Crosier priest returns to Onamia after 34 years serving abroad

Categories: Around the Diocese


Crosier Father Glen Lewandowski leaves a meeting during the 2008 world Synod of Bishops on the Bible in Rome. Photo by L’Osservatore Romano

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

After being gone for half of his 68 years of life, Crosier Father Glen Lewandowski is back home in the St. Cloud Diocese — but not for long.

In July, he returned to the Crosier Priory in Onamia from Rome after serving two consecutive six-year terms as the first American Master General of the Crosier Order. Before that, he spent 22 years in Indonesia teaching at the Fajar Timur School of Theology in Jayapura, Papua, New Guinea.

Now he plans to spend a year on sabbatical writing a book on theological formation.

Moving forward

On June 23, Father Lewandowski passed the leadership torch to his successor, Crosier Father Laurentius Tarpin, the first Indonesian elected to head the international order. The election took place in Indonesia at the 2015 General Chapter.

During his terms as leader, Father Lewandowski traveled extensively promoting the Crosier identity.

“My task was in animating the Crosier charism, keeping the charism alive and keeping it available and accessible to members so they can live a fruitful religious life,” he said.

Was he successful in his mission? “God will have to judge that,” he said. “I was thrilled being [a] religious and thrilled sharing that with others. And I think people caught the spark often, not just once in a while. When I was around, there was a sense that religious life is a good life.”

Though happy to have some respite with his confreres and to visit his family, Father Lewandowski, a Foley native, says it doesn’t quite feel as though he is coming “home.”

“Home is a big word. I don’t feel like I’m coming ‘back’ to the United States. I’m coming ‘into’ it,” he said. “Thirty four years away means that you don’t come ‘back’ to anything. Everything has changed. You can only move forward.”

And he’s off to a new “home” again with the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova in Pennsylvania. This fall, he will begin a one-year sabbatical at Villanova University where he will be writing a book focusing on the Augustinian tradition that the Crosiers follow.

“Religious life is not just an office in the church, it is a religious experience and St. Augustine has some important things to say about that,” he said.

Using his experiences around the world will help him in his writing, he hopes.

“What we dwell in is what we dwell on,” he explained. “In Indonesia, I taught Scripture so I dwelt on Scripture. As a teacher, I was dwelling in what I was dwelling on.”

When he became involved in administration and church governance as master general, the experience was the same.

“I was dwelling in problems, challenges, money, personnel, vision, planning. So guess what I was dwelling on?” he asked. “I’m happy that period has come to an end. Now I get my mind back for the kinds of things that I used to love to dwell on. There’s more energy looking ahead than recalling how things went and how things didn’t go. I am happy with the change of gears and getting geared up for thinking, reading and writing.”

Ambassador for Christ

Serving in Rome was more than just a role he held. He said he really learned a lot about himself there and saw himself as an “ambassador for Christ.”

“Rome is kind of an arbiter of the world church,” he said. “There is a sense that everybody from the world is in Rome daily — Africans, Latin Americans, Europeans, everyone. As master general, you can’t be your own nation of origin. You must be open to the world and the world church. The job and the location gave me more of a sense of what I was all about.”

Father Lewandowski served in Rome through three popes — St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

“For me, it is a delight to have finished my term with Pope Francis,” he said. “It was very evident to me that he is excited about his own joy, that his basic energy is his love of God and his joy in living the Gospel.”

Father Lewandowski was present at the meeting where Pope Francis announced the idea for the Year for Consecrated Life and invented the phrase, “Wake up the World!”

“Francis wasn’t just trying to support religious life, he was trying to say that religious life has to do with being alive, it is being awake. It is not about maintaining closed structures. It is a sense of springing into action. It is energizing.”

Being in Rome was a blessing, he said.

“It’s not just being near the pope. All of these experiences are gifts to me but also gifts for the reconstruction of the church, God’s kingdom in our world,” he said. “The Second Vatican Council came alive again with Pope Francis and I am delighted to be going out of this life with that sort of spirit.”

The highlights, Father Lewandowski said, were mostly relational. He had the opportunity to meet with many world faith leaders such as former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. He also had the opportunity to meet with two Bulgarian Orthodox bishops that represented the patriarch of Bulgaria during a ceremony in which they were presented a relic of St. George.

“This was one of those ecumenical moments that was fraternal, emotional, value-oriented and ancient. There was contact beyond language but we could participate in shared faith,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that touched my life.”

Going forward, Father Lewandowski wants to reflect on the Crosier life that chose him all those years ago.

“What is always new and exciting is being alive,” he said. “Religious life is not a project, not a program or an event. Religious life is people who are alive to Jesus, alive to God, alive to love, alive to life. That is the way we wake up the world. It’s not about being asleep on the job.”

Since his return, Father Lewandowski has been pleased to see such a strong life in the religious communities in the Diocese of St. Cloud.

“There is an immediacy of joy that people are not afraid to express,” he said. “I am very happy to hear that the Crosiers’ contribution to religious life is not simply functional. It is more vocational and spiritual. I have always known that about the Crosiers, and that is part of the reason I joined. I didn’t join a group. I didn’t join a rule. I joined a life. And it’s that life that I have tried to stir and stimulate, that life for the church and the world everywhere.”