Deacon Adam Cesarek: Humbled by the ‘big things’ ahead as priest

By: By Tom Dermody

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is one of six stories profiling the transitional deacons who will be ordained priests of the Diocese of Peoria by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 23.

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When Deacon Adam Cesarek considers the “big things” God has called him to do as a priest, he responds with humility.

“Who am I? I’m some nobody from Illinois the Lord is going to use to change this piece of bread into His Body and Blood,” he said, anticipating the joy of bringing Jesus to the faithful.

And then there is the thought of “breathing spiritual life” back into people through the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Who am I to do that?” he asked again. Acknowledging that the priest’s authority to forgive sins comes from Jesus, Deacon Cesarek marveled “how incredible it is that I will be able to take part in that!”

Perhaps that groundedness comes from Deacon Cesarek’s small town roots. His grandfather was a farmer, and the son of James and Sandra Cesarek was raised in Rock Falls in the Diocese of Rockford.

Or maybe the humility is a product of his Catholic education. Deacon Cesarek attended St. Andrew’s Grade School in Rock Falls, is a graduate of Sterling Newman High School, and went to Loras College in Dubuque “primarily to play baseball.” He would earn a degree in sports management and media.

But his life was “radically transformed” when he grew closer to Christ through a Bible study group headed by a missionary from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at Loras. Upon graduation, he decided to “give back what I had been given” and trained as a FOCUS missionary.
He was assigned to Bradley University in Peoria.

“Little did I know what the Lord had in store for me at that time,” he now says of his three years on Bradley’s campus.

While he loved his work as a FOCUS missionary, he began to sense a call to the priesthood as he witnessed the joyful example of the priests on campus — first Msgr. Stanley Deptula and then Msgr. Brian Brownsey. His process of discernment would take time and a few changes of mind, but by the end of his third year at Bradley he was ready to enter the seminary.

“I fell in love with Jesus when I was in college and I fell in love with the church when I was here in Peoria,” Deacon Cesarek explains. “This is the place the Lord called me when I was considering seminary. The priests here, the seminarians here, are guys I’d like to be brothers with.”

His six enjoyable years at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, included a way to incorporate his passion for baseball. Deacon Cesarek was a catcher for the DC Padres, a team composed of Catholic priests and seminarians who were one time high school and/or college baseball players. The Padres play fast pitch hardball with Catholic high school varsity baseball teams at minor league ball parks in the Washington, D.C. area to foster awareness of vocations to the priesthood.

“At 31, I guess I’m still a catcher in some capacity,” says the soon-to-be priest, following in the footsteps of Christ who taught his fishermen disciples to “catch men” with the Gospel.

Deacon Cesarek said the list of those influencing his faith is “endless,” but he gave special credit to his parents and noted that his sister, Sarah, is graduating from college the same weekend as he is being ordained.

“She’s giving up her whole graduation weekend to come down here and be with me,” he said, calling Sarah’s decision “a great gift, a very kind act.”

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