A Missionary Heart
Those who experience anguish are often closest to God. Our hope is in the Lord, and the gracious hearts that serve Him! “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5 ).
Maximilian Kolbe Pawlowski was born in 1980, in Erie, Pa. He is one of seven children raised in a strong Catholic family. Growing up, his mother was the organist at their home parish. Christian fellowship was important to his family because his father suffered from schizophrenia. Max said he experienced kindness from people through prayer and the support offered to his family. From the age of six, he remembers having anxiety about his father’s health, and the illness played a role in the forming of his faith. Max began to recognize the significance of the dignity of every person. He admits that his relationship with God was limited until his junior year in high school when his father ran away from home. His prayer life had new meaning after his father was found drowned. This event helped Max understand suffering and death, with a focus on “eternal life” for his father.
I first met Max and his wife Laura on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010. He had accepted a position as the Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Associate at my home parish, Sacred Heart in Vincennes, where he ministered until August 2013. I greeted them at their apartment at midnight, after a long cross-country drive from California to Indiana with a 2-month-old baby. Over three years, we worked together on various ministries in the Vincennes Community, particularly with youth, including “Catholic Family Nights;” adult formation; a rosary prayer group; and ministering to students from Vincennes University who attended Mass and other services at our parish. This experience influenced his decision to accept a position as the Director of the Neumann Center at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., in 2013. Max said he would always appreciate the generosity expressed to his family by the people in Vincennes and the Diocese of Evansville.
The life Max chose to live is diverse and faith-filled! He credits his conversion moment to a Teens Encounter Christ Weekend in Erie, Pa. This life-changing event led him to college seminary after high school. He studied for six years before discerning out. At the invitation of his sister, he moved to California to teach in a Catholic School where he met his wife, Laura. Together they have been involved with Catholic Catechesis and ministry since they married on Aug. 15, 2009. Today, Max and Laura have four boys – with a baby girl due this August. Recently, Max was accepted into the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.
His college ministry is thriving, and Max credits the transformed community to “Focus Ministry,” a Catholic collegiate-outreach group that he brought to campus four years ago. Many retreats are offered throughout the year, and students in the dorms conduct Bible studies. During Max’s tenure, 20 students have entered RCIA and joined the Church; nine students have become “Focus Missionaries;” and two students have felt called to seminary. There are 30 different priests from their diocese and Conception Abbey in Missouri who volunteer weekly for Masses and Eucharistic Adoration on campus. In 2022, their Neumann Center will celebrate 100 years on the Northwest Missouri State campus. They started a building campaign, and have plans to celebrate with a new chapel.
It is comforting to know the Catholic Church is prospering on a secular college campus. Thank you, Max, for your willingness to share your faith! Hope does not disappoint because God has been poured into our hearts! Amen!