Fr. Adam Kotas
Father Adam Kotas, Pastor, Divine Mercy Catholic Church (PNCC), Las Vegas, NV
I was born in Poland during the height of Godless communist repression when there was nothing in the stores and people had to wait in long lines for basic necessities which were rationed like they are today in Venezuela or Cuba. Seeing and experiencing suffering from an early age, especially the struggle of my parents to put food on the table, has given me a heart that empathizes with the suffering human being. Compassion and understanding and infusing hope and love to hurting people are my mission as a priest. I use humor and the gift of my boisterous and infectious laughter to lift people up from whatever depressing or anxious situation they may find themselves in. God has given me many gifts and one of them is a unique ability to put people at ease and make them forget their troubles as they come to church to be re-fueled and re-energized to keep going, to keep walking!
Each of my sermons or Bible Studies or retreats or classes or talks is laced with The Good News of God’s love and Mercy and the ever soothing and abiding presence of our loving God. I always say that “at the end all will be well” quoting one of my favorite Saints, Julian of Norwich, because as the Bible says, “if God is for me, who can be against me.”
I invite you to check me out, especially if you haven’t been to church in a long time; give it a try! You might like it! I understand that many times people find Catholic Churches to be boring, and more often than you realize, sermons are “canned,” pulled off of the internet from other preachers or priests or a sermon service and read to the worshipers, who to no one’s surprise, get nothing out of them! I begin my sermon prep a week before I deliver it. I pray and meditate over the scriptures for a given Sunday, and I search for stories and consult many resources to make sure I can deliver a meaningful, useful, and convicting homily each Sunday when you make the time and effort to come to church. I don’t take you for granted, which can be the case in many Catholic parishes where your presence is expected because it’s your obligation to be there, where you as a lay person are expected to pray, pay, and obey. At Divine Mercy Catholic Church, Mass is never an obligation, it’s a celebration and you are not a number on a church envelope but a special, cherished, and wanted child of God. I want you! God wants you. Come! Please come. I need you! God needs you. Together we can work beautiful miracles to grow faith in the desert.
Childhood in Poland
From an early age, I felt a calling to the priesthood; it’s what everyone in my hometown in Poland says. At my first Mass the town representative in her speech said that I was a different child always being interested in people's lives and knowing people’s names and even the names of all the animals in the town. I was always an extra sensitive person having unique abilities to empathize with people’s pains and hurts and struggles, something that marks my priesthood to this very day. I am interested in your life because I love you and this I learned in that small town in Poland where we all struggled in the midst of communist repression and immense poverty, but we supported each other. We were a community, and you cannot do Christianity without community hence why any church I Pastor emphasizes the need to build community.
I am convinced that it was my time living in Poland where we had no running water, no bathroom in the home, and we all slept together in one room and one bed during the long bitter winters – and where we took our weekly baths whether we needed it or not; that it was this time and all the other times of struggle and suffering that made me who I am today. I thank God for this small-town experience and you while I have been taken out of that small town, the small town hasn’t been taken out of me, which is why I will always treat you and care for you with those small-town Polish values where hospitality is paramount. For us in Poland the phrase “gosc w dom, Bog w dom” is engraved on our souls and heart and minds knowing that when “the guest arrives, God arrives;” and this will be your experience at Divine Mercy Catholic Church, with me and with all those helping me treating you as that unique, cherished, wanted image of God that you are!
Immigrant experience in Chicago
After immigrating to Chicago as a child, I grew up in an inner-city immigrant neighborhood; my mom who went to enroll me at the local Catholic school was told it wasn’t for me because we couldn’t pay the tuition. I went to an inner-city school where they had a bilingual program for children like myself who didn’t speak English thus I was in a class with all recently arrived immigrant children from Poland. Alongside my classroom we had classrooms for the recently arrived immigrant children from Mexico and other Latin American counties. The classes in English were mostly for the African American students who went to the school. It was a beautiful cultural experience where I got to mingle with children who looked different than me but had the same aspirations and longings and issues as I did. We may not have been able to communicate verbally but in the lunchroom or on the playground we all could speak the language of love as we played together, a language I try to speak every day and a language I know we can all speak; it’s the language of understanding and compassion and non-judgment, knowing that at our core we are all human beings with the same blood running in each of us. All of us, no matter our backgrounds, have the same Father who loves us the same.
