Fr. James Kurzynski

About Fr. James Kurzynski

Fr. James Kurzynski is a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin and a hobby astronomer. Originally from the small town of Amherst in rural central Wisconsin, Fr. James completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, majoring in Applied Music (Saxophone, Voice, and Composition). After graduating from UW-SP, Fr. James worked at the University of Nebraska at Kearney as a Hall Director and pursued a M.S.ed. in Group Counseling. After a year at UNK, Fr. James left his position to attend the University of Saint Mary of the Lake - Mundelein Seminary to discern his priestly vocation.

Fr. James earned a Bachelor in Sacred Theology, a Master of Divinity, and a License in Sacred Theology. While pursuing these degrees, Fr. James also studied Spiritual Theology with the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Fr. James was ordained a priest June 28, 2003. Fr. James’ first assignment was as an Associate at the Tri-Parishes of St. Mary’s - Durand, Holy Rosary Parish - Lima, and Sacred Heart Parish - Mondovi. After two years, Fr. James was assigned as Chaplain and Instructor of Religion at Regis Middle and High School and was also assigned Associate Vocation Director. In his final year at Regis, Fr. James was also appointed Parochial Administrator of Saint Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, serving south east Eau Claire County. From 2012-2015, Fr. James served as Pastor of Roncalli Newman Parish, serving the college students of Western Technical College and the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. In 2015, Fr. James was named Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Menomonie, Wisconsin, which also serves St. Joseph's Grade School (pre-K thru 6) and the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. Fr. James also teaches Introduction to Philosophy for the Diocese of La Crosse’s diaconal formation program.

In regard to his interest in astronomy, Fr. James is a member of both the Chippewa Valley Astronomical Society and the La Crosse Area Astronomical Society. He taught an Introduction to Astronomy course during his time at Regis High School in Eau Claire. Fr. James' first involvement with the Vatican Observatory came when an inquiry led to the development of the first "Faith and Astronomy Workshop" (FAW), designed for parish educators and clergy that are not professional scientists.

From Eclipse Hangover to Eclipse Bliss! Enjoying The Saint Joseph Parish Eclipse Party.

I must admit that I was feeling a little “eclipse hangover” this morning. After interviews, questions, and more questions, my morning walk was dominated by two thoughts: I hope these clouds break and I really wouldn’t mind if nobody asked me about eclipses today! In the end, God provided both beautiful weather and a rejuvenated spirit as many of my parishioners came out for our solar eclipse party! Below are some of the pics I took of our event. My favorite pictures are of the shadows on the sidewalk. I love how one of the effects of a solar eclipse is seeing the event projected on the ground through the shadows of leaves. I’ll let one of our more scientific types explain the science behind it. In the best homemade viewing device category, I would have to say we had a tie between a shoe box turned into an eclipse projector and someone who watched the event through seven holes on her Ritz Cracker. … Continue reading

Rediscovering The Vibrant Contrast Of Creation In A Monochrome Society (Part Two)

Do you see yourself as a liturgy? Do you see yourself as a sacred text? Do you see yourself as a cosmos of wonder and awe? Though I would not blame any of you for wondering what trendy, self-help guru I have been reading to get such flowery questions from, the source of these ideas is the seventh century spiritual master Maximus the Confessor. Last week, we explored Maximus’ vision of the Church as a community of vibrant contrast, seeing a necessary diversity in the Church in contrast to a monochromatic view of the Church that is narrow in spectrum, focusing only upon its structural elements. This week, we will explore how this vision of a vibrant contrast extends not only to the Church, but how we view ourselves as people. We will discover a vision of the person that is not reduced to a monochromatic understanding of flesh and bone, but a textured spirituality of depth, mystery, and beauty. Key to this exploration … Continue reading

Rediscovering The Vibrant Contrast Of Creation In A Monochrome Society (Part One)

