GREEN BAY — Reflecting on his faith path, Deacon Kyle Sladek is thankful for all who have walked with him.
The Green Bay native was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop David Ricken on May 21 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. He is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in the summer of 2018.
“I am very grateful to all those who have been praying for me, sacrificing for me and supporting me on this journey,” he said. “I am deeply grateful for the married couples and families that have been part of my journey. They have shown me the joy of married life and the mutual nourishment that our respective vocations provide for each other.
“I have also been blessed with some fantastic priest-mentors and priest-friends,” he added. “Just by being themselves, they have shown me Christ and my vocation. It’s a joy to be around guys who love the Lord and love being a priest.”
Deacon Sladek, the son of Tom and Mary Ann Sladek, was baptized at Nativity of Our Lord Church. A home move brought his family to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on Green Bay’s west side where he received his first holy Communion and was confirmed.
During his homily at the ordination Mass, Bishop David Ricken noted that Deacon Sladek is a product of Catholic education. He is a graduate of Holy Family School and Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay. While at Notre Dame, his faith grew through attending daily morning Mass in the school’s chapel. He joined the youth group at Notre Dame and attended Steubenville retreats in both high school and college.
Following high school, Deacon Sladek attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Once he knew that he was called to enter seminary, he studied philosophy and theology in college. He entered Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago, following his college graduation.
Fr. Patrick Beno, pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay, vested Deacon Sladek at the ordination Mass. They got to know each other on Steubenville retreat trips.
“He struck me as really authentic, and he was one of the priests that sort of ‘radiated’ the idea of a vocation to me,” explained Deacon Sladek. “I looked at him and thought, ‘I think this is for me, too.’ He never mentioned priesthood to me explicitly that I can remember. We would just get coffee and talk about whatever. He has a deep love of books, vinyl and beards.”
Ministry opportunities have supported Deacon Sladek’s formation. He served on the first two Totus Tuus teams in the diocese, which provide weeklong parish youth missions.
“Those were fantastic, blessed summers,” he said. “I loved being with the kids and seeing the diocese.”
He also served a summer as a hospital chaplain in Kansas City, spent a semester as a pastoral intern for Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh under the guidance of Fr. Jim Jugenheimer, served at a nursing and rehabilitation facility and a LifeTeen program near Chicago and ministered at a county psychiatric ward in Omaha, Neb.
This summer, Deacon Sladek is assigned to serve St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Lakewood and St. Ambrose Parish in Wabeno, where Fr. Philip Dinh-Van-Thiep serves as pastor.
“I look forward to preaching, bringing Communion to the sick and homebound and seeking out those who are forgotten or in need,” said Deacon Sladek.
Bishop Ricken also mentioned the newly ordained deacon’s sense of humor, which he believes will serve him well at times in preaching.
“I’m excited for God to use me to preach what he wants his people to hear,” said Deacon Sladek. “In the past, I’ve enjoyed chances to teach, reflect and talk about spiritual things, both after Communion at Mass and outside of Mass, so I think preaching will come naturally.
“I’ve found that, if I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament long enough, the words eventually just come to me,” he continued. “I just do my best to deliver them. Sometimes it’s a pretty unreal experience. God really does provide, and it’s a specific message for a specific audience, beyond anything I could produce on my own. God seems to delight in using my humanity when I preach, my sense of humor and forthrightness, for example.”
While in college, Deacon Sladek joined St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The week following ordination, he assisted and preached at Masses at his home church and St. John the Evangelist in Green Bay. When he returns to Mundelein in the fall, he will serve as a deacon at a parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Deacon Sladek carries God’s blessings in ministry.
“I’m grateful to God for the gift of this vocation,” he said. “His love for us and this journey — ‘blessings without number and mercies without end.’”