I lived in a basement apartment in Chicago with my parents and my brother, we found our furniture on the alley that people threw out and little by little we even got a television and microwave. The apartment had almost no windows and no air conditioning, so the brutal hot and humid Chicago summers were ones to be remembered. My parents worked two jobs to make ends meet as they were paid very little and were taken advantage of as recently arrived immigrants with no English. It wasn’t the American people who took advantage of my parents but rather the more established Polish immigrants who had been in Chicago for some time and had businesses and spoke English who cheated them out of money taking advantage of their vulnerable status. My father many times was not paid at his work and my mom working as a cleaning lady many times was told she broke something or some other lie and worked for free. One horrible experience for my mother was working at an Embassy Suites hotel where the supervisor, a lady from Poland, would enter the rooms before she cleaned them and would steal the tips. The immigrant life is one I know in and out, which is why I have a heart for immigrants because I know their pain, I have lived it.
My next-door neighbors in my inner-city neighborhood in Chicago was a family from Mexico, and my best friend from the time I was a child grew up next to me also living in a basement apartment. I didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak Polish and neither of us spoke English but we had one thing in common: our faith; we were both Catholic and what united us was the Blessed Mother Mary; I knew I was ok when I saw a picture on their wall of our lady of Guadalupe, and he would later tell me he knew he was ok in my basement apartment when he saw the Black Madonna of Czestochowa on our wall, the picture my grandma gave me as I was leaving our small Polish town. We had a common momma! We all have a common momma! Our momma Mary.
From an early age, I felt a calling to the priesthood as I admired my parish priest in Poland. My generation of youth in Poland idolized and revered Pope John Paul II; we all dreamed of being like him. So, at the height of the Polish pope’s papacy and at the age of 14 I entered Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago’s downtown. I declared “I want to be a holy catholic priest” as I walked through the doors not realizing at the time I said this that “holy” means “different” from its Hebrew root and wow am I different. It is this difference that draws people to seek my ministry and so rather than complain or hide or shy away from this “holiness”, I celebrate it and thank God for it because it is this “difference” that has brought many people to experience God’s love through me.
I have a B.A. from Loyola University Chicago, graduating college in 3 years mainly due to all the college courses I took while in High School and scoring high on Advanced placement tests in different subjects which then gave me lots of college credit. My undergraduate degree from Loyola University Chicago is in both Philosophy and Spanish. Upon my graduation I entered the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in the suburbs of Chicago, where the very famous preacher, Bishop Robert Barron, was one of my professors. During my second year there two of my friends, young men from Poland who were brought to the United States by the archdiocese of Chicago under false pretenses, committed suicide. One of the young man Marcin Kozlowski, who was a classmate of mine, hung himself. The other young man threw himself down from a high-rise building. Young men were being lied to while being recruited in Poland for the seminary in Chicago being told that it would be easy for them to get ordained as priests in the United States and who didn’t want to come to America, so they came. When they arrived they were told unless they passed the TOEFL exam and acclimated themselves to the culture and surroundings they would be dismissed from the seminary which for a young man dreaming of becoming a priest his whole life was like a death sentence especially since their whole family in Poland was already expecting them to be priests. They couldn’t take the pressure and took their own lives. I, along with other Polish seminarians, protested this, as our friends were being murdered by a ruthless and compassion-less and lying system; but the powers that be cared less and so a few of us transferred to the Polish seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, Ss. Cyril and Methodius. This seminary was originally founded for Polish young men in the United States because the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t accept Polish candidates for the priesthood, discriminating against Poles seeing them as “dumb polaks” and unfit for higher studies and for the priesthood. It was this horrible experience of ecclesiastical abuse and other powerful experiences of how the institutional Roman Catholic system abuses people that has marked me from that time on.
