SpiritualEssay.docx (22.09 kb) (draft) - the final proof [5 pages] below will be submitted with application
“I am not a victim or statistic of life’s circumstances; I am a product of God’s grace”
- Bill Kratochvil
Family of Origin
I was born in the city of Queens, New York on November 19th, 1961. My sister, Nancy, was a couple of years older than I and would serve as my protector during tumultuous times; my earliest memories of my parents were of them fighting and smashing things, Nancy would cover me with her body as we hid under the bed terrified. Perhaps the final memory I had of us as a family was that of my father picking me up and throwing me through the air where I would slam my back/head against the wall. I remember the impact hurting as much as it did as I hit the floor. Their marriage would be short lived as my mother would be institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia. As to my father, he had no desire to care for us and as a result we would be turned over to an orphanage; I think that I was 5-6 years old at the time.
My mother has had the most impact on my spiritual life, it was because of her that I am forced not only to stay grounded (psychologically and spiritually), but also led to me becoming an atheist for most of my early life. As a ward of the Catholic Guardian Society of New York, I would have supervised visits with my mother through my younger years. There was only one time when I was permitted to live with her and I remember her taking me to a church where we would line up with everyone in the front. I would watch the pastor put his hand over each person’s head and they would start to shake, sometimes violently, and then fall back. When he got to my mother, she followed suite – then it was my turn. He raised his hand over my head and I was frightened “what was going to happen to me?”, after an awkward silence he literally slapped me in the forehead pushing me back into the arms of those behind me – it sent me a strong message “this is fake, a lie”. My mother would shortly thereafter send me back into the systems. I would never see her again.
My father was indirectly, and directly, responsible for me finding Christ. At approximately the age of 14 while at the Staten Island group home for boys I get a phone call. The man at the other end of the phone asked “do you know who this is?”, I respectfully replied “no” and he said “I am your father, I am coming to take you out of that place”. It would turn out that he needed me for labor, he was the super-intendent of 3 buildings in the slums of New York and he would assign me the task of sweeping, mopping floors, and taking out the trash for these buildings. He was a VERY angry and violent man which was compounded by alcoholism.
Whether at home, in the streets, or in school, I was not safe (particularly as the minority, 5% white); violence was the norm. It was nothing on the streets to get jumped by 3 or more people and beaten. At school racial tensions were high and due to the violence and a sense of futility trying to learn anything in class (the kids controlled the classrooms) I felt I had no choice but to drop out. The turning point in my life was when my neighborhood bully knocked on my door, punched me in my face, told my father he punched me in my face, and walked out of my home saying “see, you’re not safe in your own home”. It was one thing that my father beat me, it was another that he would not protect me – I was afraid.
To counteract this fear, I turned to the Bible; I was searching for strength. God wasted no time and started working immediately – the book of Job would be the first thing I read. I was entranced. The events that would “shortly” follow made God’s existence and love for me undeniable. My father would beat me publicly [for the last time], throw me down stairs, and tell me to never to come back. This would lead to a moment of homelessness where a couple literally picked me off the streets and took me to their home in Howard Beach NY (rich Italian neighborhood). The parish priest, Fr. Ignatius Catanello (Fr. Iggy), would ask a young man (who looked, dressed, and talked like Rocky Stallone) to put me under his wing. This young man ended up being a mafia king-pin of the streets and “no one” touched me – I was safe and protected. Fran and Allen Pollard would offer to put me through school, but I graciously refused and opted to work fulltime during the days and go to school at night. A year later I would get my GED and at the age of 17 joined the military. Once settled into a safe and secure lifestyle I then asked God: “can you give me a family”.
Rosie and I would have been married for 18 years had she lived another month; at the age of 34 she had been diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and 9 months later would pass away. She was 16 and I was 18 when we married (we dated for 4 months). Many thought we were too young to be married, however as an orphan all I ever desired was a sense of family. She [being far more damaged than I] felt the same - we were ready and committed. I thank God for her; we had a love that would heal us both.
Diane and I will be married 20 years on July 7th of this 2021. She was 40 and I was 41 when we met. She had lost her husband in a car accident six months earlier and was actually ministering to me (Rosie had been gone for 9 months). We would date for two years before we married; we purchased a home together where my daughter and her 3 children would live until we married. God was our center.
I have been so very blessed with strong wives; Rosie and I had to overcome many trials as she had been the victim of molestation from her step-father (with her mother’s knowledge). It would result in a pregnancy of a beautiful baby boy – Joseph. We were the black-sheep of the family as they would blame her. But I knew better; there was not one time where we had relations that she would not throw up afterwards. It’s amazing what you get used to, but after 5 years we would stop – by God’s grace I was faithful to her for the remaining 13 years of our lives together.
