VOCATION STORY

Fr. Matthew Pajor, SCh

My name is Matthew Pajor. I was born in 1996 in Chicago to Jadwiga and Bogdan Pajor, immigrants from Poland. My dad arrived in the United States in 1987, and my mom followed him in 1992. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs where faith was a central part of my upbringing. I was baptized in May 1997 at Holy Trinity Polish Mission in Chicago, a Roman Catholic mission for Polish immigrants near the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. This mission is, to this day, run by the Society of Christ.

After my family moved to the western suburbs of Chicago, we joined a newly forming parish, Divine Mercy Polish Parish in Lombard, IL, also run by the Society of Christ. It was there that I attended religious education, prepared for first communion in 2005, and confirmed in 2011. My family was very involved in the formation of the parish. When we joined the parish, it had no church building. Mass was held in the auditorium of a local Catholic high school. We had no church, no parish hall, no place to call our own. Yet, it was there, in such spartan conditions that I heard God’s call to the priesthood.


At six years old I became an altar server despite my mother’s opposition because I had not yet received my first communion. The parish priests, however, seeing how much I wanted to serve at the altar, made an exception for me. It was from that moment that my vocation to the priesthood began to take shape. Throughout my childhood, I was drawn to the priesthood.

When I was a junior in high school, I started seriously considering what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew that I was going to college. It wasn’t clear, however, what school I would attend and what I would study.
The idea of priesthood consistently came up when in November 2013, I started to seriously discern entering the seminary. Initially, I thought about joining the Society of Christ, the priests that, in many respects, helped form me in faith. The Society of Christ is a religious order founded in 1932 by the Primate of Poland, Venerable Cardinal August Hlond, to minister to Polish migrants living abroad. The Society serves all around the world including, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Germany, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and other countries.


Despite their central role in forming my faith and helping me discern a vocation to the priesthood. I wasn’t ready or mature enough to take such a great leap Right out of high school. Formation for the Society of Christ is entirely in Poland, even for candidates that are from, and will return to work in, the United States. I started to look for a different path in which could I fulfill my vocation to the priesthood, and I stumbled upon St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola University Chicago, a college seminary run by the Archdiocese of Chicago.


I got in contact with the archdiocesan vocation director, as well as the formators at the seminary, and joined a high school discernment program, Quigley Scholars. Through the Quigley Scholars program, I discerned that St. Joseph’s was the right fit for me at the time. I applied and was accepted.
When I joined, I made clear that I was formed in faith by religious priests, and I still wasn’t sure that I was called to the diocesan priesthood. The priests at the seminary understood this and told me to take time in the college seminary to properly discern before applying to theology at Mundelein Seminary. That is exactly what I did. I thrived at the college seminary but I could feel in my heart that something was missing. I was on the right path, yet God was making it clear that he was calling me to still do something more. He was calling me to consecrated religious life, to make a profession of vows. This feeling accompanied me throughout my time in college seminary, like a nagging feeling something was amiss.


At the beginning of my senior year at college seminary, I told the rector of the college seminary, Fr. Peter Snieg, that I felt called to religious life. He understood, told me to complete my studies at the college seminary to the end, and greatly helped me in preparing to apply to, and join, the Society of Christ. I graduated from St. Joseph’s College Seminary in May 2019. Unfortunately, the seminary closed soon after that. I was in contact with the Society of Christ for nearly a year before I applied in July 2019. It was during this period that I submitted the plan for my parents to repay my remaining student loans. This plan was accepted by the superior general and his council.


I flew to Poland and applied to the Society of Christ’s seminary on July 27, 2019. I remained in Poland, staying with my extended family, as I waited for a response whether I was accepted or not. On August 1, 2019, the rector of the Society of Christ’s seminary sent me a letter stating that I was accepted. On August 20, 2019, I arrived at the novitiate to begin a month-long postulancy. On September 27, 2019, I began novitiate. On September 29, 2020, I made my first profession of vows. I then moved to the seminary in Poznań where I started 1st theology. I have continued to grow in faith and confidence that God is calling me to the priesthood and to religious life. It is my hope that I can conform myself to Christ and serve his Church in line with the charism of the Society of Christ.


My superiors have made it clear that, likely, soon after ordination I will be returning to the United States province of the Society of Christ to serve Polish immigrants who live throughout the United States. God willing, the anticipated date of my final vows is sometime in the latter half of October 2023. Diaconate ordination would follow the day after final vows. In May 2024, I will, God willing, be ordained to the priesthood.

 

*Fr. Matthew was ordained on May 21, 2024 and continues to serve with the Society of Christ Fathers.

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