Tengowski answers the call to fill areas of need

2020 Faith That Works award recipient

DE PERE — Next month, Tom Tengowski will mark his 10-year anniversary at Rockwell Automation, the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. His current position is enterprise account manager, working out of the Appleton satellite office. Tengowski, who works with people around the globe, is engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives at Rockwell, based in Milwaukee.

Tom Tengowski serves in numerous ministry roles at Old St. Joseph Church of St. Norbert College Parish, De Pere. His outreach in the community includes coordinating volunteers on Sunday evenings at St. John’s Homeless Shelter in Green Bay. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

“How can we, as a company, be more open and accepting? People can bring their best self to work. They don’t have to be somebody else at work than who they are at home,” he explained. “We want people to be happy, to perform, to respect other people’s perspectives.”

Those values in the workplace complement Tengowski’s service approach in his personal life. He describes himself as a “utility player” at St. Norbert College Parish.

“Whenever there is a call out, a need for somebody to do something or help in some area, if I can, I do it,” he said. “I do all the minister roles at Mass. Wherever I’m needed, I go; reader, greeter, usher, sacristan or minister of the altar (extraordinary minister of holy Communion).”

Tengowski has also served on the parish council, including a term as chair. He was a co-leader of the parish mission planning effort and helped produce a “Parish Mission Planning Playbook.” He is currently involved with a project to install video cameras in Old St. Joseph Church located on the St. Norbert campus.

“For video and technology, I get pulled into that everywhere, not just here,” he said with a laugh. “Later this year, we will be in a position to stream all of our Masses in real time, audio and video. It will truly be a state-of-the-art system. It’s another way to get the word out and share the Mass experience with those who maybe haven’t gone to Mass in a while, are curious or can’t for some reason.”

An announcement at Mass at Old St. Joseph in 2007 led Tengowski to another volunteer opportunity. Dan Robinson, who was serving in music ministry at the time, asked for people to help at St. John’s Homeless Shelter in Green Bay. Tengowski had just completed his MBA at UW-Oshkosh.

“Sunday used to be church and homework day,” he explained. “I tried to get prepared for the week for work or for classes. Since I didn’t have classes anymore, I had all this time. I decided to spend some time with my family and to start volunteering at the shelter. It was something completely different for me. I had never done any work with the homeless before that.”

Tengowski serves as a lead volunteer. He coordinates the second shift of volunteers on Sunday evenings during the shelter season. He started when the shelter could only serve a maximum of 30 guests per night.

“A lot of volunteers come in once or twice a season,” he said. “I come in every week, so I understand what needs to get done. I’m a liaison between the paid staff and the volunteers to make sure we are meeting all the needs that are presented by the guests.”

When the tasks are completed, drinking a cup of coffee and talking with guests is a valuable outreach, added Tengowski.

“Sometimes that’s one of the best things you can do,” he said. “The population we are serving is very marginalized. People are dealing with dependency issues and mental health issues. A couple of bad things happen and that safety net could be gone for many. Nobody grows up and wants to be homeless. Nobody says, ‘I want to grow up and sleep on a four-inch foam mattress on a gym floor.’”

Tengowski and his wife, Sue, were married at Holy Cross Church in Bay Settlement in 1996. They have three children: Camille, 20; Trevor, 19; and Aidan, 16. His community involvement with his children includes Pulaski High School music booster, Boy Scout leader and middle school robotics coach.

“Rockwell is a big supporter of robotics,” he said. “It’s good to see the kids come together as a team and learn how to be successful.”

Tengowski, the third of four children in his family, grew up in Krakow as a member of St. Casimir Parish. His parents were active in the church. His mother, Mary, was the choir director and played the organ. His father, Ray, was an usher.

The family owned and operated Tango’s Supper Club in Krakow.

St. Norbert College Parish marked a homecoming for Tengowski. He is a 1992 graduate of St. Norbert College, where he was involved in various musical groups. Tengowski worked in marketing after college before moving into sales.

He returned to music two years ago. Tengowski plays the drums and sings in Fork in the Road, a cover band. He is occasionally asked why he doesn’t sing in the church choir.

“Then I can’t do anything else,” he said.

Tengowski appreciates the communal spirit of the people at Old St. Joseph Church.

“You come in and 10 people greet you,” he said. “We try to balance the need for community with the need for reverence. We want people to feel excited to be here. How do we as a parish embrace them and energize them for the week ahead.”

Sue, who is also employed at Rockwell Automation, shares in many of his ministries.

“I’m very fortunate that she’s understanding and supportive,” he said. “I like to stay active. I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines when there is a need. It goes back to servant leadership. How can I help you because helping you makes me a better person and makes the world a better place. It’s simplistic, but there’s a lot of truth to it.”

Tengowski has been recognized by Rockwell for his volunteerism.

“We have some responsibility as a society to take care of one another,” he said. “Treat people like you like to be treated.”