Diane and I were faced with equally turbulent trials. Where we could find consolation in each other, our children were devastated by the death of their parent and were in pain. Our friendship was fine with them while we were ministering to each other, but everything changed when we told them we had feelings for each other. It short-circuited their healing process, caused a lot of pain, and it complicated all of our lives. We always put the children first and leaned heavily on God to carry us [all] through.
All of the children [currently in our lives] treat us with love and respect; they all have a heart of gold, are sensitive, and are loving people. They have expressed their love for us, even when we don’t agree on things - particularly religion and politics. They know the bible, but the world has their focus and attention. They were not surprised when I shared with them that I was pursuing the Diaconate and the importance of the sanctity of our home. I “asked” that we all have an understanding that “the house” rules; if they are in our house – our rules apply (prayer and proper language), when in their house – their rules. We all agreed (and they still come to our house lol). I have faith that God will bring them back one day, even if we aren’t alive to see it; He has always blessed Diane and I for our faithfulness to Him.
~ Joseph, Rosie and my son, would die in a fire a few days before his 2nd year birthday. For the year I was blessed with him I got to look into the eyes of a young man that had such a powerful love for me, we had many bonding father and son moments. When Rosie and I first met at a disco, I had asked her for her phone number and as she handed it to me, she would not let it go. She looked me in the eye and said “I have a 1-year-old boy, if this is too much for you then do not call me”. He became my son.
~ Christina, Rosie and my daughter. A brilliant young lady (40 years old) who, the last time we talked, was earning over 100K a year as a software developer (I had her on the computer since she was 4 years old). I emphasized her entire life that she should be submissive to her husband and be obedient – it will make him a stronger man. I wish I had told her that he should have a job. He is a very controlling man that enjoys his computer games, sedentary lifestyle, and no responsibility. When my daughter called me crying that she didn’t get to see her young daughter walk for the first time I asked her why. She replied they could not afford their children so his parents were caring for them. I called her on it, she hung up crying, he then told her that they would no longer have a relationship with us; she is obedient to him. The blessing that came from this was she got her children back and seems to be happily married.
~ Patrick, Diane’s son, I have always felt like he was the son I lost (41 years old); Joseph would have been his age. He is a brilliant young man that has a heart of gold but issues with addiction. These issues continue to hurt him and us, but it doesn’t stop us from coming together on holidays and sharing love and laughter as a family. I broke a rosary praying for him, I have faith that God will watch over him.
~ Monica, Diane’s daughter, a beautiful 35-year-old women that told me once that the death of her daddy tore the fabric of her universe. She was 14 at the time and I promised her that I would not marry her mother until I had her permission. Every few months I would ask and she would promptly reply “no”. Two years later I would ask and she replied “no”, paused, and then asked if it could wait until after easter since it was so important to her dad. I then asked her if I should take her daddy’s name, otherwise her mother and brother would take mine; I would not have a name different than my family. She would later respond “as hard as it would be to see you take my dad’s name, it would be harder to see my mother and brother lose it – please take his”. I then asked her grandfather for his permission to take his name and he cried saying “I didn’t know so much good could come from so much tragedy”. Monica would be our maid of honor and one of her uncles my best man. I am a Kratochvil.
~ Robert, Diane’s son, a handsome and talented man (29 years old) that has a God given voice that I have watched bring people to tears (singing during recitals). I am the only father he remembers and am “the rock and constant” in his life, at least I was until he met his current girlfriend [they are very much in love]. He has had harsh experiences with priest and deacons that have pushed him away from the church; nothing tragic, but unfair and rude. I pray that by my example he will return to the faith.
I thank God daily for our good health [and other blessings]. Diane and I are feeling our age and growing old gracefully together. Fortunately, doctor’s visits result in good reports. I enjoy my daily walks with our Yorkie-chon (we walk about 1.7 miles). I also enjoy working out with Bob, an upper-torso dummy, where I train in martial arts. Diane enjoys daily mass and will go to the gym afterwards to work out.
I’ve always had to take a pragmatic approach to education, I take the courses necessary to achieve the goals at hand, e.g., I completed English courses so that I could write military performance reports, algebra to aid in programming algorithms, and extensive management courses so I could lead, etc.
I have an extensive education, nothing that amounts to a degree (which has not been an issue).
Successes and Failures in Life
Having joined the Air Force at 17, and given a new lease on life, I was driven by the blessings bestowed upon me and I hit the ground running. I excelled as a Jet Engine technician and computer programmer. I took a computer course (where I built my first computer) to learn electronics which aided me in troubleshooting jet engines – these skills would advance me to the Jet Engine test facility where I would become fully certified on installed and uninstalled jet engines. God was watching over me.
During my professional career I always saw ways to automated tasks for various offices to make their lives easier - I would write programs for them after hours. My skills and reputation would advance me to positions where I could better serve organizations to a point where I worked directly for the Wing commander – a position created for me which is not generally done in the military. When I exited the Air Force, the Wing commander awarded me the Air Force Commendation medal for the services rendered as small computer manager for the wing.
