Chester Borski was crushed.
It was 1970 and the recently ordained priest made a quick call to let Pastor Jack Davis know that the bishop had assigned him to his church.
“His first words to me were, ‘I didn’t ask for you,’” Father Borski recalls, “but I soon learned that he had spent several years enduring the ministry of a young priest about my age. Father Jack was simply exhausted from dealing with the priest’s nonconformist style of ministry.”
Father Davis quickly became the new priest’s mentor.
“He taught me so much about becoming a servant priest and a caring shepherd,” Borski said. “Without a doubt, I learned how to be a priest from this saintly man.”
Fifty years later, on Dec. 21, St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of their pastor, Monsignor Chester Borski – 50 years as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.
The parish is planning several events including a “meet and greet” after each Mass on Dec. 16 and 17, and a special Mass and luncheon at the Family Life Center on Dec. 21.
Borski is the sixth of nine children born to Vance and Lucy Borski. He was delivered by a midwife at home near Anderson, Texas on Feb. 26, 1941. His dad was a sharecropper and his mom a homemaker. The family moved many times until his dad was hired by the Texas Highway Department and the family was finally able to settle down in Hempstead.
Fifty years in the priesthood is quite a feat for someone who could have chosen a different path.
“When I graduated from Hempstead High in 1959, I had three choices,” said Borski, “study engineering on a scholarship at Texas A&M, apply to West Point Military Academy which my principal and superintendent encouraged me to do, or answer a call to the priesthood.”
In his younger days, Borski had thought God was calling him to become a priest. His mother and brother, Bernie, and his pastor at St. Mary’s in Hempstead all encouraged him.
These were critical decisions for a high school senior to make.
“I just felt I couldn’t make a decision about any of these choices,” Borski said.
He moved to Houston instead, working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift at the old F.H. Maloney Company.
“I bought a paperback New Testament, read it religiously and finally sensed over the next year that Jesus was indeed calling me,” Borski said.
He graduated from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, completed graduate seminary work in 1968 at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and was ordained on Dec. 21, 1967, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
In addition to his parish work at churches throughout Houston, Borski also was director and, later, vicar of religious education for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, as well as a spiritual director, vice-rector and, eventually, rector of St. Mary’s Seminary.
The bishop assigned him to St. Martha’s in July 2001.
“I knew very little about the parish or Kingwood, but the bishop assured me it was made up of very gifted parishioners and had the potential to be one of the most vibrant in the area,” Borski said.
St. Martha’s new pastor took the time to get to know his parishioners and allowed them to get to know him as well.
While Borski’s parishioners did not want to be quoted by name, they heaped praise on him for – among other things – creating or expanding and enriching St. Martha’s more than 100 ministries, a divorce support group, Boy Scout troop, newcomers and welcoming group, and even a quilters group.
The church’s most recognized and renowned ministry is Martha’s Kitchen, operating in downtown Houston. St. Martha’s volunteers prepare and serve hot nutritious lunches for 400 homeless and hungry men, women and children each weekday.
“We have these many ministries that benefit and support St. Martha’s as well as our entire community,” said one parishioner, “because Father Borski has the unique ability to encourage us to contribute by doing what we do best.”
When he arrived, the parish rolls numbered a little over 3,000 families. Today, St. Martha’s has 6,000, representing more than 20,000 individuals.
“The demands can be overwhelming sometimes,” Borski said. “Calls in the middle of the night to run to the hospital, reaching out to grieving families for a funeral, helping those who find themselves in a difficult situation, and needing to speak to a priest, all while celebrating the Sacraments daily and exercising the role of a CEO.”
Borski delegates the pastoral work to staff and volunteers so he can focus on his parish team, staff and various committees and councils.
“I probably spend too much time at work,” Borski admitted. “However, I enjoy a meal with friends and, at the end of the day, I like to catch up on the local sports teams.”
In his free time, Borski is an outdoorsman, enjoying hunting and fishing.
“For 25 years, I spent two to three weeks in a wilderness area in northern Wyoming with several priest friends,” Borski said, “camping out, hiking and fishing.”
He hunts in Texas with several priest groups and each year hunts elk and mule deer in Colorado.
“And behind the parish rectory, I have a small garden,” Borski said. “When I need to disappear for a few hours, I go there to grow tomatoes, green beans, peas, peppers, kale and okra.”
Borski credits his family, his many priestly brothers, and his parishioners to whatever success he has achieved.
“My parents, brothers and sisters all treat me as a member of a family that began in simple poverty, yet we’ve all made great contributions to the Church,” he said. “The priests with whom I’ve shared life and ministry have offered me boundless support, and those I’ve served have kept me humble and grounded in humanity and have challenged me to be the priestly servant they need as a pastor.”
He never thought he could endure the first five years of priesthood, but Borski “… hung in there and the Lord has walked with me every step of the way.”
The child of a humble sharecropper earned graduate degrees from major universities in the U.S. and Europe, has personally met two popes, visited four continents and many countries. He was the first priest from Galveston-Houston to be sent to study at the Vatican. The Archdiocese now sends a priest to the Vatican each year.
“My bucket list is overflowing and being able to celebrate 50 years of priestly ministry is a blessing I did not think was possible,” Borski said.
When he retires as St. Martha’s pastor in June 2018, Borski will return to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston to serve as a spiritual director for those “… who chose to listen to an old man who has seen so much in his lifetime.”
He’ll also take time to visit family and friends and find time to hunt and fish.
He will be missed by his St. Martha family.
“I’ve heard it said that a priest, in his lifetime, can touch the lives of more than 60,000 people in a positive way,” said Borski.
“I don’t keep count but I know that I have been deeply touched by thousands of people of faith and have grown so much as a fellow believer because of their witness and example.”
The 6,000 parishioner families of St. Martha believe Borski has deeply touched their lives in the 16 years he’s served as their pastor and they’re ready to celebrate his Jubilee Dec. 21.