Strength to Witness to Christ
I am one of eight children, neatly divided into four boys
and four girls, and I came fourth in line. My
mom and dad started our family in Detroit, Michigan, where
my dad was a police officer. After he got injured
on the job, we moved three hours north, to Lake
City. The move provided an idyllic setting for my childhood.
I grew up playing on the rolling hills, swimming in
the lakes and rivers, and running through the lush, green
forests of the northern, lower peninsula. Early on, I came
to love a variety of sports like football, baseball, basketball
and volleyball. I also played roller hockey and frequently rollerbladed.
When things cooled down, I slapped on skis, either cross-country
or downhill, and strapped on skates to play ice hockey.
There was also appreciation for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, archery
and target shooting. Life was a constant flow of activity,
and I thrived on it. At the same time, God
was at the center of all the hustle and bustle.
|Fr. Michael Daniel Maciborski|
My parents made sure we attended Mass regularly.
Mom would go to daily Mass, and almost always took
me or one of my brothers to serve as the
altar boy. That helped us to become well acquainted with
the parish priest, Father Joe Reitz. He gave an excellent
example of dedication to the Lord and to the flock,
and was a model of hard work and prayer. When
my family went through some hard times, Fr Joe was
there. I have no doubt that God made himself present
to our family through him.
The family also prayed
together before meals and then a rosary in the evening.
Mom also took the time to share with us some
tidbits about the faith. They were brief but memorable moments.
Once, when I was puzzling over an image on a
holy card, she came to my aid. I could not
make sense of the image. It was a very realistic
portrait of a scourged man. She took the time to
tell me that this was Christ who suffered and died
for our sins. I was still too young to go
to school, but I will never forget the emotional impact
of that image and the message it transmitted. Redemption and
my Catholic faith took on a personal meaning for me
The vocation was easily nourished in
this setting. I was about four years old when I
first said that I wanted to be a priest. Of
course, it was just a thought that may pass through
a boy’s mind. However, the memory stuck and later strengthened
my eventual decision to become a priest. God Cultivates
Another moment came when I was about
the age of twelve. A Maryknoll priest visited the parish
and I served the Mass. Afterwards, we had a brief
exchange in the sacristy. I was wearing an Air Force
sweatshirt. He noticed and spoke of his experience in the
Air Force. It was the first time I understood that
priests can do other things than just celebrate the sacraments.
A few months passed, and I received a
package from the priest. He sent information about the Maryknolls.
I admired the priest, but as I read the information,
there was a distinct feeling that I was not called
to that group. And with no other groups to think
about, the idea of the vocation slowly faded away.
As I went through middle school and entered high school,
I began to identify a longing for spiritual growth. Yet,
I acutely experienced the how my values conflicted against those
I saw on television, at the cinema, or among my
peers. I needed help to reinforce those values in the
daily grind. That help came as I started high school.
The First Test
month later. A new chapter opened in my life.
One fall evening, the phone rang
and as I picked it up and was surprised to
hear the voice of someone speaking with what seemed to
be a British accent. It was a Legionary of Christ.
His name was Peter and he was from New Zealand.
Someone had informed the Legion that one of the boys
in the family was interested in the priesthood. A few
weeks later, he and an Irish priest, Fr Owen, were
at our home dining with the family. They had phoned
our parish priest, Fr Joe, who also joined us for
dinner. I was impressed with a video of Legionaries being
ordained by Pope John Paul II. I liked Brother Peter
and I thought Fr Owen must be okay because he
got on well with my dad and Fr Joe. They
invited my brothers and I to visit the seminary in
Cheshire, Connecticut during Christmas vacation, and so we went a
The Legion’s facility in Cheshire was impressive. It was a
beautiful, spacious property, with a clean look. The red brick
building was large and well-kept. But most impressive of all
were dozens of young men in black cassocks. I couldn’t
believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like it
in my life, not even in the movies. They were
happy, friendly guys. Where did they come from, and how
is it that I never heard of these guys before?
Later, we played basketball with some of them,
as well as with some Legionary priests. At first I
thought, ‘This won’t even be a real game’. I was
soon disabused of that notion. They played a skillful, intense
and competitive game. My first concept of the priesthood as
a humdrum job for older men, fell to pieces. I
recognized a formula that fit my personality: men who struck
a fine balance between sports and spiritual life. I liked
it, and I wanted it. But I wasn’t ready to
pack my bags for the seminary just yet. I was
only fourteen and far from making a major life decision.
Still, while I was there, I distinctly remember thinking, “If
I am going to be a priest, it would be
The experience at the seminary in Cheshire was
of paramount importance for my spiritual life. I felt renewed
in my faith. The Christian life now looked dynamic and
attractive. I would emulate the Legionaries’ example. This experience came
none too late. I realized that I had been thrown
a life-preserver for my faith and I clung to it
Despite my high esteem
for the Legion, I was shocked when my brother David,
who is just a year older than I am, told
me that he was going to seminary. I was proud
of him, but felt like I was losing my best
friend. We had been inseparable until that moment. Now he
was moving on. But the pain made me stronger and
helped me understand what it means to put God ahead
of other good things, even ahead of your closest relations.