God sometimes requires us to walk through fire...
After Rosie passed away, I relaunched B&R Computer logic, a business we formed together. We had shut it down after the Abilene Area Wide phone book corporation offered us a full-time position; the CEO was happy with a lead management system I wrote and offered us a deal we could not refuse. God blessed the relaunch, more specifically I won a contract to develop software for a telecommunication company as well as numerous web sites for other clients. It left me in a place where I had to have help. I turned to Rosie’s prayer group leaders, the couple that prayed over Rosie each week for her healing. Long story short, they would quit their jobs, pay themselves each $400 a week, and in essence steal the money I was earning. When the smoke settled, $18k was gone and I was responsible to the IRS for $5,000 dollars. I told a local computer repair company that they could have me for minimum wage, IF I could finish the application that I promised the telecommunication company and support it along with the websites I committed to. They agreed, I was destitute – but I was honorable to my word.
The Catholic Guardian Society of New York failed me at many levels, perhaps the most significant was in my faith. Until “I found” Christ I remember Church as a place to sit-down, stand-up, kneel-down, rinse and repeat. I had no real understanding of my faith and would only later develop a personal relationship with Christ based on my understanding and interpretation of the bible. I mostly attended protestant services as they were the only ones that invited me – until Diane (my wife).
It was after she had ministered to me for many months [and I had fallen for her] that I inquired on the type of man she could be interested in and she replied “I can only be with a Catholic”, I replied “I’m Catholic!”. With her guidance, I started attending retreats, daily Masses, and scripture studies. She introduced me to Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, with the most memorable [in person] with Fr. Mitch Pacwa in Dallas, Tx. I had a lot to learn and she was a great teacher and guide.
I would learn that the Catholic church is the only true church. In reading books like “Four Witnesses" I had thee epiphany that Christ was real; that there were countless documents in the first 300 years to support the existence of Christ. During the Arian Heresy many would be martyred raising the question in my mind “who would die for a lie?”. The science and analytical parts of me challenged new truths, at least until I thought of infinity – if I could fly in a spaceship forever, where would I end, then what would be after that, and then that - an impossible concept. As such, the analytical atheist in me is dead - I belong to Christ and trust I will be taught how to evangelize His Word.
God has been relentless in proving his existence in my life; I am a respected programmer with a GED working with professionals that have PHD and master degrees, I have been blessed with wonderful woman and children, I’ve been blessed with success throughout my life and professional career. He has chosen me, I will follow.
For countless years I would tell Christ, particularly after communion, “use me as your instrument; let me be your hands and feet – as long as I don’t have to suffer” (his people have a tendency to suffer).
Then I lost my daughter and grandchildren [because of her controlling husband] – I was very angry at God (my family bloodline was now gone). The church would ask me to be an assistant for a retreat; the facilitator would fail to show up and I would have to manage the table of 8 people. Introductions started with everyone proclaiming their love and commitment to Christ and how blessed they were; inside I was angry thinking how hard “my” life was. By the retreats end I would learn that man to the left of me was homeless (he lost his family), some had chronic pain/illness, others their spouses were ill – God surrounded me with broken and faithful people. My cross was the smallest: I had my health, a beautiful wife, successful job, children who loved and respected me. I was humbled.
After the retreat, during Mass, I told Christ “use me as your instrument; let me be your hands and feet – even if I must suffer”. Within a few months our contract (of 9 years) would end abruptly, we would lose everything and end up in my sister-in-law's bedroom for 4 months. He was about to use us.
While at an adoration hour with the School Sisters of St Francis, I would meet the IT Director of Maxor, we were blessed with a local contract and subsequently was able to find a nice rental home. Shortly thereafter Diane would stop by a priest's room at the hospital with a friend. While there, Fr. Marianna’s mother (from India) would ask Diane if she could take care of her son, from mother to mother. For months the doctors could not find a diagnosis (and did not know whether it was contagious or not), Diane did not leave his side. After discharged from hospital he would live with us for months as we cared for him and took him to specialist in Dallas and Fort Worth. Father loved Paul, and taught me “how to live until I die”; living for Christ fearlessly. He would return to India and pass away (http://Di-ForGod.com); they never found a diagnosis in the U.S. or India.
During covid, when everything was shut down, we would volunteer for funerals that our priest would have the courage to open his doors for [their Churches would not]. A family of 60 for a small baby that died and another family lost two family members to covid; Diane would cook the food and we would serve the families.
I thought often of Christ and Fr. Damien and their love for the lepers. It gave me courage to hug the homeless, pray over very angry young men, and care for Father Marianna and those families that lost loved ones (covid or not); God wants us to serve. “I will live until I die.”