(920) 822-3221 marnochafh@gmail.com
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share Button

Fr. James Francis Kendzierski, O.F.M., a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption B.V.M. Province, fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday afternoon, January 31, 2021. The son of Joseph and Angeline (Garstecki) Kendzierski was born July 23, 1941. He attended St. Casimir Parish parochial school, graduating in 1955. Jim enrolled at St. Francis de Sales High School Seminary in Milwaukee, but left the seminary high school after his junior year. He found several part-time jobs, while living at home.  He soon realized this was a period of transition, and saw his future in some type of church related ministry.

It was Fr. Gordian Strykowski, O.F.M., vocation director for the Assumption of the BVM Province, who met with Jim at the old Chicago & Northwestern Train Station in downtown Milwaukee. It was not long after that meeting that Jim mailed the application and was invited to give Franciscan life a try, an invitation Jim readily accepted. On October 23, 1961, he found himself on the doorstep of the Monastery in Pulaski, Wisconsin, and was greeted by the guardian, Fr. Michael Lacienski. While in Pulaski, Jim was invested with the Third Order habit on March 19, 1962 and made profession as a Third Order member on March 20, 1963. For novitiate, Jim moved to Queen of Peace Monastery & Novitiate, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on August 14, 1964, making first profession on August 15, 1965.

In 1966, the provincial leadership decided that the province would begin a more intensive health care program for the senior friars. Brothers interested in taking some nursing courses were asked to submit their names. Many came forward, but only two were chosen: Jim Kendzierski and Austin Mysliwiec. Jim initially shared his infirmary duties with other duties in the laundry and tailor shop.  As the infirmary filled, he was assigned to full-time care of the elder friars.  In the midst of earning his LPN degree, he petitioned and was granted permission to profess Solemn Vows at St. Francis College, Burlington, Wisconsin on August 15, 1968, and in 1978, Jim earned his LPN from St. Norbert College in DePere.

As a diversion to caring for the sick and infirm as well as going to school, Jim became part of the musical sextet, The Cords, as they called themselves. There were five friars who initially got together for fun.  In 1969, the group cut an album which sold, but not enough for a platinum or gold award.  Jim was the vocal portion of the group.

In 1977, Jim approached the provincial about the possibility of ordination.  He was given permission to apply to the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners. In 1979, he was assigned residence at Tau Fraternity in Milwaukee, which housed the province’s pre-novitiate program.  While pursuing theological studies at the Sacred Heart School of Theology, Jim was appointed to the pre-novitiate team together with friars Larry Janowski and Eliot Bacia.

Jim was ordained deacon on April 5, 1981, at his home parish, St. Casimir Church, Milwaukee and on October 23, 1981, he was ordained to the priesthood at St. Sebastian Parish in Sturtevant.

In 1987, Jim believed it was time to move on to other ministries. He obtained a chaplain’s position at the motherhouse of the Notre Dame Sisters in Milwaukee with chaplain responsibilities at Marian Franciscan Nursing Home. But it was a call in 1989 that quickly changed his life.  The Province needed someone to go to St. Sebastian Parish, Sturtevant to be with Fr. Valentine Myslicki.  Jim’s response was,” If you really need me, I will go.  But, I will be just as happy if you find someone else.”  And so began Jim’s ministry at St. Sebastian parish from 1989 to 2007, where he served as the last Franciscan pastor.

In 2007, the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Mishawaka, Indiana, were looking for a chaplain. This became Jim’s next home. He ministered to the Sisters with outstanding dedication and care. However, this dedication and care took its toll on him. In 2016, with his strength spent, it became necessary for Jim to be transferred to Queen of Peace Friary, Burlington. However, his stay was short-lived.  In 2017, physically unable to manage the life at Queen of Peace Friary, he transitioned to the Milwaukee Catholic Home.  With round the clock nursing care, he was able to find some stability.  But the body was already weak with age and simply could not sustain him any longer.

Jim left us with these words,

“I have wanted to follow the Lord,
I have wanted to go nowhere else.
As hard as some of His sayings have been,
as hard as the Rule may have been,
as hard as my life in religion has been at times,
I have wanted to walk with the Lord,
no other path, no other direction.
Pray for me… and
I will pray for all who have touched my life
and all whom I have touched.”

Visitation will take place on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 305 South 1st Street, Waterford, from 10:00 AM until the Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM.  Interment will take place this spring in the Provincial Cemetery in Pulaski.