It’s been a long, long time since I offered a “From the backyard” reflection. Part of the reason for this delay is the occupational hazard of all astro-buffs: Clouds! I can’t speak for other parts of the United States, but the cloud cover over Wisconsin has been epic. Clouds at this time of year are common for the badger state, but the transition from 2020 to 2021 has been a challenge for night sky lovers. Thankfully, the clouds broke the last couple nights and I finally was able to capture first light with my new duo-band filter (H-Alpha/OIII). As with all things, time will help me improve my images, but, for a first attempt, I’m pretty happy with the results! Something I’ve come to quickly love about duo-band astrophotography is that you can still image deep sky images in a city that boasts a bortle class 6 sky (in other other words, we don’t see too many stars over head) … Continue reading →
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 (3K thru 6) and the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. In 2017, in addition to his responsibilities to St. Joseph Parish and StoutCatholic, Fr. James was also named Pastor of St. Luke Parish in Boyceville, Wisconsin. In July of 2018, Fr. James was named the Pastor of St. Olaf Parish in Eau Claire. Wisconsin. 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.
Now that the Christmas season is done, I can return to reflecting on astronomy! As I shared with you in the past, I plan on doing a couple more pieces on the forthcoming Artemis Missions. I also thought it would be fun to reflect on space missions slated for 2021. For understandable reasons, Covid-19 has often forced us to reflect on hard things that can lead to an emotional weightiness. Let’s take a little time to focus on the positives. Literally, let’s allow our minds to drift into space today! While poking around on EarthSky, I found a piece titled, “6 space missions to look forward to in 2021.” Below are the missions. I want to get your feedback on which missions interest you the most and, of those missions, which ones would you like me to write about. With that, let’s dream! Mars Missions Though these probes are already on the way to Mars, a host of technologies will … Continue reading →
Did I choose the title for this piece to serve as nothing more than provocative clickbait? No, not in the least. As we come to the conclusion of 2020, I am thankful for this year. Now, does being thankful mean that I am happy we’re living through a national pandemic? No, I am not trying to glorify nor deny the hard reality that is Covid-19. What I am trying to do is find the proverbial “silver lining” in the 2020 storm cloud. And, at least for me, I’ve found some rather pronounced silver linings! Given my newfound love of photography, I reflected on this past year by revising images. While going through these images, what I discovered wasn’t just a collection of “moments in time” that are now archived on pixel filled hard drives, but I found memories, good memories of 2020. Sabbatical The first of those memories was my sabbatical at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson, Arizona. I … Continue reading →
Christmas offers wonderful opportunities to reflect on faith and astronomy. Therefore, I’m going to delay my next reflect on the Artemus Moon missions until after the New Year. For now, I will venture into a classic minefield that tonight’s conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn actually begs us to ask. The minefield I speak of is the question, When was Jesus born? As I shared with you last week, tonight will be the highpoint of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Sadly, the weather forecast for Wisconsin looks “so-so” for good viewing of the conjunction. Still, the event has awoken some logical questions – Was this conjunction the Star of Bethlehem? Was Jesus born on December 25th? How do we know for sure any of this is true? These are all good questions! However, these question also present a plethora of not-so-good rabbit holes we can fall into if we are not careful. In my youth, the certainty of answering questions … Continue reading →
I’m going to step away form my Artemus reflections for one week to answer a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. What is the question you may ask? Well, you can probably guess from the title of this piece – The Star of Bethlehem. Since my ordination, questions about the star always pop up at Christmas time. Here’s the passage from Matthew that references the star. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has … Continue reading →
Last week, I offered a simple question for you to reflect upon – Should we return to the Moon? The responses I received, both public and private, revealed three, clear conclusions. There is definitely a body of people who think we should send people back to the Moon. There is definitely a body of people who think we should send rovers to the Moon since they are more budget friendly and could maximize the science due to the budget savings. The third conclusion I wasn’t looking for, but become very clear was this – Everyone felt we should go back to the Moon. Now, something we need to keep in mind is the Artemis Missions are meant to prepare to send humans to Mars. With that in mind, it’s not a simple debate of “send people or don’t send people to the Moon.” If the goal is to put women and men on the Moon to prep for Mars, then … Continue reading →
