By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.- When Reverend Michael Kuchar turned 50-years-old he realized it’s time to step out and go on a mission— “it’s something I always wanted to do,” he said.
Now at 65 years old—Kuchar is stepping out once again.
After nine years as pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist, S. 7296 Gale Road, Grand Blanc, Kuchar will step away and divide his time between rural Michigan, Africa and Mexico.
Kuchar will not retire, rather be on senior status and work six months in Michigan then six months on missions.
“I love Michigan summers,” laughed Kuchar, an Owosso native, ordained following studies at Michigan State University, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, University of Detroit and St. John Provincial Seminary. He was ordained in 1980 at St. Mary’s in Lansing.
Prior to arriving in the township Kuchar served a five-year mission to impoverished Bolivia, El Salvador and Mexico.
“Even in real oppression, the people in those countries have a real sense of hope and happiness,” he said. “The biggest thing that happens when you go on a mission is you are changed for life. And God’s grace is abundant.”
Later this year Kuchar will head to Africa to become a sponsor for the parish of Our Lady of Angels in Nioro, diocese of Kaolack, about five hours from the capital of Senegal.
Kuchar has worked in Senegal before.
“About 85 percent of the slaves that left for the United States came from this area,” he said. “There’s a memorial there, on the small island of Goree.
The first time I went there I visited a memorial on the island. It’s similar to a concentration camp—I had those kinds of feelings. They pushed slaves on a ship from that island and that’s the last time they ever saw their home.”
Our Lady of Angels has many needs said Kuchar. For that reason he is spearheading a project to fill and ship a 40-foot container that can be shipped via truck or rail to New Jersey loaded on a ship bound for Africa. A typical 40 container can normally hold about 25-30 tons of goods stuffed inside (maximum).
Items such as bedroom sets, bikes, couches, chairs, bikes or are being collected at the church.
Kuchar will also serve “Unbound” as a preacher, about 15 weekends per year when he returns for summers in the United States. Unbound is an international nonprofit founded by lay Catholics that puts the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable first. Unbound goes beyond distributing material goods rather empowers families to become self-sufficient. Over the years more than Unbound has served more than 800,000 children, students and aging adults and currently works with more than 300,000 people supported by 260,000 sponsors.
“The mission of Unbound is to gain sponsorship for children and adults in developing countries,” he said. “They are currently 18 countries they serve.”
After his return from Africa in December he will return to Mérida the capitol of Yucatan, Mexico.
“Going back to Mexico is like going home,” he said. “I know the people, the language, no to mention I love the food. I lived there three years.”
“We are privileged in the United States,” he said. “I have an education; I have a US passport; I have US insurance. The first time something happens here, I can get on a plane and come home. They can’t.”
Kuchar emphasized the experiences serving in other countries has impacted his ministry over the last nine years here in the United States.
“I was able to share those experiences back here,” he said. “I have been a bridge.
“We call it reverse mission—it’s not about us riding in like a white knight and passing out money and building buildings,” he said. “It’s what we gain from the other culture. For me it’s the simplicity lifestyle. It’s really the importance of living in the now—they enjoy today. When they smile it’s contagious. The first thing I notice when I get off the plane in Senegal or Mexico is the liveliness of the people in conditions that by our standards are less than.”
“Back home in the United States I often hear people say, ‘I so feel blessed,’” he said. “Then I say, ‘Well what are you going to do with that? People say you’ve given me an opportunity to contribute in a direct way for a sister or brother around the world. I hope to continue that.”