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Journey to diaconate filled with happy blessings

Posted By June 16, 2017 | 10:56 am | Lead Story #2
Deacon Stephen Kohut proclaims the Gospel at  his first Mass. Photos courtesy of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish.
Deacon Stephen Kohut proclaims the Gospel at his first Mass. Photos courtesy of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish.

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

He tried twice to pursue priesthood, and was later told by a priest that he would marry. Then a nun promised prayers for “the baby.”
At a gathering of people who promote vocations, he was introduced as a would-be deacon.
Finally pursuing that call, he was welcomed at the seminary he didn’t get into earlier. At another seminary he bonded with future priests.
“My journey has been long and it’s had a lot of turns,” said Stephen T. Kohut who was ordained a permanent deacon June 3 at St. Paul Cathedral. He told his story as follows.
After graduating from high school, he applied to St. John’s Seminary in Brighton to study for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston, where he grew up. But, he said, the rector at the time refused him, as he was known for doing with many applicants.
So he discerned a vocation with the Order of St. Augustine at Merrimack College, where he got a bachelor’s in theology. After graduation he went to their house of studies in Washington, D.C.
“I’m glad,” Deacon Kohut said. “Even though I never went into vows, I did make some great friends.”
One was a fellow student (now Augustinian Father Keith J. Hollis) “who would later marry me, baptize my child and vest me.” He said Father Hollis told him recently, “I didn’t know how or when, but I knew you belonged in the clerical state.”
Looking back Deacon Kohut said, “It was all about me – ‘I want to be a priest’ – without being open to full discernment, which is sometimes just taking a step back and listening.”
A priest’s prediction prompted discernment that changed his course. He’d taken Sylwia Korczak, the woman he was “very casually dating,” with him to show Father Jozef Dudzik the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge. A native of Poland, she could help communicate with the Polish priest who was then serving at St. Joseph Basilica in Webster.
“You two will be married,” Father Dudzik told them on the way home.
“I thought it was a set up,” Deacon Kohut said. They weren’t that serious. But, he said, “We began to bring that to prayer” and felt marriage was God’s call.
At their wedding on July 7, 2007, Father Dudzik gave them a copy of the Divine Mercy image which he got at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow, where St. Faustina Kowalska received revelations from Jesus about his mercy in the 1930s.
“The graces of Divine Mercy have been working in your lives,” Father Dudzik told the newlyweds.
That wasn’t the end. As doctors were telling them Mrs. Kohut probably wouldn’t be able to carry a child to term, the couple went to Poland for her sister’s wedding. While there, they visited the Divine Mercy Shrine and saw many happy, young sisters in St. Faustina’s congregation, the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.

Bishop McManus greets Deacon Kohut’s wife Sylwia Kohut and daughter Faustina, after the deacon’s first Mass.

Bishop McManus greets Deacon Kohut’s wife Sylwia Kohut and daughter Faustina, after the deacon’s first Mass.

After talking with Mrs. Kohut, a sister told them, “I’m praying for the baby.” They thought she meant  she would pray for them to have a baby. After they returned home, they learned Mrs. Kohut was pregnant, but there could be many problems with the baby.
“She arrived six weeks early and absolutely healthy,” Deacon Kohut said. “And that’s why we have Faustina Helen. Helen is my grandmother and it’s St. Faustina’s birth name – Helena.” Their daughter is now 8.
Deacon Kohut wanted to introduce her to the sister who had offered her prayers. They sought her out when they returned to Poland two years ago for their nephew’s baptism – and learned Sister Caterina Esselen was stationed at the sisters’ Dorchester house!
Some time later, Deacon Kohut was balking at having to go to Boston for work. Relenting, he arrived early, and stopped in a drugstore in Dorchester. In came Sister Caterina and he got to talk with her.
He realized he and she and a priest at the shrine in Stockbridge can all spread the Divine Mercy message together, in different locations. Part of that message is to trust in Jesus, which can be hard to do, he said.
“But when we do, he’ll take over,” he said, adding that Jesus led him to the diaconate.
In 2002 his friend Roland Malboeuf had invited him to a gathering of the Serra Club of Southern Worcester County, which promotes vocations, he said.
“Stephen wants to be a deacon,” Mr. Malboeuf joked to Deacon Anthony R. Surozenski, director of the diocesan Office of the Diaconate. Deacon Kohut said he hadn’t thought about that.
Over the years, “I would see Tony and he’d say, ‘Have you given any consideration to being a deacon?’” he recalled.
No, he hadn’t.
“One day I walked in his office and I said, ‘I think I want to be a deacon,’” Deacon Kohut said. “And he goes, ‘What took you so long?’”
Deacon Kohut said he’d joined the Serra Club, eager to promote vocations, perhaps in part because of his own experience of not being accepted into St. John’s Seminary years ago.
But for his master’s in theology, for which he studied with the Augustinians and at Anna Maria College, he took some classes at St. John’s. Now that Msgr. James P. Moroney, a Worcester Diocesan priest, had become rector there, he was “treated like royalty.”
Another Worcester diocesan priest, Msgr. James A. Mongelluzzo, welcomed him to Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston for some of his classes for the diaconate. There he bonded with men preparing for priesthood.
Deacon Kohut said any thoughts he had of letting family and friends down, by not becoming a priest, were dissipated at his ordination, as they supported him in becoming a permanent deacon.
“The desire to serve God has never left,” he said. Over time, he realized, “I can serve God in the clerical state. I am married. It became clear that the permanent diaconate was the right fit for this calling.”