Chaplain Profile: Fr. Stan Drongowski
Aquinas College has long been grounded and guided by Catholicism in the Dominican tradition. This spirit of "Dominicanism" suffuses our identity, and is reflected by the school's close relationship with the Dominican order. This year, Aquinas College welcomes Fr. Stan Drongowski, O.P. as the new chaplain and pastor to our campus community.
Ordained in 1979, Fr. Drongowski found his vocation to priestly ministry during his undergraduate studies at Kent State University. “I had a professor, in college, who was a Dominican sister," he said. "This was in the early 70’s, when the idea of religious on a secular campus was bizarre, to say the least. I saw the ministry she was doing - she was an excellent scholar - and I thought, ‘I would like to be like her when I grow up.’ So with her assistance I looked at various religious orders, societies, and congregations. But, when push came to shove, it was as a Dominican I felt most attracted.”
Drongowski found the Dominican balance of prayer, study, service, and community - “Those four pillars that everybody who has been infected by Dominicanism knows about” - to be a decisive factor in his discernment. “They’ve defined me," he said, "not just my work, but they’ve defined me as a person. One of the questions that I’m always looking at is ‘where’s God in all of this?’ Whether it’s in the conversation I’m having with someone, whether it’s in a book I’m reading or a movie I’m watching, 'where is God in this?' What is the message and how does this speak to faith, to spirituality, to religion, to morality, the anthropology—even your Saturday-morning-cartoons, you can ask these questions. Thus, my ministry has always been growthful because it has allowed me to learn about myself and learn about other people."
In particular, Fr. Drongowski spoke to the critical role of prayer in his life and ministry. “I don’t swallow the notion that my work is my prayer, or my community is my prayer, or my exercise is my prayer,” he said. “Prayer is my prayer. And if I don’t have that personal relationship with God, with Christ, then I’m just a social worker. Not to offend social workers! But the ministry of the priest is in a different direction.”
Following ordination, Drongowski completed a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Arts degree in theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, with a concentration in theology & literature. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree, in homiletics, from the same Aquinas Institute. Over the ensuing years, his service has included traditional parish ministry, formation ministry, and time as Prior to Dominican communities in Colorado, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Campus ministry, however, developed recently for Drongowski in 2005.
"I had never done campus ministry until I was asked by our provincial to be part of a team of Dominicans who were taking over the Campus Ministry program at Indiana University in Bloomington," he explained. "That’s when I fell into campus ministry, and that’s when I fell in love with campus ministry. I like the energy, I like the challenge, I really developed a profound respect for the students and their searching, their questions and struggles.”
Coming to Aquinas College after seven years at Indiana University, Drongowski hopes to simply get a sense of his surroundings at Aquinas, integrating into his new community atmosphere. “My goal is to get to know Aquinas, to get to know the students, to interact with them, ask them questions, let them get to know me, and to just get a sense of the place and the people ... I hope to be with the students, with the faculty and staff, to learn from them and to interrelate.”
While Fr. Drongowski does not bring a particular set of goals or objectives to his new role, he does possess a clear vision of Catholicity in the collegiate context, and how it will guide his ministry.
"What does it mean to be a Catholic institution?" Drongowski asks. "It’s a very important question that needs to be faced by every Catholic institution - anywhere. I believe it is not necessarily to be homogenous, it is not to be a “Catholic ghetto,” but it is to live the Catholic message. To integrate, in an overt way, what it means to be Catholic ... So to expose oneself to what it means to be Catholic, to what the Church’s teachings mean on the ground, to celebrate who we are and to not be embarrassed by who we are. To be Catholic is not isolationist, it is instead intended to engage the world - which is exactly what Christ did.”