My time at Ss. Cyril and Methodius seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan was a wonderful time of personal growth as I rediscovered anew the beauty of my roots and my Polish culture and our wonderful traditions and customs. I served in a number of parishes in the archdiocese of Detroit as a seminarian and deacon while studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood. At the same time as I pursued a Master of Divinity degree, M.Div., from the seminary, I also worked on a secular master’s degree. Thus, I have both a Master of Divinity Degree from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, MI as well as a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Detroit Mercy.
Early priestly ministry
I was ordained to the priesthood on May 22, 2010, by the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa. My first priestly assignment was at St. Francis Solano Parish in Sonoma California in the beautiful wine country region where I worked mainly in Hispanic ministry with the vineyard workers, the hospitality workers, the recently arrived immigrants trying to make it the very expensive boutique town of Sonoma. As is the case in many bureaucratic institutions, the Roman Catholic Church often treats people like just a number; since they needed to fill a spot they needed, they moved me after only 1 ½ years of ordained priestly life to Pastor my own congregation at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Calistoga, California. A Pastor, at the age of 27, still figuring out what I was doing! If that wasn’t hard enough with almost no priestly experience or life experience, after just months in Calistoga the bishop called me to transfer me to the most remote town you could ever image on the brutal but beautiful coast of California in Crescent City. When the bishop told me he was making me the Pastor in Crescent City I said “bishop, thank you so much for your confidence in my abilities,” to which he says, “Father Adam this is not a matter of confidence, this is a matter of necessity.” It was a very isolated life in Crescent city where it can rain for 100 days straight and there are huge periods of time with no rain; clearly this was a very depressing environment to be in, especially since I suffer from horrible asthma and allergies; my friend Cathy says that I turned into a “mucus producing machine” there. She and others witnessed how my health deteriorated there, and I asked to be transferred on doctor’s orders to a dry and arid climate conducive what my lungs needed otherwise I would just keep getting worse and worse. This is why I was moved to Las Vegas in 2015.
Las Vegas - St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Roman Catholic Church
As a young child in Poland, I suffered from respiratory diseases which left lasting damage on my lungs, and this is why I have severe asthma and allergies and breathing issues that are exacerbated by a damp and humid climate. This is why, for health reasons, I was transferred to Las Vegas, where I served as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Husband of Mary Parish. I was only there for a year and a half, even though I was doing fabulous work there with packed Bible Studies and Bible boot camps. Young people especially and those who were never interested in church were flocking to my Masses; strangely to me, this drew the ire of the Pastor and other local Roman Catholic priests who instead of learning from what I was doing blamed me for taking their people away. I was told “you want people to like you” and “you do things to endear yourself to people.” It seems those were not desirable characteristics for a Parochial Vicar in that parish. When I first arrived at St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Church, one of the parishioners told me that a very popular previous assistant pastor was kicked out just after months of being in the parish because the people liked him too much and the Pastor was jealous. She warned me but there was not much I could do because I don’t know how to make people not like me, I have to be myself. The Gospel is Good News and I want to be Good News not bad news. My heart bleeds for the priests who hate me; I pray for them every day and I wish them well and I feel sad that they see ministry as a competition for popularity and that for many in the institutional church it’s all about power and control and titles. No wonder so many people want nothing to do with religion. Frankly I don’t blame them, and after everything I have been through I want nothing to do with institutional religion either, I just want Jesus, I want faith. I want valid and legitimate and licit sacraments delivered and packaged in an inviting way.
It is very sad for me that so many ministers of the Gospel are “embittered moralists” who spew rules and regulations at people but forget to follow them themselves which is why I pray every day “God save me from religious people.” It was religious people and religion that crucified Jesus and it has been religion and religious people that have abused me in so many ways which is why I have dropped religion. The word religion means “to be enslaved”, it comes from the Latin “re-ligare”, to bind something, and so religion makes slaves out of people whereas Jesus frees us. I am free and in this freedom I have chosen to pursue ministry in a free church, the Polish National Catholic Church, a 100 % valid and legitimate and licit Catholic church with valid and legitimate and licit sacraments, all recognized as such by the Vatican.
