Rev. Thomas Krupa has been pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Castleton, since 1992. He was ordained in 1971.

When and why did you realize you wanted to become a priest?

Right from the very beginning. My uncle was a priest, [the late] Father John Wojtyna. He was ordained in 1946, the year I was born - I lived in Amster-dam. My grandparents lived downstairs. We lived in the flat upstairs.

On his days off, my uncle would come by himself or with his priest friends. I would always be around them. They always seemed happy and enjoyed what they were doing.

We were a good Polish religious family. We went to St. Stanislaus in Amsterdam. I was an altar boy. My parents sang in the church. The Church was the center of our spiritual and social lives.

Who was your inspiration when you were growing up?

My uncle. He never pushed. He would talk about his own priesthood. We would spend a lot of time together. In the summer, we would go to New York City and take in Yankee games. We used to have a family camp, and he would be there. He was a great inspiration. I would watch him in his rectory ministering to the people.

How did your parents feel about your decision?

They were thrilled. I was a boy in between two sisters. I was the one who was going to be a priest. At that time in the Polish community, one of your sons being a priest was really big-time.

Have your expectations when you were ordained been met?

They were, in the sense of seeing my uncle ministering to the people. That part was met, the idea of being part of people's lives and in some cases making a difference.

At the seminary at the time, the emphasis was on academics, not on service. We had to learn a lot of things on the run [after we were ordained]: for example, they taught us a lot about the theology of baptism, but not how to do it. I wound up reading books and calling up my uncle.

You were ordained during a time of great change in the Church. Was that a challenge?

It was exciting for me. But it was difficult. Being just ordained, we were into new liturgy and new theology. Sometimes there were disagreements between the younger guys and older priests.

We were just getting into receiving the cup at Communion, having women on the altar. Being a young priest, I was going to change the Church around. But a lot of priests wanted to proceed more cautiously than I did. There was also the challenge of educating the people. The [changed] liturgy was new to them, as well.

What would you have done differently?

I would have been more patient and listened more to some of the elderly priests. They had a lot of wisdom in dealing with people and how to approach them. When you come out [of the seminary] with enthusiasm, you think you know all the answers, not realizing the Church has been around for centuries.

What's been the hardest part of your vocation?

Not being able to meet the needs of all the people. It's often choosing between two goods. A few months ago, I was going to preside at a funeral. I got a call from a parishioner at the emergency room to anoint her dad - but I couldn't do it [because I had to be at the funeral.

BY the time I got to the hospital, the father had already died. There are times you wish you could bilocate. Sometimes you have to make a choice.

What's been the most enjoyable part?

Interacting with families. People bring you into your families, the happy times like baptism and weddings, and sad times like funerals. Every day is completely different. You never know what's going to happen.

What do you do for fun?

I like to read and I follow the horses. I can't wait for the Saratoga [racing] season to begin.

What sacrament gives you the greatest peace? Why?

The Eucharist is the center of my prayer life. But I really like to do baptisms. It's an exciting time for families. There is new life in the world. Everyone is taking videos and photos. Everyone sees a bright future. There is so much optimism and joy. Baptisms are so life-affirming.

What do you most want others to know about being a priest?

It's extremely rewarding. You get more than you could ever give. It's a joy every single day to make a difference in people's lives, and just being present to them.


Music: hard rock
Performers: AC/DC, the Rolling Stones
Movies: "Casablanca," Mel Brooks' comedies
Television: "Bones"
Recreation: indoor aerobic walking
Meal: Polish cooking
(The "Year for Priests" declared by Pope Benedict XVI last year concludes in June.)