Deacon Jan Pietryga’s journey to the priesthood began in Poland, took shape in Italy, was confirmed in Australia and will be realized in Washington, D.C., as the 30-year-old will be one of 10 men ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 15.

A native of Lublin, Poland, Deacon Pietryga was eight years old when he began serving as an altar boy in his home parish of Matki Bozey Rozancowej (Our Lady of the Rosary).

“I thought of the priesthood when I was a kid and served as an altar boy,” he said, noting that that during that time, one parochial vicar in his parish – Father Franciszek Kliza – had a particular influence on him.

The priest “instilled in me the joy and beauty of the priestly ministry,” Deacon Pietryga said.

The thought of becoming a priest returned when he visited a seminary while on a pilgrimage to Italy, and was confirmed during his participation in World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. After his trip to World Youth Day in Sydney, Deacon Pietryga discerned his vocation and entered the seminary.

“The Lord spoke to me very strongly then,” he said. “I felt the call to be a priest very strongly. From the moment I accepted the call, I’ve felt a peace which has never left me.”

The third of 10 children – five boys and five girls – born to Jerzy and Genowefa Pietryga, Deacon Pietryga has been a lifelong member of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Founded in Spain in 1964, the Neocatechumenal Way is a Catholic movement dedicated to adult and family faith formation. An estimated 1.5 million Catholics belong to the Way in about 40,000 parish-based groups worldwide. The Neocatechumenal Way, frequently referred to as The Way, has also established more than 100 Redemptoris Mater diocesan mission seminaries around the world, including one in Hyattsville, Maryland, for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I grew up in the context of a Neocatechumenal community to which my parents belonged… later, I passed though teenage rebellion and was helped greatly by joining my own Neocatechumenal community,” he explained.

As a part of that community, Deacon Pietryga said, “I received the love of God through the community, formation though His Word and sacraments and companionship.” That in turn lead the future priest “out of my rebelliousness and allowed me to see that God has a plan for me.”

Besides The Way and the example of Father Kliza, Deacon Pietryga said another influence on his religious formation was Tereze Druka, a high school religion teacher, whose “deep faith, supported by a very thorough theological reasoning helped me in my many doubts and always instilled in me the conviction that our faith is solid, firm.”

Deacon Pietryga noted that his hometown of Lublin, with a large Jewish community, was sometimes called “the Polish Jerusalem” and for a while, he was the percussionist for a Jewish Klezmer band. Klezmer music is a musical tradition of the Jews of Eastern Europe. It is a primarily Yiddish folk music with a heavy Romani (gypsy) influence.

In addition to his love of music, Deacon Pietryga said that since both his parents studied Polish language and literature, he developed a liking for books at an early age. He also enjoys biking and hiking, and speaks five languages: Polish, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

Deacon Pietryga has spent 10 years preparing for this moment – two years serving as an itinerant Neocatechumenal Way evangelist in Connecticut, followed by eight years of serious study at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Hyattsville.

“During this time, I have rediscovered how much richness there is to our faith and the philosophy behind it,” he said.

As he prepares to be ordained, Deacon Pietryga said he is filled with many emotions.

“I feel joy, anxiety, nervousness, but mostly gratitude,” he said. “I trust the Lord is guiding me.”

Deacon Pietryga’s parents, seven siblings and other family members will be in attendance at his ordination at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“My parents are very happy for me,” Deacon Pietryga said. “They have always expressed joy that I have found my vocation.”

After he is ordained, Deacon Pietryga said he looks forward to “encountering people in all ways – through the sacraments and outside of the sacraments – to share the Good News with them.”

“I will tell them to never doubt, to always trust in the Lord,” he added. “The Lord is faithful and you will never be disappointed if you trust in Him.”

Father Pietryga will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, June 16, at 12:30 p.m. at St. Mary of the Mills Church in Laurel.