Deacon Kopydlowski remains a deacon to the core

40 years since his ordination, Sturgeon Bay deacon still helps with the small things of God

STURGEON BAY — Deacon Ken Kopydlowski doesn’t stand very tall, and his voice during a conversation is quiet and gentle. But, according to those who know him, his homilies were delivered with a robust voice that hardly needed a microphone.

Deacon Ken Kopydlowski, a 50-year jubilarian, enjoys a moment in the garden outside his Sturgeon Bay home. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

“I still remember the first time I saw him, this little man who walked up to the ambo and then started speaking with a booming voice,” said Dolores Bauer, retired secretary from St. Joseph Parish. “He gave the most wonderful homilies — and he didn’t even use notes. He spoke straight from the heart.”

Terry Burr, pastoral assistant,  also referred to him as “the little guy with the powerful voice,” who was known for his excellent homilies.

“He was very good at making the Scriptures come alive for the ordinary person today,” Burr said.

Deacon Kopydlowski didn’t move to Sturgeon Bay and St. Joseph Parish until he retired from his teaching job at the Green Bay Correctional Institution in 2004. He and his wife, Mary Lee, who died in 2014, had built a house in Sturgeon Bay in anticipation of the move. He immediately offered his services as a deacon to St. Joseph.

“He wasn’t a paid employee, but he is a very giving person and would never take anything for what he did. He had the time, the willingness, and the love to serve,” said Marilyn Vandertie, also a retired secretary from the parish. “He is liked very much, and is just a wonderful person.”

Deacon Kopydlowski seemed to be here, there and everywhere at parish events and liturgies, at funeral wakes and baptisms, at nursing homes and anywhere else he could bring Christ’s love to others. Then, about eight years ago, he suffered a series of strokes that have made it difficult for him to communicate clearly and which have forced him to cut back on his volunteer activities.

Deacon Kopydlowski was 38 when he was ordained a permanent deacon back in 1977. He served at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay until his retirement and move to Sturgeon Bay.

“I enjoyed the personal contact with people who needed to talk” both in a parish setting, and in his work with prisoners, he said.

“I always remembered what a priest once told me: ‘Every person is important.’ When I lead the rosary at nursing homes, I like to take the time to visit with each one there, to hold their hand and pay attention to them.’”

The most difficult part of his ministry was having to retire at age 75, a diocesan requirement.

“We should go on as long as we can,” he said.

And he has continued, in his own way, although with his health issues, he has had to be content with doing small things. He also can still offer good advice.

Many people, he said, are angry with God because of things that have happened in their lives.

His advice: “Tell God. Talk to him and he will listen.” But, he added, people should also talk with a priest or someone who can give spiritual advice because “that’s how God reaches you.”

“Don’t hold things in,” he said.

Deacon Kopydlowski still prays the Liturgy of the Hours each day, goes to Mass as often as he can and reads spiritual books. He repositions the Eucharist after the parish holy hour and pops into the church office regularly to chat with the staff. His conversation reveals that, no matter what has happened to him in his life, he is and always will be a deacon to his core.