Last week I reflected on the unthinkable becoming reality. It turns out there were more unthinkable moments ahead. It truly shows how serious this crisis is when my post last week is woefully out of date. This week, I want to share with you what I shared with my parish. This is a Pastor’s response to his people. Parishioners of mine have lost their jobs, fear how they are going to feed their children, and today it was announced the state of Wisconsin is moving to home confinement to flatten the curve of the spread of this virus. I wish I could wax eloquently today with you on the questions of faith and astronomy. Instead, I simply offer the following resources and message I have shared with my parishioners: God will see us through this crisis. Just to clarify, the resources below in no way reflect anything official from the Vatican. Writing for Sacred Space Astronomy, people sometimes presume that … 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.
I am not an expert on the Corona Virus. I have tried to keep up with developments while on sabbatical and learn what I can. The only thing I have learned is that once I think I understand what is happening, things change rapidly. At the Redemptorist Renewal Center, our group has felt as if we have been living in a bubble, distant from Corona hysteria. That ended this morning when, during the petitions at Mass, it was made known that a parishioner’s brother died from complications of this virus. Even in the safety of the Saguaro Desert, this pandemic continues to be indiscriminate in its impact. At my home Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, measures are being taken to limit the spread of this virus. All programming and events have been canceled. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been lifted. To put it another way, what was once unthinkable just weeks ago is now our reality. The sober … Continue reading →
I am a week away from starting my sabbatical! Many have asked, “Father, are you excited to go to Arizona?” I must admit that it is an odd question to answer. I know that I need a sabbatical and that this time of rest will be very good for me. Still, I’m feeling the tug to stay at the parish, experiencing feelings of missing my family, both my parish and on the farm, before departure. In those times of mixed emotions, I have reminded myself of what our Vicar of Clergy told me is the first lesson of sabbatical – “James, the parish will be fine without you.” One of the aspects of sabbatical I am greatly looking forward to is having the weekends to myself. One of my goals for these weekends is to do some astrophotography along with other “shutter bug” projects. To have ten weekends to shoot the stars in one of the best places on Earth … Continue reading →
As Br. Guy posted in his beautiful piece on the passing Fr. George Coyne, SJ, today the Church will lay to rest an historic figure in the Church. Why do I call Fr. Coyne an historic figure? After all, he didn’t put forward a stunning theory on par with Georges Lemaitre’s “Cosmic Egg,” nor will his name be adapted to a catch phrase like, “The Copernican Revolution.” He will never become a science textbook staple like the “Father” of modern genetics, Fr. Gergor Mendel, nor will his name be synonymous with famous Catholic scientists like Galileo Galilei. Yet, Galileo would have salivated at the opportunity to spy the heavens through the optic Fr. Coyne helped bring into being. True, Fr. Coyne was not the “Angel” in a Jewish Synagogue who spun the lens for the VATT telescope, but his dialogue with Roger Angel and agreement that if this Angel spun the glass Fr. Coyne would build it’s house led to … Continue reading →
“Hey Father, did you hear that Beetlejuice is going to explode tomorrow?” Whenever I hear such statements, my first response is always a smile at the mispronunciation of Betelgeuse. A couple years back, I shared with Br. Guy how I was a little embarrassed to find some missed typos in my first book, God’s Canvas, after it had been published. Br. Guy consoled me by sharing that it was a couple years before someone pointed out that the star “Betelgeuse” was misspelled “Betelguese” in his book, Turn Left at Orion (and the misspelling wasn’t his fault). It was one of those beautiful moments of realizing nobody is perfect and I shouldn’t expect that I would be any different. The second response when hearing of Betelgeuse’s impending demise was, “Oh boy… here we go again.” Whether it be Mayan Calendars supposedly predicting the end of the world, a comet that will destroy the Earth from three astronomical units away (meaning three … Continue reading →
About a year ago I was getting ready to head for Tuscon, Arizona for the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop. This bi-annual trip is always one that I look forward to so I can get away from the cold of Wisconsin and have a week of astronomy immersion. Last year, however, I was feeling a little different about the trip. I still looked forward to be a part of this wonderful event, but internally I was starting to feel and see the signs of burnout. Before I left, I had a conversation with our Vicar of Clergy (It’s the title given to the priest responsible for overseeing the wellbeing of our Diocesan clergy). I was joking with him about a good friend of mine who was on sabbatical by saying, “Why is he on sabbatical, I should go on sabbatical!” What started as a playful poke at a good friend became a serious conversion. “James, if you want … Continue reading →