One of the core paradoxes of being a hobby astronomer is that in order to see the light of stars, planets, moons, and the many wondrous objects of the heavens, we must have a dark night. If the darkness is hindered by light pollution, the sky ceases to be a wondrous tapestry of distant worlds and galaxies. At worst, the right amount of light pollution can turn the sky into a type of murky annoyance, offering no reason for the passerby to stop and gaze upon the heavens. To enjoy the vibrancy of the sky, one needs clear contrast. This thought came to me as I was revisiting one of the classics of spiritual literature, The Church’s Mystagogy by Saint Maximus the Confessor. I pulled this classic penned by the seventh-century spiritual master from my shelf to help prep for my Confirmation class this year. The term “Mystagogy” is a technical term for the process of growing in faith after … Continue reading

Man Vs. Nature: Lessons Learned From The RSE Symposia on the Amazon and Mississippi Rivers

Rivers are powerful symbols for both religion and society. In the Bible, rivers and water contain both a healing, redemptive quality (often referenced in the New Testament as “living waters”) and an ominous, deadly quality of sin and death (referenced primarily in the Old Testament as the abyss). We encounter both symbols when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River. Since Jesus is in no need of the forgiveness of sins, scholars have often read his baptism as a theological statement of how Christ enters into our human condition, voluntarily takes on our sinfulness through his crucifixion, and offers us a pathway to salvation through his resurrection. Therefore, Baptism carries the symbol of Jesus blessing the “waters” of our lives, leading us from death to new life. Broader society, too, often sees rivers as powerful symbols both good and bad. Thinking back to my childhood, the main stream that ran through my hometown of Amherst, Wisconsin is called the “Tomorrow River.” Though this river … Continue reading

The Heart Of An Explorer: A Reflection On The Future Exploration Of Mars In Light Of The Lost City Of Z

This past weekend, I was in need of seeing a good movie. After consultation with the manager of our local family video store, (yes, they still exist) I decided to rent “The Lost City of Z.” The movie is based on the book of the same title by David Grann of The New Yorker. The story is centered on the adventures of British explorer Percy Fawcett. Fawcett is depicted as an undecorated soldier that desires above all things to receive military honors to restore his family name. When he is approached about a surveying expedition to create a map of the border between Bolivia and Brazil, the status hungry Fawcett is less than thrilled. However, after accepting the commission, Percy’s journey brings him upon some pottery deep in the Amazon jungle, feeding his speculation that there is a lost city, Z (also known as El Dorado), that was hinted to him by an indigenous guide. The desire to find this lost … Continue reading

Problems in the Poles: A new iceberg in Antarctica meets an old message from the Arctic

Last week, a new iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from Larsen C, an ice shelf off the peninsula of Antarctica. Larsen C is named after Carl Anton Larsen, a whaler who sailed along Antarctica’s Peninsula in 1893 (down to about the 68th parallel south). The map on the right displays many ice shelves, including four that bear Larsen’s name (A, B, C, and D). The Larsen A ice shelf toward the northern tip of the peninsula collapsed and disintegrated in 1995. From January to March of 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed, sending a group of ice chunks the size of Rhode Island into the Weddell Sea. Larsen B is in the process of disintegrating as did Larsen A. It is speculated that the ice shelf will completely disintegrate by 2020. This latest iceberg is the fourth largest to break off from Antarctica’s ice shelves, decreasing the size of Larsen C by 10%. The impact this iceberg … Continue reading

Bursting Bubbles: Understanding Solar Eclipses and the Bible (Part Two)

In part one of my reflection on solar eclipses and the Bible, I reflected on references to eclipses that were clearly metaphorical. We concluded with the prophet Jeremiah’s warning against astrology and the use of heavenly symbols as predictors of the future. This week, we’ll delve into passages that seem to contradict this warning, speaking of chaos in the heavens in more apocalyptic tones. When apocalyptic references to “signs in the sky” are made in the Bible, they are not simply about eclipses, but all of creation seems to be out of sorts. At the same time, there are clear references in Scripture of the heavens that are stable and exhibit beauty. This dynamic points to a vision of liturgy, seeing in the Earthly Liturgy and the Heavenly Liturgy a mirrored relationship where the Mass becomes the meeting point of heaven and earth. This is why traditional Church architecture often depicts stars and the night sky in the ceiling of the … Continue reading

