with firmness, encouraging harmony in relations among people, instead of tearing and destroying.
"There has been a lot of hurt in Niagara Falls in the last few years," he concedes. "Some people are still not practicing their faith any more. . . . But I pray every day for those who've been hurt, and even for those who dislike either me or the diocese or the Church. I still have faith and believe in their potential.
"I'm from the land of Lech Walesa," he continued. "I'm from the land of John Paul II. I know that change is possible. I know that we can improve and achieve lot of things together. We just have to rise up above our differences and things that divide us, and start to believe that there's power in unity."
"Am I always successful? No," he answered. "Some people still don't even want to try our new parish. But that's OK. It's their choice, and they have a right to their own opinions.
"Many people did join our parish, are active, help a lot, and I think are pretty happy," Mazur said. "Building a community is never easy. But within a year-and-half we were able to accomplish a few things" -- not least of all their festive summer parish picnic, and a Religious Education Program.
Mazur entered the seminary in 1994 and came to the U.S. in 2000, "encouraged by John Paul II to 'go West and evangelize, especially in those countries where there is a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life,' " he said.
He finished theology studies and graduated with a master of divinity degree from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich. Mazur was ordained in Buffalo to diaconatein 2003 and assigned to St. Andrew Church in the Town of Tonawanda.
"After a year, I was ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph's Cathedral and assigned to St. Paul's Church in Kenmore," recalls the clergyman, who laughs easily. "After a year and a half I was made an administrator of St. Teresa's Parish in Niagara Falls."
Mazur, who laughs easily, takes inspiration from religious philosopher Thomas Merton, quoting Merton from his "No Man Is an Island."
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
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