PITTSBURGH — Father Marek Visnovsky and his wife, Miriam, made history when they arrived in Cleveland from Slovakia in 2004.
“I give Bishop John Kudrick credit for bringing us over as the first married Ruthenian couple in the United States in 75 years,” said Father Visnovsky during a conference he and his wife gave at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Feb. 9.
The conference, intended for seminarians and their wives or girlfriends, was streamed live.
The couple shared the story of their courtship, engagement and marriage and offered some tips and advice for dating while in seminary, as well as for parish ministry as a married priest family.
They spoke of the need to find a “healthy balance” between parish ministry and family life.
“As much as the parish family needs you, you need to be there for your family as well. You need to have a healthy family,” said Father Visnovsky, adding that his parishioners have always been understanding when he has had to reschedule a visit or a meeting because one of his three children was ill.
Father Visnovsky also told seminarians they need not be “under the impression that you have to go (every time someone calls) and don’t care what your wife and kids feel.”
“If people see ‘father’ in you, they will have a different approach to you,” he said.
That said, Miriam has never told him he cannot go to a meeting, a church service or a hospital visit, he said. Despite the demands of family, married priests can still be there for their parishioners, he insisted.
Miriam said the life of the married priesthood is “beautiful” and a “privilege,” but it “brings its challenges” and “it’s not for every girl.”
“We are an ordinary family with the same problems — or more — than other families. People will have expectations but you need to be yourself,” and that includes the children, said Miriam. For example, “it’s okay” if a priest’s son doesn’t want to serve at liturgy, she said.
Miriam’s career is not in the church; she works at a bank. Her contribution to the parish is in the form of organizing charitable projects, children’s liturgy and socials.
While the rectory is always open for guests, Father Visnovsky said it is also “very important to have privacy” and a place “to rejuvenate.”
He urged the seminarians not to be bothered by parishioners who criticize their wives; Miriam urged wives not to be jealous of their husbands, who will be “surrounded by other women” seeking pastoral care.
In the end, the married priesthood, like any other marriage, is not about being happy or successful, but about being faithful, he said.
“You’re there to support each other...to make the other person happy, doing whatever for the sake of the other,” he said.
Currently, the Eparchy of Parma has eight married priests and two married men in priestly formation.