Oblate Vocation Story – Fr. Andy Knop, OMI

I was born in Katowice, Poland, in 1963. My parents were very devout in practicing their faith. Since I was one year old I was a member of a Missionary Oblate parish.

At the age of six, I became an altar server and began serving Mass in the parish. I attended public school in Poland. Because of Communism there was no Catholic or private schools. Before I went to school, I always went to serve Mass, sometimes as early as 6:00 a.m. I really enjoyed doing it, and also taking part in all of the different devotions the parish had to offer.

With the Missionary Oblates running the parish, we had missionaries coming to give testimonials and to present slideshows about the work from places like Cameroon, Madagascar, or other parts of the world. This always interested me, to see how they work and fulfill their ministry.

My parish was a big Oblate parish, with about 15 to 20 Oblates there all the time. So, the interaction for me with many different Oblate priests, brothers, seminarians, and retired Oblates really influenced me. I felt like being home when I was with the Oblates.

Going on pilgrimages was also important for me growing up in Poland. It was one of the few ways for us to express our faith outside of the churches, and our homes during Communist times. We had a shrine to Our Lady in the area and there was always a large pilgrimage of men and young men each year there. My father started taking me along as a boy on this ten-mile pilgrimage. It would be an all-day event and I enjoyed it very much.

I also visited several times our great national shrine in Poland to Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna. This was always a nice place to pray and reach a deeper understating of my faith.

When I was in the fifth grade it became clear to me that becoming a priest is what I wanted to do. In the sacristy where I would get ready to serve Mass there was a poster saying that you can become an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. Reading that poster was when the idea started to come to me to explore the idea of becoming an Oblate.

In the seventh grade a priest came to our parish and he organized a vocation group of young men interested in becoming Oblates. And there was about 15 of us participating in it. And a good number of us, including me, went to the minor seminary. I was 15 years old.

At the minor seminary I got interested in music and started playing in a band. I was also the goalie on our soccer team. The big adjustment was working on a farm because I was a city boy, but it was actually fun learning all those farm chores.

After the minor seminary I decided to continue and went to the novitiate and then six years of seminary formation before my ordination. At my first Mass in my home parish, my father came up to me and said that ever since I was a baby, he was praying for me to become a priest and a missionary. He never told me this because he didn’t want to pressure me into this vocation. But I always felt there was the support from my father and family on this journey to the priesthood. So, my vocation wasn’t just about me. There was also a spiritual influence on this vocation.

My calling in becoming an Oblate was basically to become a missionary, to leave my country. I didn’t know where to go but my original thought was to go to Canada to work with Native Americans in the Northwest Territory.

But that didn’t happen right away. I was sent first to work in a parish in Poland. Then I was approached with a proposal to come to the United States in 1991, two years after my ordination. I arrived in Chicago to start my journey as a missionary. My dream, to proclaim Christ in a new country on a different continent, had come true.