Deacon Ken Kulinowski was born in Buffalo, N.Y., just 22 days after the Nazis invaded Poland. The grandson of Polish-speaking immigrants, Kulinowski attended a Polish national school. At his Catholic high school, he was a good student but a bit shy. He still remembers the priest who challenged him.
“Kulinowski,” the priest said, “you have the smarts to be a leader, but you’ve got to come out of yourself. Do you want to be a leader or do you want to be one of the followers?”
He accepted the challenge and his first assignment was to deliver a speech the next day in class. Ever since then, Kulinowski has not shied away from the microphone. He was ordained to the diaconate one year after Blessed John Paul II was elevated to the papacy.
“I am exceedingly proud of my heritage and I am exceedingly proud of Pope John Paul II,” Kulinowski said. “He became one of the greatest popes in history. He was called to bring down communism, and he did so along with Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa and a fictional character in my book.”
“Anthem to Hope,” a novel that took Kulinowski three years to write, chronicles the story of a young Jewish boy in Krakow who is rescued by a Catholic woman and sheltered during WWII. Thirty-four members of his family perish in concentration camps. The book delivers a message of courage and faith and lauds the efforts of Pius XII to save Jews from the deadly grip of the Nazis.
Kulinowski said that ever since his childhood he’s always been drawn to the story of the Jewish people. For years, he couldn’t understand the fixation. In 2003, while helping an elderly couple trace their family’s roots, he discovered cemetery records that revealed he in fact had a Jewish great-grandmother several generations back. Writing “Anthem to Hope,” he said, helped him to become a better Polish American.
As a deacon, he’s trained more than 4,000 people to be lectors and he still enjoys that role at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Chandler. Kulinowski said the role of a lector is dynamic.
“It’s meant to capture the heart of the person who’s hearing it,” Kulinowski said. “It makes a big difference when the first and the second reader have done a good job. It helps to complement the Gospel and even more importantly, it helps to complement the homily.”
Previously, Kulinowski served 14 years at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert where a Byzantine priest learned of his rich singing voice. The next thing he knew, Kulinowski was chanting at the Byzantine Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings in addition to his work at St. Anne.
He’s already begun work on his second book, “A Walk with the Christ,” to be published by Tau in the near future.
“One day this woman came into the sacristy and said, ‘I’ve been away from the Church for 20 years and something drew me back…you said something that touched my heart. I promise that I will not be away from the Church again.’ It was awesome. When you hear somebody say that, it puts a little fear in you, because you’ve got to continue to put that message across the very best way that you can.”
What do you love about being Catholic?
I believe firmly in the institution of the Church but I believe also that the Church is the bride of Christ. I always look to the cross and to Jesus for what is inspiring my faith because that’s where it’s at. What He did for me in this past season of Lent and Holy week, I buy into that 100 percent. He did this for me personally. That’s what sustains me
Year of Faith:
Kulinowski will donate $5 to the Phoenix Diocese’s Charity and Development Appeal for each book sold through Immaculate Heart Radio or The Catholic Sun. To order a signed, postage-paid copy of “Anthem to Hope,” visit: www.anthemtohope.com Mention “Sun” in memo section of check.
Parish: St. Andrew the Apostle in Chandler
Faith in a nutshell:
I love the Eucharist because the Eucharist is the embodiment of everything. It’s the Body of Christ and we are the body of Christ. When I hear people who say it’s only a symbol, it turns my stomach. We go right back to the Scriptures, there it is, this is My Body, this is My Blood. It didn’t get there by accident.