This past year has been an important one for me in regard to astronomy and faith. Though I have dabbled with simple forms of astrophotography in the past, I decided to take the plunge and learn how to take high quality images of the night sky instead of just using online services to image the heavens. As is the case for many, I always felt intimidated when trying to do astrophotography. If you do a quick Google search on the subject, you will be introduced to many confusing articles and videos with equipment that can approach the price of a small car. Since my first attempts at astrophotography were in the film days, the expense combined with past failure seemed too risky. Then a friend of mine who lives in Arizona, Ken Walsh, introduced me to a “fund me” campaign for a “point and shoot” astronomy camera called the Nano 1. The promise of doing astrophotography in a point and … Continue reading →
This week, I offer you a new form of contribution to Sacred Space Astronomy. I have decided as part of my “From The Backyard” series to put together some YouTube videos that summarize some of the main themes that I have focused on in my writing. In that spirit, here is my first video on the connection between Advent and Astronomy. It isn’t the best of videos (a little dark and the sound needs a little work), but, in time, it will improve and be a nice addition to our blog. Enjoy!Continue reading →
What does it really mean to see God as Creator? One of the most foundational statements about God is that God is Creator, bringing all things into being from nothing. This is well and good, but it leads to another question: How does God create? This question reemerged in my thoughts at our parish’s Saint Nicholas Party. Every year, St. Olaf Parish holds a party for our youth around the date of St. Nicholas. We tell the story of this great saint, helping our youth understand the origins of what our culture presents as the celebration of Christmas. It acts as a fun evening celebration with stories, music, games, and activities. Here is a summary of his life, including reference to the dowry he secretly gave to a poor family so their daughters could marry, which morphed into the gift giving we do in our modern celebration of Christmas. My part of the evening is to provide an activity by … Continue reading →
Making the commitment to become good at astrophotography has become more life giving than I could have imagined. At the beginning, I thought I could just specialize in star photography and that would be that. However, I began to realize that in order to take good pictures of the Milky Way, I must first understand the difference between a good and bad picture. A constant theme I encounter when reading professional photographers is the necessity to take pictures that tell stories. At first, the necessity to tell stories through images felt a little awkward, thinking that all I wanted to do is take “pretty pictures.” However, the more I thought about it the more I realized the difference between taking a picture and capturing a moment. Any picture can tell you a story as long as you know how to “read” the image. The key to good story telling through photography is that there needs to be a universally understood … Continue reading →
As I write this post, we are only minutes away from the transit of Mercury across the Sun (click this link from EarthSky for a little more information). It was my hope to do my first LiveStream on Sacred Space Astronomy, talking with you live about the transit from my rectory office, showing real time video from my small h-alpha telescope, and give you a presentation about the connection between this transit and the Catholic Priest, Pierre Gassendi. The reason I didn’t promote this little event was because Wisconsin is notorious for cloud cover at this time of year. And, as fate may have it, even though the Weather Channel claims the skies over my house are clear – It’s cloudy. Nevertheless, Sacred Space Astronomy has wonderful resources about Pierre Gassendi. Christopher Graney wrote a marvelous post about the rare books collection at the University of Louisville that includes Pierre Gassendi’s work, Institutio Astronomica juxta Hypotheses tam Veterum quàm Recentiorum. … Continue reading →
It’s my birthday this week. As more moons pass in my life, I feel less and less like celebrating this day. However, since my mother, brother and I have our birthdays three days apart from each other, I went home for a modest birthday party with family. After a nice dinner, time to catch up with my family, and a “geek-out” session with my nephew about his honors Jazz concert, I walked outside and saw pristine skies! Autumn in Wisconsin can be very cruel to a hobby astronomer. The lower humidity teases the possibility of clearer skies for observation, free of the distortion of August’s moisture. The drawback is that the transition from summer to autumn to winter means many cloudy days – and I mean many! That being said, when you get those rare nights when the skies clear, the viewing is clear and crisp! Last night was a beautiful night for stargazing in central Wisconsin! Not only did … Continue reading →