Might As Well Be Walkin’ On The Sun

With my follow-up on Solar Eclipses and the Bible a week away from being done, I wish to invite you into some vacation planning I am doing. A good friend of mine and I have decided to plan a vacation for next summer that will be somewhat of a “bucket list” vacation. In short, we are making a list of all the things we would like to see and do in life, but have never had a chance to see or do. Right after going to a baseball game at Fenway Park, our second goal is to see the launch of a space mission in person. Our hope is to not only see a giant rocket speed into space, but to choose a mission we can follow in the years ahead. We have yet to finalize our decision, but one mission that stuck out to us was NASA’s July 31, 2018 launch of The Parker Solar Probe. Equipped with a 4.5 inch thick solar shield … Continue reading

Bursting Bubbles: Understanding Solar Eclipses and the Bible (Part One)

On December 21, 2012, some people held their breath thinking that the world was coming to an end. As you recall, an ancient Mayan calendar was running out of days, prompting some to presume that the calendar was predicting the end of the world. Since you are reading this post, the world obviously did not end. In fact, there was no credible reason for people to have presumed such a thing. There was no Mayan prophecy that predicted this date and the calendar itself contained no foreshadowing of a cataclysmic end. In “the end,” it turned out that the calendar simply needed to be updated after the collapse of Mayan civilization. Sometimes answers are far simpler than we want them to be. I share this reflection because the conspiracy theorists are at it again. With the solar eclipse around the corner on August 21st, an event I look forward to with much excitement, the end of the world is once … Continue reading

Confronting Our Geocentric Tendencies

Just how geocentric is the human race? In a quick Google search of the term “Geocentric,” one finds a fascinating collection of hits. Many are simply online definitions of Geocentrism while others gravitate, both charitably and uncharitably, to the “hyper biblical literalism” that is falsely presumed to be the sole source of an Earth-centered view of the universe. The reason I say “falsely presumed” is because a geocentric view of the world is a natural part of our intuition regardless of religious or cultural belief. If you disagree with me, go outside, stand still, and ask yourself, “Do you feel the Earth rotating?” I think it is safe to presume that your answer would be “no.” Now look to the horizon in any direction and ask yourself, “Is the Earth flat or spherical based on what I see?” Based on what you see, it is flat. Lastly, look up at a clear night sky and ask, “What is moving, me … Continue reading

Attentiveness: The Meeting Point Between Patience, Astronomy, And Spirituality.

If you have a friend who is into astronomy and want to see how much of a purist they are when approaching their craft, just ask the following question, “What is your opinion on self-aligning telescopes?”  A self-aligning telescope is one that uses either GPS or digital images to orient itself, allowing the observer to simply use a hand controller to tell the telescope what you would like to observe in the night sky. The purist will scoff, quickly pointing out that using such a telescope skips the necessary and at time frustrating process of learning how to navigate the night sky with the naked eye to the point of seeing the stars as a type of “road map.” For some of my friends, using such a tool would be considered grounds for “hobby astronomy excommunication.” You may be wondering, “Fr. James, what is your opinion on self-aligning telescopes?” Well, at the risk of being ousted from the hobby astronomy … Continue reading

Environmental Ethics and Ethos. The RSE Symposia on the Adriatic and Baltic Seas.

One of the newest fields of theology and philosophy is Environmental Ethics. In addition to being new, this field is also one of the more challenging subjects to keep current. The reason for this difficulty is that the rapid growth of technology often outpaces our ability to reflect on a given technology’s moral implications. This lag between the advancement of technology and the moral implications of technology have, at times, allowed for great damage to be done to our environment. This tension between technological advancement and environmental crisis led the members of the Religion, Science, and Environment Symposia (RSE) to organize two events to accomplish two main goals: The development of ethical principles to address ecological issues and the development of an environmental ethos to inspire people to put those ethics into action. Once again, the spiritual leader of these symposia was Patriarch Bartholomew and the locations of the symposia were the Adriatic Sea and the Baltic Sea. The RSE … Continue reading