Hail to the Chiefs

Every team has its coach. Each job has a supervisor. And every Congress has its president and vice president. In the case of the North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM), that would be Fr. Matthew Mauriello, pastor of St. Roch Church in Greenwich, Conn., and Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, director of Evangelization and Development for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

'I Don't Know What I'm Doing'
Fathers Matt and Kaz displayed their ability to multitask with multitalents through the two days of NACOM, Nov. 14-15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Indeed, this first-ever event in the history of the Church in North America would have been unimaginable without these two guys.

This writer first met Fr. Matt in June 2007, after the Most Rev. Bishop William Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., named him to his post as NACOM chief. I had been to a couple prior meetings as a member of NACOM's executive board. Father Matt came in that day, June 7, introduced himself, and proclaimed, "I don't know what I'm doing."

I knew immediately that I would like the guy. He didn't try to bluff us. He said he was here to learn "from the experts" about Divine Mercy. He had the right mentors, including Fr. Kaz and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, both pre-eminent authorities on Divine Mercy.

M is Yin; K is Yang
Father Matt is from New Jersey. He is no shrinking violet - "bull in a China shop" might be the more accurate way to describe his style. I'm certain it was this quality that led Bishop Lori to choose this funny fellow, part Dom DeLuise and part Aquinas. Father Kaz wears an ever-present smile that crinkles his eyes into a disarming squint. He's a combination of Yoda and St. Francis. Originally appointed NACOM president by the General Secretary of World Apostolic Congress On Mercy, Fr. Kaz wished this position to be held by a member of a diocesan clergy out of deference for the hierarchical structure of the Church so he asked Bishop Lori for someone in that position and promised to assist in No. 2 spot.

Father Matt is loud; Fr. Kaz is soft. Father Matt 's is excitable; Fr. Kaz is placid. Father M is a Day-Glo golf shirt. Fr. K is a pair of khakis. M is yin. K is yang. Apart, they are self-contained within their different styles. Together, they add up to a sum that exceeds their parts.

In numerous meetings, Fr. Kaz assisted Fr. Matt with direction and guidance. Father Kaz provided leadership through numerous meetings, teleconferences, and gatherings. He handled a million and one details so the president wouldn't be bothered.

Steadying Influence
As Fr. Matt noted in his closing remarks after NACOM's concluding Mass, the executive board of the Congress faced many obstacles along the way to Washington, D.C.

Early meetings featured honest, no-holds-barred dialogue, with lively and at times heated exchanges. It was here that Fr. Kaz made perhaps his most invaluable contribution: He proved a steadying influence and exuded a core of goodness that brought relaxation into the room. At meetings, everyone's viewpoint was considered, and it was in this free atmosphere that exchanges took place that gradually fashioned the blueprints that we saw executed in near-flawless fashion during this historic weekend in the nation's capital.

No one or two men can stage a Congress for a continent alone. They must have the cooperation of many others, especially the Marian Helpers staff who offered expert advice and selfless service. Such cooperation, though, must be earned. Suffice it to say that because push never came to shove, despite many problems, these two men earned it.

You might also like...

Recently, I spent a weekend catching up on yard work. I mowed, swept, shoveled, raked, and weeded. Call it spirituality amongst the dandelions.
Pain and suffering are universal experiences, says His Excellency the Most Rev. Zygmunt Zimowski, top Vatican prelate on healthcare issues. Archbishop Zimowski says the answer to dealing productively with these experiences can be found in God.
Mercy would be the logical next step for this Pope, given the intimate and intense role that God's mercy played in his personal life.