Catholic Herald staff
Living for Jesus is counter-cultural. It’s radical. It’s also a gift, said Deacon Adam Laski.
“We have to be counter-cultural to follow Jesus Christ,” he added, “because it’s not going to be status quo, and it’s not going to be the easiest thing.”
A transitional deacon ordained last year, Deacon Laski is being ordained to the diocesan priesthood at 4 p.m., Sunday, June 7, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior. Former Diocese of Superior Bishop Peter Christensen, now bishop of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, will preside at his ordination.
“Today, I’m getting ready to leave the university (St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul) I’ve been at for eight years,” Deacon Laski said in a phone interview Friday, May 22. “It’s kind of an exciting moment for me.”
The deacon’s path to the priesthood began in high school. He wasn’t even sure about being Catholic, he said, but friends who were religious challenged him to get closer to God.
He started thinking about “not just being acquainted with Jesus,” but building a strong, lasting relationship with him. When the deacon started praying and speaking to the Lord like a friend, he felt the pull of priesthood.
“Kind of scary” is how he describes the feeling.
“In the modern context, there’s sort of a negative view,” he added.
Vocations are viewed through the lens of what you have to sacrifice. But Deacon Laski has come to see his calling as both a gift and a part of the larger call to all Christians.
“I’m not a priest for myself,” he explained. “I’m not hoping to be. When I’m assigned, it’s going to be an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of that parish. That just sort of strikes me immediately as I’m getting ready to be ordained a priest.”
A native of Haugen, Deacon Laski’s home parish is Holy Trinity, Haugen, which is now clustered with parishes in Dobie, Rice Lake and Birchwood. His parents are Pam Laski and the late Al Laski; he also has two sisters, Aislinn and Gwen.
High school was a difficult but introspective time for Deacon Laski.
“There were a number of things going on in my life that really challenged me,” he said.
A death in the family – his father was one of six people killed in 2004 by a hunter in Sawyer County – was one of several trials “that sparked me to ask important questions of the Lord.”
All along, the deacon had what he describes as a “sort of a sense that God was real,” he continued. “I needed to see how he was working in my life.”
‘An ancient red oak’
Not all of Deacon Laski’s high school friends were Catholics, and he was inspired by his Protestant friends’ love for Scripture and prayer. The decision to pursue his own faith more deeply, rather than exploring other Christian denominations, was deliberate.
Young Christian movements “bear fruit really quickly,” he explained. “We’re (Catholic Church) like an ancient red oak.”
It’s a mossy but deep-rooted tree, as the deacon came to recognize, and every custom and ritual has an origin, a meaning and a significance.
“It’s not just a conglomeration of traditions associated with the faith,” he said. “Sometimes it seems like Catholic traditions can be far away.”
He gives an example: “I was kind of embarrassed of the Blessed Mother with my Protestant friends.” But, after studying the history of the church, he learned the Virgin Mary was venerated by Christians for hundreds of years, a tradition now lost in other denominations.
‘My faith is alive’
One of the greatest lessons of Deacon Laski’s education is, in his words, “my faith is alive.”
To explain, he paraphrases a quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “The Catholic faith is not about simply lofty idealism. It’s about an encounter with a person – Jesus Christ.”
In class, he learned about the history of Christianity, knowledge that sometimes seemed esoteric.
“So often, it can be a struggle,” he added, “because, oh my goodness, how does this relate?”
“I can come to class and learn a lot of facts about Jesus Christ,” the deacon said, but relating it to everyday life can be a challenge. He feels the church’s mission is to bridge the gap, to bring the relevance and vitality of the faith to the people.
“Is it part of my job? Yes. It’s part of my vocation, and the church is a mission,” he said. “The church is a mission of evangelization.”
Our faith is about personal encounter, added the deacon, “not just a bunch of people in buildings, and not just the people who are on their knees all the time.”
“He challenges everybody,” Deacon Laski said of Pope Francis. He challenges those who try to politicize the church, and he challenges those who are too comfortable to “get off your duff.”
Life is messy, the deacon added, and there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer for everything.
“Pope Francis is the reason I got Twitter,” he said. “I wanted to follow his pithy one-liners and things like that.”
“He recognizes that Catholics aren’t meant to be … empty ideologues who don’t pay attention to the world around them,” he continued. “He recognizes we’re a church … and a community. How do we respond to messy realities of life?”
The deacon uses his brother-in-law, a Lutheran with whom he debates religion, as an example: “I can’t strong-arm him into the faith. That’s not my job.”
“Do I think the Catholic Church is the one true faith? Certainly,” he added.
But evangelization doesn’t happen through intellect or argument.
“It’s about a personal encounter,” he said.
Ask Deacon Laski what he likes to do in his free time, and he’ll respond, “I’m asking myself that question right now.”
Now that he’s done with school, he’s hoping to have more time for backpacking, racquetball, hunting, swimming and other recreational activities.
The deacon also sings Gregorian chant and polyphony, and he’d be willing to learn the Latin Mass if enough parishioners were interested.
“The documents say if there’s a stable group of the faithful, you can offer that,” he added.
His first assignment, which beings July 1, will be as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, as well as St. William, Foxboro; Holy Assumption, Superior; St. Anthony, Superior; and St. Anthony, Lake Nebagamon.
“I’m definitely looking forward to hearing confessions, just because I know how much the sacrament has made such a difference in my life,” he said.
Deacon Laski also enjoys preaching, and he’s especially interested in meeting parishioners. His four years at St. Anne, Somerset, were an “awesome experience,” but he didn’t always feel he had enough time to get to know the people, which he says will enable him to preach more authentically.
In Superior, he’ll be living at the St. Anthony rectory and working with Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the cathedral and parochial administrator of the other parishes, “which is way cool.”
He’s also happy Bishop Christensen will be back to preside over his ordination.
“He’s just been such a model of priestly fatherhood for me,” Deacon Laski said. “He has such a heart for people. I’m just really excited.”
Bishop Christensen was appointed to the Diocese of Superior during the deacon’s first year in the seminary, and he was installed in Boise during Deacon Laski’s final year.
“I was kind of saddened by that, as you can imagine, as a lot of people were,” he said, but he was also excited that Bishop Christensen was given the opportunity.
As he prepares to join the priesthood, Deacon Laski invites the faithful to come to his ordination, and to make their journey to the cathedral a pilgrimage.
“It’s really a pretty awesome place,” he said.