When Matt Kuczora came to Notre Dame as a student in 2001, he chose to work toward an accounting degree. It was a sensible major. As an accountant, he could support a wife and family.
“I always thought I would marry and have children. But when God started showing me a different path, I looked into it,” he says.
By following God’s gentle promptings, he is now Father Matt Kuczora — a Holy Cross priest.
“God creates each of us with a vocation in mind, and the path to find that vocation brings peace, yet is also a fulfilling adventure,” he says enthusiastically.
Father Matt’s experience makes him especially able to help others discern vocations, which comes in handy as rector of Dunne, a men’s residence hall.
“The students tend to focus on their major and career — which is important. But each of us is called to one of four vocations: marriage, single life, religious life or priesthood,” he says.
Other aspects of his life’s journey also prepared him for his work as a priest.
Rev. Matt Kuczora is the rector of Dunne Hall.
“Both my parents worked in mental health care, and growing up, we kids were made aware that people face difficult struggles that we may not. My parents placed a big emphasis on community service. We regularly volunteered for service projects through our parish, the Salvation Army and other groups.”
An excellent student, upon high school graduation, Matt was offered a full scholarship to attend any school in Indiana. He chose Notre Dame, knowing he would receive an excellent education and good job opportunities after graduation.
When he arrived on campus, he was immediately intrigued by the Holy Cross priests. Up until then, Matt had encountered only diocesan priests, and the lifestyle of leading a parish did not appeal to him. He learned that Holy Cross priests could serve in various capacities — as a medical doctor, an attorney, a professor or director of a homeless shelter, for example.
“I didn’t know you could be a priest and …” he said.
The strong community life and visible joy of Holy Cross priests also appealed to him. Still, he thought, “that’s great for them, but it’s not for me.”
While going about his daily life, he found himself casually considering whether priesthood was for him.
“Service was important to me when I started living on my own at college. I wanted to do at least one service project a semester. I also did summer service projects. In Manhattan, I worked with Jesuits and discovered that I loved their diverse ministries, but their community life was not for me. While working with Dominicans in Texas, I found that I loved their community life, but they didn’t have the diverse ministries I was drawn to. I was starting to see that Holy Cross had a good mix.”
In 2005, Matt graduated with an accounting degree. He wasn’t ready to join the business world, but committing to the seminary didn’t feel quite right either.
“Happily, Holy Cross had an associate program that was a good halfway step. It allowed me to do postgraduate service, use my accounting degree and spend some time at a Holy Cross parish,” he recalls.
“I had seen the large and well-supported life of the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame, but now I could see what it’s like with only a few Holy Cross religious at a parish. Lo and behold, the ‘and …,’ the community life, and the joy were still present.
Matt asked himself, “How can I turn this down?” And he decided to enter for the initial postulant year.
“I thought, ‘OK, God, I’ll give it one year. I’ll hate it and I’ll be out of here.’ But I liked it, so I entered the novitiate year, and I still liked it … and I kept liking it.”
He describes the six years of discernment as a time of beautiful freedom.
“During those six years, I wasn’t absolutely confident that this was my vocation, but each year there was enough confidence to keep going. I wrestled with different aspects of it and I kept going deeper. As ordination approached, the thought occurred to me: If I had been dating a young woman for six years and it was this good, I’d be looking for a ring.”
He was ordained a priest in 2012 and was assigned to a parish in Mexico where he served as director of vocations for three years. He then served as assistant vocation director for Notre Dame for three years, served as rector of Carroll Hall, and taught a theology class and a business ethics class. Now rector of Dunne Hall, and the hall’s accountant, Father Matt spends time helping young men discern God’s call for their lives.
“God has a great plan for each of us and it is precisely that plan which will bring the greatest joy and fulfillment. It can take time and effort, but when we’ve answered His call, it feels like a natural fit, it is rewarding, and the value and love are easily seen.”
The life of adventure continues for Father Matt. His Holy Cross superiors will determine when and where he goes next — he could remain where he is for many years, or he could be sent far away at almost any time.
“That’s part of that vow of obedience — going where there is the most need. I want to put myself at the disposal of the Church and the community, to always be going where the gifts God has given me are needed most.”