Dear Friend,

Br. Mateusz Garstecki, OMIMy name is Mateusz Garstecki and I am a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate seminarian. I am writing to you today from the Oblates’ International Roman Scholasticate in Rome, Italy. Please let me tell you a little bit about myself.

God entered my ordinary life with an extraordinary invitation: “Come, follow Me.”

I grew up in a practicing Catholic family outside of Chicago. In the fifth grade we moved to San Antonio, Texas where the Missionary Oblates have numerous ministries. About every other year my family traveled to Poland to visit relatives, so I connected strongly with my Polish and Catholic heritage when I was young.

During my childhood I went to church regularly, and generally appreciated the faith, but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ only became very real when I was 15 years old.

I started thinking about becoming a priest in high school. My aunt helped to inspire me to consider religious life. She is a sister in the Society of Divine Word and works with the poor in Paraguay. When my siblings and I were growing up, our mom would sometimes tell us about her and the wonderful experiences and challenges she had serving in Paraguay.

I met Sr. Yolanda Flores, S.S.C.J. at our parish and she asked my brothers and I if any one of us might consider a vocation to be a priest. I was open to the possibility of a priestly vocation, and she helped me to get in contact with Fr. Charlie Banks, O.M.I. who was the Oblates’ Vocation Director in the area.

The first time I met with Fr. Charlie he mentioned the Oblates were missionaries. I felt that God was speaking to me through this because of my aunt’s work as a missionary sister in Paraguay. The fact that the Oblates are missionaries really struck a chord deep inside of me. I joined the Oblate pre-novitiate program in Buffalo, New York. At the age of 18 I was the youngest member of the Oblate community.

After my time as a pre-novice, I spent a year as a novice at our Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois. The novitiate year is a time away from family and friends to examine more deeply if I was being called to religious life The year gave me many opportunities to grow on a human and spiritual level in the context of the community. In August 2020, I professed my first vows as an Oblate and enrolled at Oblate School of Theology (OST) in San Antonio, just a half an hour away from my family home.

As a student at OST, I was part of the Blessed Mario Borzaga Formation Community, a group of Oblate seminarians from around the world who are studying at the school. During my first year as a scholastic, the community included Oblate students from the United States, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Mexico. Even two of the brothers from the U.S. Province were born in other countries – Burma and Haiti.

My year as part of the international community in San Antonio prepared me well for the biggest surprise of my life. I was selected to study at the Oblates’ International Roman Scholasticate in Rome, Italy. I am the first seminarian from the U.S. Province to study in Rome since 2010.

Br Mateusz Garstecki and Classmates
My Roman classmates.

The International Roman Scholastic is currently home to 22 students representing 15 countries around the world. When I arrived in Rome, I became even more convinced that my future is as an Oblate and as a vessel of the Good News.

I have been very blessed to experience life in the community here. I am encouraged in my vocational journey as I continue to meet other Oblates and scholastics who share very richly from their own cultural experiences and their vocational call to serve as missionaries throughout the world.

I am also fortunate to study at the Gregorian University with my brother scholastics. I find the studies very enriching as I continue my vocational journey. I also have the opportunity to meet many seminarians, religious sisters and brothers, laypersons and student priests at the university, which is also a meaningful experience.

I hope that through my time in Rome, I will be able to share from the examples of faith, commitment and service that I have witnessed in the people I have met. I pray to God that I will be able to serve Him faithfully wherever I may be sent.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about my Oblate life. Please know that I do not take this journey alone. You are with me every step of the way. My journey continues, because of you! Thanks be to God.

Sincerely,

Bro. Mateusz Garstecki, O.M.I.