Father Tony Baranowski S.J. enjoys serving Manitoulin

Father Tony Baranowski is the new priest at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in M’Chigeeng and the Church of Our Lady of Canada in Mindemoya. He is looking forward to reaching out into the community. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG—There is a new priest providing services at M’Chigeeng’s Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Church of Our Lady of Canada in Mindemoya, although he is no stranger to the Island or Northern Ontario having served here earlier in his career during the 1980s.

Father Tony Baranowski S.J. (Society of Jesus or Jesuit) was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland where he lived until 1977, but even while serving for 25 years in the African country of Zambia from 1989 to 2014, he would come back to Canada every couple of years to visit his brother who lives in the town of Simcoe.

While he was very happy in Zambia, where he worked in both urban and rural settings, medical issues brought him back to Canada in 2014. From 2014 to January 2015, Father Tony, as he is known on the Island, served in Hamilton, before moving to the Jesuit enclave at Anderson Lake just outside Espanola and taking up the mantle at the Island churches.

As mentioned, Father Baranowski is no stranger to Manitoulin and from the fall of 1983 to April 1985 he taught at the Pontiac and Junior schools in Wikwemikong as well as at Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng (then known as West Bay), before he left to finish his journey to ordination.

He did his novitiate in Guelph and continued his journey in Toronto and Spokane, Washington.

In 1988 he was ordained by Cardinal Emmett Carter, who was by then virtually an invalid, being already paralyzed, but the famed Canadian cardinal even then remained quite active in his ministry. One of Father Baranowski first celebrations of the mass was at Holy Cross in Wikwemikong.

Father Baranowski literally grew up in the shadow of the Jesuits. “Our parish was Jesuit,” he noted, and Warsaw is home to the major shrine of one of Poland’s patron saints Saint Andrew Bobola. Saint Andrew Bobola, S.J. was a Polish missionary and martyr of the Society of Jesus who is known as the Apostle of Lithuania and the “hunter of souls.” He was tortured and killed by invading Cossack warriors in 1657. The story of the fate of the saint’s remains reads like an espionage novel—being finally exchanged by the Soviets for the church’s assistance during a Russian famine—and provided inspiration to young Poles growing up in the church.

He pointed to the pioneers of the church in North America and Central Europe, who brought their deep faith and inspired conversion through their actions and the way they lived their lives. “We owe a lot to those pioneer trailblazers,” he said. That inspiration led him to his service in Africa.

Father Baranowski received his calling after coming to Canada and he said that he is particularly taken with serving in the priesthood in a “cycle of life” capacity through the sacraments, from baptism, confirmation through to the sacrament of the sick (formerly referred to as extreme unction or last rites) and burial.