As pastor of Resurrection of the Lord Church in Waipio, Father William Kunisch has many roles and responsibilities. One of his tasks is to aid men and women who are interested in pursuing vocations to the priesthood or religious life. Father Kunisch offered his pastoral insights to the diocesan Office of Vocations about creating a “culture of vocations.”
Office of Vocations: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Father Kunisch: I was born and raised in rural Michigan. My family was Lutheran, and we were very active in our church. My mom jokes that she knew I was going to be a minister when I was 3 years old. I would wake my parents up to go to church! I didn’t want to miss it!
OV: What are some of the greatest joys that you experience in your life as a priest?
FK: For me, the greatest joy is helping people to renew their faith in Christ and return to the church. I experience this mostly in preaching and celebrating Mass, teaching RCIA or in adult confirmation classes, assisting couples in the validation of their civil marriages, and speaking to the children at our faith formation assemblies on Sundays. It’s really exciting to see people start making connections between their faith and daily life, and then watching them live their faith in their homes, school, at work, in the community and in ministry in the parish.
OV: You have in some way mentored several people who have entered into the priesthood or religious life. Who are they and where are they now?
FK: Father Nick Brown and Deacon Pila Tulua were both parishioners at St. Theresa Co-Cathedral where I was the rector when they entered the seminary. Father Alfred Guerrero helped me as assistant to the rector at St. Theresa before he entered the seminary. Brother Allen Pacquing was my pastoral associate at St. Theresa before he joined the Marianists. Emmanuel del Castillo, who is a novice with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, was an altar server when I served at Maria Lanakila Church and Sacred Hearts Mission on Maui. Here at Resurrection of the Lord, we have four young men discerning the priesthood and two young women considering religious life.
OV: How do you teach young men about the vocation to the priesthood?
FK: I try to give young men as many opportunities as possible to experience different aspects of ministry in the parish: serving at Mass, teaching children’s faith formation classes, leading prayer, visiting the sick, participating in outreach to the poor, working in the office, serving on committees and attending vicariate/diocesan events. I was very fortunate to have a pastor who did this for me when I was young. As I did different things around the church, it felt like a good fit for my gifts, and I felt a deep sense of joy, peace and contentment. I encourage our parishioners here at ROL to not only pray for those discerning, but to go out of their way to affirm our young people for stepping forward and serving in the church.
OV: What advice might you give to someone who is discerning the priesthood or religious life?
FK: I think it’s important that young people not discern in isolation. What we imagine ministry and the church to be like can be very different from what it actually is. It’s important to learn the rhythm of parish life, the joys and the challenges of pastoral ministry and/or community life, so that you can really make a good decision that fits your life and gifts. That’s why I encourage those discerning to jump in and experience ministry.
OV: Anything else that you would like to add?
FK: Parents can play an important role in discernment. Sometimes parents only think about the sacrifices, and they may hesitate in giving their full support. Many times they are just not aware of all the blessings. Whenever my mother or father have visited me in the parish, they are often overwhelmed by people’s love for them. I can honestly say the only thing better than being a priest or religious is being the parent of a priest or religious! In a very special way, they become part of the church’s family too, and receive blessings they can’t even imagine!