Father Robert F. Tywoniak M.Div., M.S.W., C.S.W.M


Born April 8, 1957 in New Jersey, he moved to Florida with his family around 1970, settling in St. Vincent Parish in Margate. He was ordained in 1983 and served for 10 years as director of Catholic Charities' Child Welfare Division here in South Florida. He has a master's degree in social work and is nationally certified as a social work manager and pastoral counselor. Father also has done graduate study in the area of Leader of Song in the Liturgy. He has advocated to both the national and state legislatures on behalf of children and families during a twenty year affiliation with the Child Welfare League of America. Father also has much experience in being a hospital chaplain and still makes weekly visits to Plantation General Hospital where he is a member of the ethics committee.

When he knew he wanted to be a priest:
During his first year of business and pre-law studies at Stetson University, while attending a retreat: me "It was as if a voice was saying to me, "Be a priest, be a priest." It was quite audible to me. It was just a very strong urge or message. Finally, I believe I actually said it out loud. I said, "All right, damn it, I'll do it"! That I am a priest, that I responded to that call, is one of the things that proves to me there is a God! Why would I have thought of it? Why would I do such a thing?"

Hobbies:
He is a runner (five miles about three times a week) and likes to sing in the Liturgy. He enjoys all types of the arts and sports. "These show the beauty humankind is capable of producing and accomplishments possible when working together. They counter greed and war that humankind is also capable of."

Favorite TV series:
"The West Wing"; probably the most accurate program you're going to see when it comes to the freneticism of government".

What he would be doing if he had not become a priest:
Most likely a lawyer. " would have worked in government. Not necessarily elected office. I would have tried to put together systems that best serve people.". His father had been a city councilman and police commissioner in New Jersey.

Happiest times as a priest:
His ministry from 1984-1988 at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami, because of what he learned from the late Msgr. Gerard LaCerra's leadership, the bonds of camaraderie among the staff and the generosity of the parishioners. "We didn't have hot water in the winter. We didn't have air conditioning in summer. We used to fight the roaches for breakfast in the morning."

Role of priests and laity:
Collegial. "The clerics are in charge of running the business of the Church. But the laity are in charge of running the business of the world."

His 10 years in Catholic Charities Child Welfare:
"God has a weird sense of humor. He called me to be celibate and made me the father of hundreds of kids a year.” The job entailed dealing with abused and neglected children and their parents: "We were the God committee. Because we had to decide very often who was going to be a family and who was not going to be a family. We were asked to play God and boy did we ask for God's help."

His involvement in the community:
Father Bob has served on the board of the Urban League of Broward County, on the ethics committee at Plantation General Hospital and on the coordinating committee for Broward County's Million Meals organization. "The Gospel is not just a bunch of words in the pulpit. It has to be brought into action."

 

 

An excerpt from an interview in The Florida Catholic, September 18, 2003



Greatest joy:
"The best time of the week is the Sunday Liturgy. Everything else makes no sense without the Liturgy."

Most difficult aspect of being a priest:
"Dealing with the drain of being on duty 28 hours a day 8 days a week. You never stop being a priest."

Regrets:
"There have been periods in my life when I've questioned. I've looked back and felt the angst of what if I had married and had kids? After a long day, to come home and have my beautiful wife waiting for me with dinner. And then I think, get real! Because that's just a fantasy, too."

Things he most fears:
"I've faced death on many occasions during my ministry." The worst moment perhaps was weathering Hurricane Andrew at St. Anne's Residence and Nursing Center in south Miami-Dade, protecting all the children of the Child Welfare Division and the residences of the facility, 400 hundred souls. "You can't watch a building fall apart around you and not think you're going to die." He had often wondered how he would react to death, and thought of the martyrs. When it hit him he might die that day, "a great sense of peace come over me. Then I understood the martyrs. Then I went back to doing what needed to be done."

What he does on his day off:
"As my good friend and a very dedicated priest, Fr. Hoyer, said, "catch up with work."

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