Do you think we should return to the moon? It’s a simple question that evokes many complexities. As someone who, since childhood, has loved space missions, science fiction movies, and still hopes to have a priestly assignment on the Moon, I say let’s go… and could you sneak me on the mission somehow! At the same time, I realize that I am no pragmatist. Any space mission, no matter how large or small, can face immediate opposition amid the struggles our world faces. Global hunger, poverty, and the ongoing impact of a global pandemic would understandably lead many to argue, “Forget the Moon, we have too many things to address in this world before we explore other worlds.” This is a valid argument and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling this way. Still, both personally and in my priestly ministry, I have come to appreciate the power of symbol. Sometimes, when our chins are down we need something to catch … Continue reading →
Once again, my apologies for my absence. Any of you who have gone through a job addition know that one of the first challenges is establishing a new workflow. So, is my new workflow… flowing? Let’s just say we’re in the river and we found the current. Now we just need to figure out how to keep with the current! In some ways, I think it’s a Godsend my concluding reflection for Fratelli Tutti was delayed. The reason for this thought is that we are a week away from starting a new Church year. When we think of a new year, we often think of a change of heart, a new way of seeing the world, and finding hope to be better people. From this standpoint, can we see Fratelli Tutti as part of this time of new beginnings? Let’s find out! In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis sets the parable of the Good Samaritan as the central Biblical image of … Continue reading →
To begin, I apologize for not being with you last week to offer a reflection. I received a phone call from the Diocese of La Crosse a little over a week ago with the news I was being named a Dean (Vicar Forane). What does it me to be a Dean? Well, it really depends on what the Bishop needs us to do since each Diocese has different needs. My Bishop, Bishop Callahan, explained in his letter that he wants me to care for the well being of my brother priests in the area I live, field concerns from the people of God, oversee the Regis Catholic Schools system, and other tasks the Bishop may ask of me. In other words, to avoid the use of any snarky jokes, people both congratulated me and offered condolences upon news of my appointment! All kidding aside, it is an honor to be named a Dean. It’s one of those honors we privately … Continue reading →
Unlike last week, part of my reflection on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, will invite a dialogue on faith and science! However, to set up that dialogue, we need to explore some foundational principles gleaned from the Pope’s writing. At the heart of Pope Francis’ new encyclical is a commentary that could be summarized as “towards a new politics.” One of the greatest obstacles identified by Pope Francis to this new vision of politics is the slippery term, “populist.” Therefore, we will explore what the Pope is addressing when he speaks of populism and then I will invite you to offer your response on this subject as it pertains to faith and science. The Non-Populist Pope What does it mean to be a “populist?” In my home county of the United States, I think the term “populist” is seen as a bit benign. For example, our culture has an entire genre of music called “Pop” that lives and dies … Continue reading →
I took a break from offering a reflection for Sacred Space Astronomy last week to build in some time to give Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, a prayerful read. My hope was to have two full readings of the encyclical done by today, but parish life has limited me to about one and a half readings at this point. Still, after reading some of the professional commentators on the encyclical, I feel confident that I have a good read on what Pope Francis is trying to accomplish. Now, is this going to be a “faith and science” piece or an astronomy reflection? No. Therefore, if you’re not really interested in reading things non-science related on this blog you can save some time and check out some of our other wonderful authors. That being said, I also feel that some of our readers might be interested in what’s going on with the Catholic Church beyond faith and science. If that’s … Continue reading →
As we continue to reflect on the hidden gems of Laudato Si’, we begin this week by exploring Pope Francis’ overarching view of the heart of Scripture’s story of salvation. It may seem incredibly simplistic, but the heart of Scripture is essentially a love story: God creates in love, we reject God’s love, and God seeks to restore that love. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. (Laudato Si’ … Continue reading →