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Fr. Derek Sakowski

I am a priest for the Diocese of La Crosse, WI, ordained in 2003. I taught high school for five years, spent four years in Rome getting my doctorate in Ecclesiology, and then eleven years as Pastor of St. Mary’s and St. Raymond’s parishes. Since 2017, I’ve been on quite a journey of spiritual and emotional healing. I discovered that I have a story, and began exploring it with curiosity and no small amount of grieving. I realized how much I had been engaging in “spiritual bypass” and shame-fueled perfectionism – putting lots of pressure on myself and even praying a lot, but avoiding some of the places of deepest heartache in my story.

Since 2020, I’ve undergone and continue to undergo trainings in the area of addictions and trauma – all of which emphasize the principle that you cannot lead anyone else where you yourself have not been willing to go. There is so much vital and insightful research in the last decade in the fields of neuroscience, trauma, and developmental psychology – and I have found that the research matches up amazingly well with the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and John Paul II. I am excited to integrate all that is good, true, and beautiful into our rich Catholic heritage.

More importantly, I desire for myself and others that we have the courage to be curious about our own story and humbly recognize the ways that our self-narrative has been less than truthful. The more fully, courageously, and truthfully that I have engaged my own story, the more I have been astounded at how much Jesus opens up a safe space for others to seek and find meaning amidst their own pain and struggles.

I am now Director of the “Rebuild My Church” Initiative for the Diocese of La Crosse. We seek renewal of our priests, beginning with our own human growth. It is incredibly exciting that several priests in our Diocese as well as in other places are eager and interested in engaging their story and becoming brave shepherds who, like Jesus, have gone there first.

I enjoy hiking, nature, nerdy board games, and deep conversations. Middle Earth and Narnia feel like second homes to me. I am a sucker for 80’s nostalgia, and absolutely love the TV series Psych.