Losing the battle, winning the war
It was no secret that I loved being in Las Vegas, and that hoped to become incardinated by the Diocese. Taking advantage of my personality to (successfully) sell memorial candles to the tune of 150,000 dollars, I was promised that when I sold these memorial candles I would get to remain at St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. Well… that promise was broken practically as soon as the last candle was sold! I was suddenly transferred after only 18 months, at the start of 2017, to another parish under the pretext that I speak fluent Spanish. I so very much wanted to remain at St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Roman Catholic Church but since I was not incardinated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas—meaning I had no rights or say in the matter—I was moved to another parish.
In life we may not win every battle, but we have to push forward, struggle and fight, and work hard with the truth as our guide to make sure we win the war.
Truth + work + struggle = success; this is the motto of the Polish National Catholic Church, and this is what I live by.
I was transferred from St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Roman Catholic Church to Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on the East side of Las Vegas where I began a wonderful time of ministry to the large and growing Hispanic community in Las Vegas. The dry and arid climate was a wonder for my respiratory health and my allergies, and I was taken off of all of my medications including my inhalers. In addition, the Las Vegas sun and the beautiful sunny people did a wonder for my overall well-being, and I thrived in Las Vegas as a priest and as a human being, making lifelong friendships with many fabulous people. As a celibate priest a man needs to have community; those without community will get in trouble, as we have seen with many who go down the dark path of destruction for lack of support and companionship and community. I am not a single man but a married man: I am married to the church, that is, all of you, my beautiful and wonderful and holy people of God. I need you. You are my family. I need people in my life in order to be healthy as a priest and as a person. The people saw how I excelled at all that I did with Bible studies and retreats and Bible boot camps and spirit filled liturgies in English and Spanish and this was all because my health both physical and mental was in order while living in Las Vegas.
Then the man-made rules of the institution came in and yanked me from Las Vegas- all because I was an un-incardinated priest in Las Vegas; which means I had no rights in Roman Catholic church in Las Vegas and had to go back to California. Sadly, deceit accompanied my leaving Las Vegas in June 2018. The people were told “Father Adam is on loan from California and his bishop wants him back” and that’s that, rules are rules; to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, it doesn’t matter that going back to California was detrimental to my health; what mattered was that I wasn’t a part of the clergy of Las Vegas and wasn’t wanted by the institutional leadership of the diocese, and that’s that. This ‘leadership’ put immense pressure on me to make sure I would tell the people that I wanted to go back to California, that it was my choice. I was threatened and the fear of God was put in me that if I did not do as they said they will strip me of my priesthood. I was literally on the verge of a mental breakdown, it’s a wonder they didn’t succeed in killing me by driving me to suicide with their mental and emotional and psychological and spiritual abuse. I am telling you all this so that you understand why I needed to leave the institutional Roman Catholic system; because it was either I continue to submit to their abuse and be driven to a dark state in emotional and psychological life or I leave the holy priesthood. I had no choice. I was abused by the institution as so many have been. I was left with no choice when I left Las Vegas back in 2018 but to go back to the Santa Rosa Diocese in California or else face expulsion from the priesthood.
Those who know me can feel in their heart that there is nothing dearer or more precious to me than my priesthood, and so under immense threat and pressure I wrote a letter agreeing to go back to California. It was either go back to California or quit being a priest. The Santa Rosa diocese literally exiled me to the remotest town ever in the mountains of Lake County California. Clearlake is the most impoverished city in all of California, where drug production is the main staple of the economy. Lake county is the most impoverished county in all of California. When I was sent there I was told to stay off of social media and I was not allowed to broadcast any of my Masses or Bible Studies lest the people of Las Vegas have access to any of my teachings or ministry. Can you imagine? Keeping people away from the Good News of Jesus Christ! If that isn’t the work of the devil, I don’t know what is. So many people hungry for the Good News, hungry for compassion and meaning and hope, and the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church doing their hardest best to keep people from receiving this Good News. Shameful behavior. Diabolical behavior. But I excelled in my ministry in Clearlake and in Lake County during my 3 years there.
