Markowski ‘cannot sit on the sidelines’

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 25, 2022

Father of three is active in several parish ministries and serves youth as a coach and scout leader

Matt Markowski has worked at Appleton Marine since 2005. He was a mechanical engineer for nine years before moving into sales. Markowski takes pride in treating clients “fairly and justly” and seeing projects “all the way through” to completion. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

DE PERE — Matt Markowski embraces opportunities to uplift his co-workers at Appleton Marine Inc.

“Even when things are going wrong at work, I’m the guy who is always smiling,” he said. “Let’s focus on the good things of the situation. Let’s focus on what we can do. I’m always pulling people out of the dumps. Control what you can control. You really need to have that positive attitude and be helpful.”

Markowski started as a mechanical engineer at the company in 2005. Nine years into his career, he moved into sales, which he jokingly describes as “the dark side.” Appleton Marine builds custom deck equipment for ships, including for the Navy and Coast Guard. Markowski said that his Catholic faith supports his desire to help the company and its customers in any way.

“With a small company, you have to wear a lot of hats,” he said. “I’m involved in our safety team, involved in our first responder team. I will help in any part of the project. I see the project all the way through, keeping in contact with the customers.”

Building relationships is important, he added.

“It’s huge, treating people fairly and justly, coming out so you both win, both parties win,” he said.

Markowski, the oldest of four children in his family, grew up in Appleton. He credits his parents, Gene and Sue, for their examples of service. Sue taught religious education for St. Pius X Parish. Gene worked at the church picnic and was an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

Following graduation from Xavier High School in Appleton in 2001, Markowski attended Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana where he studied mechanical engineering, played football all four years and one season of baseball. Valparaiso, a Lutheran university, supports Catholic students and local families through an affiliation with the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center, located across the street from campus.

Markowski made a connection with Fr. Kevin McCarthy at St. Teresa and became involved as an altar server and lector.

Seeking a ride home for Thanksgiving break, Markowski found one on a ride share board. Turns out, it was his first meeting with his wife, Jackie, who is from Pulaski. She had one spot open in her vehicle.

“A year later, we were ‘introduced’ by a mutual friend that we didn’t know that we shared,” said Markowski. “That was the fall of our junior year, and I proposed before we started our senior year of college.”

Jackie, an educator in the Pulaski School District, grew up Lutheran, but her father grew up Catholic. She completed the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program at St. Teresa of Avila and entered the church at the Easter Vigil her senior year.

The couple was married at SS. Edward and Isidore Church in Flintville. They settled in West De Pere, a “midpoint” for their work commutes to Appleton and Pulaski. The search for a parish brought them to Old St. Joseph of St. Norbert College Parish in De Pere. They met with Norbertine Fr. Jim Baraniak, pastor at the time.

“It was almost identical to the church that we fell in love with in college,” said Markowski. “We loved the closeness of the people. It was very interesting at that time. Old St. Joe’s was only allowing people who were alumni, students or faculty to become members. We really wanted to become members.”

The policy soon changed, so they joined the parish. Markowski has served the parish in several roles, including as a member of the parish council and as parish trustee secretary. Five years ago, he and Jackie joined a faith formation volunteer team to develop a religious education program.

“We had our first child (Jake) in 2009. I was ready to get involved in religious education. At the time, we were partnered with St. Matt’s (Matthew) in Allouez,” said Markowski. “A couple of families that were pretty involved, with young kids, said, ‘Let’s bring this back here. Let’s make this happen.’ Our program has become better every year.

“The best part of it is having the college kids teach the young ones,” he said. “It’s so fantastic, especially when you get into the high school area because they are not that far apart age wise. It’s very cool to see those relationships grow.”

Generations of Faith, the faith formation program, at Old St. Joseph Parish includes adult programming.

“We want everyone to be involved,” said Markowski. “We have speakers come in — professors, people involved with the diocese. We share a meal as a community before going off to class. We used to do it every week, but now only do meals once a month. All are invited to learn and grow.”

In 2019, Markowski accepted the role as the one by One capital campaign leader at the parish. His task was to build a team of parish members to meet with other parishioners in a one-by-one setting.

In addition to Jake, now 13, the Markowski family includes Mitchell, age 8, and Molly, who will turn 4 in May. Jake is following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as a minister of the altar.

“Jake is heavily involved as an altar server, being a cross bearer. He loves doing it and I love it because it gets him involved in the Mass,” said Markowski. “To see that pride and the generations of altar servers come through, I hope that sticks with him.”

A year ago, father and daughter shared a special prayer moment at home.

“I can still recite (prayers) from when I was a kid. We teach them and, as the kids get old enough, then you add the next prayer,” said Markowski. “My three-year-old said, ‘Dad, we should do the Our Father.’ I thought to myself, ‘She doesn’t know the Our Father.’ She was reciting it. She was listening to us do it with her brothers and in church.”

Markowski is also active in coaching youth sports and in Boy Scouts. He served as the “popcorn colonel” for the troop popcorn sale and the camping chairperson. He and Jackie are co-leaders of Mitchell’s Cub Scout den.

“I cannot sit on the sidelines, I just can’t,” said Markowski. “I coached football and baseball for many years and started coaching soccer. Jackie politely requested that I do not coach basketball in the winter so she can have a break.”

Markowski plans to expand his service to the parish by facilitating a program he cherishes from his college days. He participated in the adopt-a-student program at St. Teresa of Avila which paired a parish family to a college student.

“A family adopted me. They had a little boy. I would come over to babysit. I would get a home-cooked meal once a month,” he said. “They later ‘adopted’ Jackie. They were our family away from home. We still go visit them every time we go down there. The mom sang at our wedding. The dad did a reading.

“I want to get the word out this spring and start that program here to create that year rounder and college kid connection,” he said.

Giving back will continue to be a way to give thanks, said Markowski.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” he said. “Our families are both very strong. A lot of that has to do with our Christian upbringing, so that tradition of giving back is important, really making sure our kids know where the glory has to go.”

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