David entered the minor seminary in 1993. Visiting
him and speaking with other Legionaries, I learned about a
group of lay Catholics who associated themselves with the Legion’s
work of evangelization. This group was called the Regnum Christi
Movement. For me, their ideal of living an authentic Christian
life and actively spreading the Gospel spelled a recipe for
right living. I was ripe for a challenge in living
my faith and this was it.
time, my faith matured. Previously, I lived it defensively and
with reserve. Now, I saw that faith must be lived
in the full light of day. I became convinced that
where Christians keep silence and take no action, evil thrives.
This conviction polarized my thinking and played a decisive role
in my vocational discernment. From now on, I fearlessly proclaimed
my faith. I became a member of Regnum Christi in
February, 1996. That same school year, I was voted co-MVP
of the football team, homecoming king, and prom king. Things
could not have been better for me.
David’s urging, I attended a vocational retreat a few months
earlier. During those days of prayer, I recognized that Jesus
was calling me to follow him. I decided to try
out the Legion’s discernment program sometime later.
The DelayThe Front Lines
The next two years I attended the Franciscan University of
Steubenville in Ohio, some forty minutes from Pittsburg, PA. Vibrant
faith, a joyful atmosphere, and a general sense of welcome
made the campus a sweet spot to live. The presence
and company of the Franciscans formed an integral and positive
part of my college life. Fr Larry Uhlman, T.O.R. generously
mentored me for a year. Professor James Gaston engaged my
mind like no one had before. He helped students appreciate
our Western cultural inheritance and challenged us make it bear
fruit once again in contemporary society. That complemented my spiritual
awakening in Regnum Christi. I began to think, “If the
initial spread of Christianity truly improved our world, then it
could only reach its real potential through the new evangelization.”
I wanted to take a part in making that happen.
Then something began to stir again in my soul.
I began to think about who the true catalysts of
evangelization are: God, certainly. But after him, who? Businessmen, teachers,
police officers…who? “Religious and priests,” I thought. I had a
shot at doing what they do, but would I? Should
I? Could I? I was not sure about being a
legionary. But I didn’t want to be any other kind
of priest. I didn’t know what to do.
Those same years at college I began dating a wonderful
girl from California. All seemed right, but then the Lord
began to speak to me through others. Out of the
blue, a certain religious sister from Africa asked me if
I thought about being a priest. Later, a close friend
repeated the same idea. And one fine day, for no
particular reason, a cafeteria employee startled me by asking me
point blank about being a priest. Little things happened that
reinforced the same idea, like a piece of paper blowing
across campus that landed face up in front of me.
In big bold letters I read an invitation to attend
an evening of vocational discernment. I acutely experienced the tension
between wanting to start a career and marry the girl
I was dating on the one hand…on the other, the
unsettling notion that God wanted something else for me.The Grace to Answer
Things came to a head the summer after I finished
my sophomore year. I was set to attend Oxford in
an exchange program that fall. I weighed the options regarding
total dedication to the Lord or a career in the
professional world. Given the clear objections in my mind against
the former, I settled on pursuing a career in the
world of academia. However, given the prior signs, I wanted
to make sure the decision was the right one. So
I prayed intensely for a month for the light to
know God’s will and the strength to follow it. On
July 5, 1998 the light and strength both came together
in a single instance and struck me like lightening. In
retrospect it is even strange how it all happened. When
I came face to face with the founder of the
Legion of Christ, the first thing he exclaimed was, “A
vocation, a vocation!” Something inside me said, “Ok, this is
it. This is my calling.” Then he asked me: “If
Christ calls you, will you follow him?” For some reason,
I didn’t feel that I should tell him what I
had just decided in my heart, so I simply left
the question open saying: “Yes, if He calls me.” But
the die was already cast. I was going to join
I waited a few
days before I told my parents or anyone else. I
wanted to make sure the decision was secure before I
brought it out into the open. I called up my
spiritual director, Fr Michael, a Legionary priest. He had never
mentioned anything about the priesthood to me in our two
years of friendship. He was surprised but gave me his
blessing. Then, I told my family and broke the news
to my girlfriend. It was difficult, but a profound sense
of peace reigned in my heart. The experience of leaving
home and finally going to the seminary was bittersweet, yet
I felt that I was going where God wanted me
to be. The same peace has accompanied me these thirteen
years of preparation for the priesthood. It has not abandoned
me, not even as the waves of bad news rocked
my congregation in recent years. For that peace, I give
thanks and praise to God.
FR MICHAEL DANIEL MACIBORSKI was
born in Detroit, Michigan, February 20, 1978. He graduated from
Lake City High School and studied at the Franciscan University
of Steubenville, Ohio. He entered the seminary of the Legion
of Christ in 1998, in Cheshire, Connecticut, where he did
his novitiate and studied classical humanities. He did youth work
for three years from the Legion’s house of apostolate in
Potomac, Maryland. Later, he received his license in philosophy in
2008 and his bachelor’s degree in theology in 2011 from
the Legion’s Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College, in Rome, Italy. He
currently lives in Cracow, Poland, where he assists in the
Legion’s work with youth.