This is the second installment in a three part series highlighting the stories of our three seminarians. Click here to see the first story about Nicholas Evancho, written in April of 2015.
Making arrests. Threats of being blown up by those who have cut their gas lines to avoid arrest. Gun fights. Taking parents away from their children. All of these can be in a day’s work for Nick Kuchcinski, a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul and one of three seminarians in the diocese, in his job as an Adult Probation/Parole Officer. None of these things are typically events that we equate with being particularly evocative of God or ministry. However, for Nick, they are just that: “Some people see incongruity in my career and the ordination process. I see my career as a perfect gateway into people’s lives to be a witness to Christ.”
Nick’s journey to his career as a probation officer and to the ordination process in The Episcopal Church began in Erie, where he was born and raised. He was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church. Even as a teenager, Nick felt called to holy orders, however, he also felt just as strongly that he was called to have a family. Being Roman Catholic, he couldn’t do both. He attended Gannon University, where he majored in Criminal Justice. After college, Nick got married and focused on his career in criminal justice, which first took him to Allenwood, PA, to work as a corrections officer in a federal prison before returning to Erie for his current job. During that time, Nick and his wife had two wonderful children, but ended up divorcing, and he has since remarried.
It was the divorce that started Nick’s journey toward The Episcopal Church and the ordination process: “After the divorce I really started discerning my spiritual home not being in the Roman Catholic Church. I felt like a second class citizen because I wasn’t allowed to receive communion.” Nick hit a point where he couldn’t be true to himself and stay where he was.
Nick spends a lot of time in the courthouse, located across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul, for his job. He started researching the Cathedral and eventually met with the dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Dr. John Downey. Dean Downey reassured him that, in The Episcopal Church, he could receive the sacraments even though he was divorced. Armed with that knowledge and finding a comfort in the liturgical nature of the church, a part of the Roman Catholic Church he had always loved, Nick soon found a church home at the Cathedral.
That was 5 years ago. Nick quickly got involved and the thoughts of priesthood started coming back to him. One Sunday in 2012, when he was vesting to serve as an acolyte, he finally got the courage and asked Dean Downey what it would take to become a priest in The Episcopal Church. Dean Downey responded, “I wondered when you were going to ask.” The rest is history.
Nick Kuchcinski spent two weeks this past June at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) starting work on his Masters of Divinity degree. He is enrolled in their low residency program, which meets on campus twice a year for a few weeks and has online coursework the rest of the year. This is an ideal situation for him as he can work towards his degree while still maintaining his career.
While at CDSP, Nick enjoyed the schedule of classes bracketed by prayer (morning prayer, noon Eucharist, and evening prayer) that helped him feel fully immersed in the seminary lifestyle. Nick also enjoyed the intentional community and being able to form bonds with his fellow classmates: “We still pray together online every couple of weeks.” He was also amazed at the common experience of sitting in chapel with people from all over the world praying out of the same prayer book.
The plan is for Nick to be a bi-vocational priest, meaning that he will keep his job as an Adult Probation/Parole officer while serving part-time at a congregation. This is fitting for Nick as he believes that he can be a witness in his role as a probation officer, just as well as when he is in his role as a priest. He sees the key as recognizing that every person, including the one he is arresting, is a human being made in the image and likeness of God. While it can be difficult at times, he pushes himself to deal with people with love so that others may see Christ in him and learn to see Christ in every person. By joining his secular vocation with his ordination, he hopes to be able to reach even more people with the message of Christ.
Nick will return to CDSP in January for the next on-campus immersion for his Masters in Divinity.
By: Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration and Vanessa Butler, Canon for Administration