Ministry in Lake County California
For 3 years I tried my best to remain in the northern California weather pattern pastoring Queen of Peace Church in Clearlake, California, and St. Joseph Church in Middletown in rural lake county, the most impoverished and drug infested county in all of California. It was during this time that I became the tamale making priest, perfecting the art of making tamales to pay the bills of the church. I traveled hundreds of miles around the county in very treacherous terrain, in the mountains with winding roads, visiting parishioners and anyone everyone who needed my ministry. Fire after fire with ashes falling and having to breathe in the ashes caused me to be put on a myriad of respiratory medications; during the winter months with the rains and the cold weather my hands and feet began to go numb. It was clear for physical health reasons which then affect mental health as well that I could not remain in California and needed a dry and arid climate to function well.
Since clearly the Roman Catholic church did not care or want me for anything other than to fill a spot, why should I try to remain in an institution that not only did not want me but did everything it possibly could to abuse me. I knew that I couldn’t remain in Lake County California and I prayed for the Lord to show me a way to be able to continue serving as a valid, legitimate, and licit Catholic priest offering valid and legitimate and licit sacraments of the Catholic faith in a valid, legitimate and licit Catholic Church recognized as valid and legitimate and licit by the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States; this is the case of the Polish National Catholic Church whose validity and legitimacy and liceity is unquestionable and all one has to do is just a little research and reading online to find out just how valid and legitimate and licit Polish National Catholicism is.
Online ministry-born out of the pandemic
The pandemic forced the closing of churches and the need for transmitting masses online. Starting with Palm Sunday vigil 2020, I began broadcasting masses on my public Facebook page, which I had set up in 2018 because my personal Facebook page had too many friend requests. With the help of technology and some good and generous people, I was able to get decent camera and computer equipment installed at my parish in Clearlake; my “online ministry” was well received, and I also did online bible studies during the pandemic in both English and Spanish. To my continuous surprise, the number of people following and participating in the online ministry (masses and bible studies, and several retreats) grows and grows, and by the time I returned to Las Vegas to organize Divine Mercy Catholic Church, hundreds of thousands of people were connecting to live and recorded videos.
Joining the Polish National Catholic Church
God is good all the time and all the time God is good; and when a door closes God opens many windows and one of these windows is the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC), a valid and legitimate and licit Catholic Church, recognized as such by the Vatican, with clear Apostolic succession ensuring valid and legitimate and licit sacraments. I fit right into this branch of the Catholic tradition first because I am from Poland but also because this church was organized in the late 1890s to respond to the needs of a hurting people who were hungry for hope; the PNCC was organized to provide spiritual care to people who felt uncared for by the Roman Catholic Church, they felt ignored and that their needs didn’t matter to the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church. Father Francis Hodur responded to the needs of the people who wanted preaching in a way they could understand by clergy that spoke their language and understood their needs by understanding where they came from and being sensitive to their culture, customs, and traditions. As a priest I am extra sensitive to the suffering and the struggles of the people of God because I, myself, have suffered and struggled being an immigrant, living under communist oppression in Poland, growing up in poverty in Poland, experiencing the immigrant life having to learn English and adapt to a new way of living; being bullied in school, going through the experience of my parents bitter divorce, the list could go on! I have a heart for the hurting man and woman!
On July 20, 2021, I was incardinated into the Polish National Catholic Church, as a priest of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese. My bishop assigned me to Las Vegas, where I am now the Pastor of Divine Mercy Polish National Catholic Church (d.b.a. Divine Mercy Catholic Church.) My priesthood fully intact in this new Catholic home, I am happy to be the organizing Pastor of this parish, and to tell this story of Truth + Work + Struggle = Success, the motto of the Polish National Catholic Church.
There should be no doubt about whether or not you can go to a Polish National Catholic Church, as even the Vatican and the United States Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops says that the Polish National Catholic Church is a valid Catholic church. This is very important to me because I wanted to make sure that I joined a church that was 100 % Catholic, and this validity is recognized by the Vatican. I did not change religions. The Polish National Catholic Church is a Catholic church just like the Roman Catholic Church is a Catholic Church; it’s just a different tradition, a different way of being Catholic, but it’s the same faith. When you come to the Polish National Catholic Church you are not changing religions. You are Catholic. Period.