Fr. Stanley Kostrzomb Memories and Tributes

By Rev. James E. Starasinich, Pastor at St. Joseph, Owatonna, MN and Christ the King, Medford, MN

Dear Fr. Jurek (Jerzy), Fr. George, Deacon Rey, and the staff of St. Michael’s Parish, My heartfelt condolences and prayers to all of you.

I received Fr. Stan’s Christmas card and greetings, which I did not open until after I heard of his passing.

As a concerned pastor for his beloved St. Michael’s, he wrote, “We keep doing our best . . . However, I keep putting it in God’s hands.”

As his neighbor for twelve years, I was so grateful that I could go to him for advice and support. We met regularly, often for breakfast.

He wrote, “I really miss our get togethers and planning for joint ventures with our parishes.” We have been blessed in Lyndhurst! Some of my fondest memories are the Corpus Christi processions and picnics that we shared together. I remember seeing people in tears when we did our first procession. Some said that they had not seen a Corpus Christi procession in years, and the Good Lord brought His Loving Presence back through the parishioners of St. Michael and Sacred Heart Parishes!

In his Christmas greetings he added, “. . . we are planning for events united with the 3 parishes in Lyndhurst.” Fr. Stan always had the spirit of working together and he made it a pleasant experience.

Please be assured of my prayers for all of you at St. Michael’s at this difficult time. You have been in my prayers since I received word of Fr. Stan’s passing and I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

To my good friend, Fr. Stan: We prepared in Advent for Christ’s coming and He came for you!

Rest in Peace, Fr. Stan, and may you join the angels and saints in joyful song to the Good Lord!

Fr. Jim Starasinich

 —

By Fr. Dominik Szczygielski (Archdiocese of Szczecin, Poland):

For the last couple of weeks I have been feeling this inner need to reach out to Fr Stanley, just to let him know that things are going well and simply stay in touch. I guess, this was my final chance to exchange news with him. Unfortunately, I failed in taking it. This time I wanted him to know that his efforts of encouraging me to keep going did not go to waste… In return, I expected just a couple of uplifting sentences and assurance of prayer… You could always expect an answer from Fr Stanley – short messages but meaningful and essential.

Now is the time to seek consolation in God and to reminisce about the moments we shared with Fr Stanley. To appreciate everything we learned from the one who decided to be for us not just a tutor, but rather a true father. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel (1 Cor 4, 15).

I learned many things from Fr Stanley:

First of all, I learned to trust which is the basics of human relations and a fundamental thing for a priestly vocation. Once, when we were about to begin our way back from visiting a shrine, he asked to my surprise: Do you have your driving license? – No, I left it at the rectory – I replied. – That’s ok, you are with me, I want you to drive.

– Are you sure? – Yes, I am sure…. – Ok, if you say so…

And there I was, cruising on US highway in Fr Stanley’s big SUV. But the best part was yet to come. During the trip, Fr Stanley fell asleep. I could not comprehend how can somebody put so much trust into people. I do not remember the name of the shrine, I do not remember the name of the place… What I do remember though is the feeling of joy of being part of the trip that day. And I remember that he taught me the definition of trust.

Second of all. He taught me that the Church is something that is built more of human hearts than of bricks, stones, and concrete. He put much effort into meeting people, making time for them, allowing everybody to spill out their souls before priest. He used to say that priests should be spiritual assistants ready to heal people’s wounds, rather than filling in the role of a CEO. This was one of the great discoveries in my priestly life and Fr Stanley confirmed that this is the right approach.

Third of all, Fr Stanley taught me patience, and wait for things to resolve on God’s terms when it comes to some serious parish projects. Some people want things to happen over one night. Fr Stanley would never hurry into things, he would rather wait and pray, instead of making personal compromises. Things at his parish were going steady and peacefully forward. The man of trust and faith, who remained faithful to his Polish and catholic background. The shepherd who took responsibility for his parish and carried the burden that was attached to it.

There are many other things to reminisce, but summing it all up, one might say, quite a lot to learn from a man.

There is this final chapter in John’s gospel where Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him more than other disciples. I picture this scene as a stroll Jesus took with Peter, a walk of two great friends who have a lot talk about. The opportunity to finally get deep into things, the meaning of it and to provide the explanation. I believe, Fr Stanley’s charism or special gift was being a true friend, a partner, an assistant. He was offering his friendship to so many people. Whoever was interested in it, could find himself a true treasure of a priestly heart ready to listen, shed a light on a dark path and give praise for accomplishments. Fr Stanley was a very people-oriented person. He wanted to be sure everybody is included. He knew what a powerful tool an ordinary conversation was. When he was taking me somewhere, usually it meant going to visit somebody, meet a person, a sick, a friend of his. So I believe, the Lord is listening to Fr Stanley now, as they walk together.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.  Now, this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21, 18-19).

My deepest sympathies go out to St Michael’s parishioners, Fr Stanley’s family, and his friends. May God give you peace and consolation in this time of grief and may the light of faith Fr Stanley kept burning in your hearts remind you of hope of life eternal.

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