Living the Faith: John McKenzie and Theodore Szczechura
LOWELL -- It happens every Easter morning: Before sunrise, John McKenzie and Theodore Szczechura leave their homes and drive to Holy Trinity Parish to join in the celebration of the resurrection Mass. The Mass is said entirely in Polish, a language McKenzie does not speak. Nevertheless, McKenzie serves as the extraordinary minister of holy Communion; Szczechura as the lector.
This is but one way the two ethnic communities of Holy Trinity Parish come together to celebrate their faith, according to McKenzie.
“Over the years, all the ethnic backgrounds of Lowell are blending together,” he said. “Here at Holy Trinity, the Polish are maintaining their Polish roots, but also come together with the English-speaking community to live out their faith.”
Together with his wife of 35 years, Joanne, McKenzie joined the parish when his two children were very young. During that time, McKenzie, 70, has been involved in a multitude of ways: he has taught religious education, served on the finance committee and he has been a member of the parish’s Holy Name Society. Today he is a lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion and the parish accountant. He is also “deeply involved” in the Knights of Columbus, an organization he feels helps him live out his faith.
A Lowell native, McKenzie believes his parish is strong in part because of his pastor, Msgr. Stanislaw Kempa.
“He is wonderful. He brings part of the Old World discipline and dedication,” he said.
Szczechura agrees. “Our parish is enriched because of how involved Msgr. Stanley is,” he said.
Szczechura noted that, because Msgr. Kempa is the only priest in the parish, “all Masses fall on him.”
“But he does so much more than just say Mass,” he added, noting that every morning he leads a 6 a.m. rosary in English and a 10 a.m. rosary in Polish.
“He is a very spiritual person who has a great devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord,” Szczechura said.
Szczechura, 78, is a lifetime parishioner of Holy Trinity. “I was actually born on the same street as the parish,” he said with a smile.
He attended the parish school, which until the 1970s was taught entirely in Polish, and has been involved in the parish throughout his life. He is currently a lector, a parish council member and a member of the parish’s Holy Name Society. In addition, he and his wife of 52 years, Anna, participate in the parish’s social hour after the Polish Mass on Sundays.
“We are quite involved in the parish life -- both socially and spiritually,” he said.
“My Catholic faith is probably the most important aspect of my life,” he continued. “I believe that to be a good Catholic you should involve yourself in your parish socially and spiritually as much as possible.”
According to Szczechura, his parish has seen a bit of a surge in the number of parishioners, particularly among the Polish community, in the past two years.
“When our church was imminently closing in 2004, we lost quite a few people,” he explained. “But in 2005, when the closing was rescinded, we began gaining more parishioners and we are finding that they come from quite a distance” in order to attend the Polish Mass.
“Masses here are said so very spiritually that it’s no wonder people are willing to travel to come to it,” Szczechura said.