GREEN BAY — While serving as a chaperone on his first SHINE youth service trip, Dennis Kozlovsky found himself in what many would consider an unenviable position. The teens had worked at a project site in Detroit all day, but still had plenty of energy when they returned to their home base for the week. They wanted to go outside to play kickball and soccer, and practice their skits.
“The rule was you weren’t allowed to go outside the building unless there was a chaperone with you,” explained Kozlovsky, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay. “One group gathered all their chaperones and group members for a meeting, so I was the only chaperone available. I was outside with 30 kids, but it was fun.
“The conditions weren’t luxurious; they are not meant to be,” he added about the trip. “You are sleeping on air mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor and we didn’t have air-conditioned rooms, but you see the young people grow in their faith.”
Kozlovsky, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in business administration, has spent his professional career in banking. He is currently vice president of underwriting at Bank First National in Manitowoc.
“I’ve been mostly in consumer lending; retail lending is the more appropriate term — houses, boats and cars,” he said. “The original name was First National Bank in Manitowoc. They had an opening in their Green Bay market, so I started in 2000. It will be 19 years in August. In 2014, they asked me to head up their underwriting department.”
Kozlovsky served as a chaperone on two more SHINE trips — one in Rochester, NY, and another in Detroit. Two years ago, he traveled to St. Louis with a group for a Steubenville Youth Conference. Last summer, he volunteered as a chaperone on a Steubenville Conference trip to St. Paul, Minn. Kozlovsky also ministers to young people as a religious education instructor for the confirmation program at St. Bernard.
“I enjoy working with the youth and seeing them be enriched,” he said. “There were some on the trips that were confirmed this past fall. To see them mature and some of the things they are doing now to get involved in the parish has been really rewarding.”
Kozlovsky also serves as sacristan at St. Bernard and leads Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion on days when there is not Mass. His ministry involvement helped him discern a call to the diaconate. Kozlovsky is scheduled to be ordained a deacon in May.
“Fr. Mark (Vander Steeg, pastor at St. Bernard Parish) was influential in discernment for the diaconate,” said Kozlovsky. “Fr. Mark and I just connected right away. St. Bernard has given me a multitude of ministry opportunities. I have done several wake or vigil services and two committals.”
Kozlovsky grew up in Denmark as a member of All Saints Parish and attended the parish school through eighth grade. He served as an altar server during his youth and credits his late parents, Victor and Mary Kozlovsky, for their faith examples.
“We had (religious sisters) as teachers,” he explained. “We were just starting to get lay people (as teachers) when I was in school. They would always have a food drive. I grew up on a farm, so my dad would always donate beef. The sisters were always so grateful. I don’t remember as a 9-year-old how much beef we were donating, but there were steaks and hamburgers. My dad was really involved with the Holy Name Society, and when the Bishop’s Appeal was new, he would go to people’s homes and ask for their participation. He got in on the ground level. My mom was always involved with the Altar Rosary Society.”
Kozlovsky and his wife, Ann, who works at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay, are parents to a grown daughter, Nicole. They live in the Green Bay area, so he makes the commute to work.
“I like the commute,” he said. “It gives you time to pray.”
Kozlovsky said that he embraces the challenges of working in the banking industry where profit and loss is the bottom line.
“They talk about how as a deacon you have one foot in the secular world and one foot in the church. How do you get them to relate?” he said. “I’m never high pressure. It’s about being who you are. The people at work know I’m in formation for the diaconate. I like to have fun. I like to tease people. It’s never mean or nasty. I always try to get people to laugh. There is nothing better than when you can make somebody laugh out loud.”
Kozlovsky used his financial skills to serve the parish on the finance council. He also served two terms as trustee-treasurer for the parish council.
In addition to working with young people, Kozlovsky also enjoys ministering to seniors. He provides Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion at Bornemann Senior Communities in Green Bay. He also started a program at Oak Park Place, an assisted living facility in Green Bay, in conjunction with Prince of Peace Parish in Green Bay.
“My dad was a resident there. He was there maybe three months after they opened and they didn’t have a religious service or a Catholic service, so I started it and saw that program grow,” he said. “We started with maybe five people going to Liturgy of the Word. When I did my last one there, we had 20 people.”
When his father died last June, Kozlovsky wanted Communion to continue for the people at Oak Park. The facility is in the geographic area of Prince of Peace, so the parish took it over. Kozlovsky is still willing to assist when necessary.
“I’ve helped them out by bringing Communion,” he said. “I had really established a friendship, a relationship with these people. I enjoy visiting those individuals, checking on them and praying with them.”
To recognize those in business who promote the common good, The Compass invites leaders and parish leadership to nominate candidates for the fifth annual “Faith That Works” Awards. Click here to learn more.