by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you receive your vocation and with whom did you discuss it?
Father Charlie: I believe your vocation is given to you along with your creation, it is only afterward that you discover it or not. I discovered it when I met the Lord and fell in love with Him. If I had not met Him nor loved Him, I never would have discovered the meaning of my existence; I never would have given my life to someone unknown to me.
I never remember a time when I did not believe in God, but I do remember a time when I did not love Him. After all, it is one thing to believe in someone’s existence, another to love the one who exists, rejoice in their existence- something that God does with all of His creation, loving us into existence. When I was young, I had many questions about God and I pondered over them often. When I went to High School, these questions became my only concern. I wanted to know Him, to love Him, to be known by Him and to know I was loved by Him. This was an intellectual as well as an emotional journey and was mostly pursued within the inner room of my soul. I did not share these thoughts with almost anyone except my father, who guided me wisely. Going into my Senior year of HS is when I first recall considering the Priesthood. This is when I first discovered my vocation. As with every vocation given by God, it begins by coming to know and love the One who calls. Once you have formed this relationship, and only once you have done this, your life acquires meaning and you want to do what He wants.
Gordon: Where did you attend Seminary and what courses did you benefit most from?
Father Charlie: After High School, I went to St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola for four years, where I majored in Philosophy. After graduating, I attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, where I studied Theology for four years. This is the typical path for Priesthood; I simply followed. At St. Joseph I discovered a love for Philosophy in my first course, which I excelled at. My mind is just programmed philosophically, so I enjoyed all of the Philosophy classes I took, particularly Logic and Ethics, where I studied the book that changed my life: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Virtue Ethics was the answer to the moral relativism the culture ignorantly professed. Then the transition to Theology came easy, though I have always preferred the philosophical aspects of Theology.
Gordon: When were you ordained and where did you first serve?
Father Charlie: I was ordained on May 19, 2018, at Holy Name Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I then began my assignment on July 1 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. Since this is a pilgrimage site, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and be involved in their path closer to the Lord, particularly with the Sacrament of Confession, which we had every day except for Saturday. We had confessions at all of the Masses on Sunday except for the final one. This was awesome to be able to bring healing and guidance to so many people who were open to the touch of the Lord and His Mother.
Gordon: Why do you believe that Catholicism is losing more younger people?
Father Charlie: Of course there are so many reasons and answers that could be given, but I believe that any response must include both the guilt of the Church and the culture. The Church has spent 50 years trying desperately to appeal to the culture, like a kid to his older brother- “Please love me! Please listen to me! Please spend time with me!” After a while, this gets annoying, if it wasn’t already from the beginning. And it makes the older brother turn even further away. Instead of trying to appeal to the culture and change what we are to look good, the Church should be who She is, the Body of Christ instituted our Lord to save the world. We have been hiding the Church’s true identity to not seem too harsh, to seem nice, welcoming, and all those other ubiquitous keywords that no one ever defines clearly. But it is not nice to conceal the truth from people, in fact, that is the least “nice” thing one could do. And this method has not worked at all. More and more people of all ages have stopped coming to Mass, stopped going to confession, stopped baptizing, stopped marrying, and therefore stopped relating to God as He has commanded us to.
But the blame cannot be placed solely upon the Church. The culture that we have been imitating instead of informing has abandoned God. As I said before, it is nothing special to believe God exists; Satan believes the same (James 2:19), so if all you do is believe that He exists and do not worship Him, you have a brother, just as Abel did. Faith is acting upon what you believe. So if you believe God exists and do nothing about it, then you have belief, but the faith you do not have. And that is what we are living in: a faithless age. Your belief in gravity changes the way you live does it not? You do not simply walk off a cliff and expect to keep walking until you arrive at your bed. No. Because you believe gravity exists, you live a certain way. Your belief in God’s existence much determines your life infinitely more.
Are there good things in the culture that should be accepted? Absolutely. But it has not worked to spend all our time in the motherly role of encouragement and positive reinforcement, we must also be a father and correct where our children have gone astray because they are killing their souls. It is not loved to leave someone in a pit because you do not want to hurt their feelings and let them know that they are in a very dark pit; love is to help them out of the darkness and bring them into the light. It is not doing anyone a service to tell them that they can do whatever they want because innerly they are oriented toward God. One needs to be taught what is right and wrong. We teach children this. Why do we not continue as one age?
The culture has taught young people that freedom is found in avoiding responsibility at all costs. And the Church has gone along with this. If we want to bring back the youth we need to start teaching that freedom is found not in avoiding responsibility, but in taking it up; that in hardship and mission you find who you are and discover the freedom of the truth that Jesus is.
Gordon: Please provide an overview of the summer you spent at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico.
Father Charlie: This was an awesome summer. There were about 400 kids in the orphanage, I believe. When school was in session, I spent a large part of the day teaching Catechism classes to various grades. After class, I would play basketball, soccer, and volleyball with the kids, or just hang out with them in the common area and talk and play other games. Thankfully there were two seminarians with me, Max and James, who were taking Spanish lessons, so we supported each other and often prayed together. But I had very little time apart from the kids, almost all of my waking hours were spent with them. And I found happiness in giving myself away in love for them, as Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25). You do not find meaning in holding your life selfishly within, but in giving it away in love; in this Entrega you find yourself. This summer was only the living out of the vocation God had given me.
Gordon: When were you appointed Associate Pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in Orland Park, Illinois, and what have you found most rewarding at the parish?
Father Charlie: I was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Michael’s on October 1, 2019. Being the only Spanish-speaking Priest, I have had the joy of serving and getting to know the Spanish-speaking congregation each Sunday. There are 500 kids in the school, so it has been fun celebrating Mass for them and seeing them at lunch period. I still have to get in and teach some classes. We also have a large religious education program. I had the joy of doing a holy hour for the kids in this program and their parents, with Eucharistic Adoration and Exposition. Adoration is something that has died out for many years, and I am glad to see and help it come back. I believe that it is key in bringing people into an encounter with Jesus, to help them to know Him as He truly is and not what the world tricks us into thinking He is. It was and always has been central in my Priestly vocation.
Gordon: Your parents recently received an award from Cardinal Cupich. What was the award for?
Father Charlie: My parents, Dan and Dorothy Plovanich, received the Christifideles Award from Cardinal Cupich, an award given to laypeople for their response to the Baptismal promise to be faithful to Christ and His Church. My parents have been faithful to Christ by serving in my home parish, Queen of Angels, for almost 30 years. My mom is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and my dad is that as well as a lector and head of the RCIA program, through which he has helped many seeking souls enter into the Church of Christ. Many faithful souls like them around the world serve the Lord day after day without any recognition, so it is nice to have this type of encouragement to help them to keep following the Lord and doing His will. But they and all of the faithful will never know the full impact they have had until they meet the Lord face to face.
Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional Interview.