Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine has new chaplain
By Jim Dalrymple
COLORADO SPRINGS. Father Tomasz Jamka, pastor of Holy Apostles Parish, has been named the new chaplain and executive director of Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine, (CONU) the organization founded by Father Paul Wicker in the mid-1990s to help the Catholic Church in Ukraine rebuild after decades of Communist oppression.
Father Jamka is a native of Poland who was involved in missionary work in Ukraine starting in high school, when his geography teacher organized seven mission trips. The mission trips consisted of collecting donations of clothing, food and other basic needs and delivering them to Ukraine.
His own family also experienced persecution at the hands of the Soviet Communist Party, including an aunt who served four years in jail for refusing to teach Soviet propaganda as history.
Father Jamka’s calling to the priesthood was not easy but was clear. In church, he repeatedly felt a spiritual calling. It was a significant change from what he thought was his destiny.
Wanting to be a cardiologist, he had studied and passed entrance examinations to pursue the medical profession. Instead, he answered the divine calling and entered a seminary in Tarnow, Poland at age 19. He earned a license in theology.
Father Jamka arrived in the United States six years ago, speaking virtually no English. He served as parochial vicar at Ave Maria Parish in Parker before being named pastor of the Eastern Plains parishes of Our Lady of Victory in Limon, St. Mary in Flagler and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Hugo in 2020.
He was incardinated in the Diocese of Colorado Springs by Bishop Michael Sheridan.
In 2022, he was named pastor of Holy Apostles Parish and installed by Bishop James Golka on Sept. 25, 2022.
When the CONU Board of Directors asked Bishop James Golka for suggestions and assistance in finding a priest to fill the role of chaplain, which was vacant since Father Wicker’s death in 2021, Father Jamka seemed like a natural choice. He has inherent compassion for Ukraine and has already started filling the shoes of Father Wicker as pastor of Holy Apostles.
When asked about the future of CONU and its mission, Father Jamka said that he looks forward to a time when the organization can move beyond focusing on dire needs caused by the war with Russia and return to “working on spiritual aspects with our brothers and sisters in faith.”
His words mirror those of Father Wicker, who stated that CONU strove “to share both in giving and receiving the many gifts God has given us, experiencing a greater depth of our human dignity in the one Body of Christ.”
Hopefully, CONU will be able to assist again with recovery from Soviet oppression beyond diverting support to war refugees. Father Jamka said that he looks forward to returning to the mission of rebuilding churches, helping construct seminaries, assisting mothers in respecting the dignity of life, and similar projects which foster the restoration of faith in Ukraine.
For more information on CONU, visit www.conuhome.org.
(Jim Dalrymple is a member of the board of Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine.)