Deacon John Sawchenko,

7th Year at PRS

I grew up in San Diego, California in a small family of four. I loved being active, playing sports, but above all, I loved skateboarding. After attending UC Santa Cruz, I received a BA in History. I worked after college as a delivery driver for a small Italian restaurant for two years before I felt called to the priesthood.

When did you first think that God might be calling you to be a priest?
After I graduated from college I had no idea which career path to take. I ended up working at a restaurant for a few years with hopes that I would save some money and discover the next step for my life’s journey. But I ended up using that time in my life to party with friends and drink a lot of alcohol. It seemed I was moving backwards instead of forwards. Deep in my heart I was really suffering and I felt lost and without hope for my future.

At age 24, I had been living so badly, drinking so much, wasting money, and I became very depressed. This depression worsened and led me into a mental health crisis which would change the direction of my entire life. I discovered at that time I had bipolar disorder. It was the darkest and most difficult time of my life, but it led me to call upon Jesus for help. I had been away from my faith and religion for six years. When I prayed and spoke the name of Jesus I felt an immediate response of a profound peace and light flow through me. It was the first sincere prayer I could remember praying for many years, and it was the most direct experience I had ever experienced of Jesus. This experience of Christ became the foundation for my life as I know it today.
Afterwards I began attending Mass daily at a Benedictine Monastery, where I found the profound peace and light of Christ continue in the Masses I attended. Upon walking into the Monastery Church, the silence, scripture, and liturgy impressed the power and love of God upon me. The prayers and readings seemed to speak directly to me. During this time I repented of the life of sin I had lived in confession to one of the Monks there. I also saw a psychiatrist who prescribed medication which restored me to good health. I felt like a new person, and as I encountered several monks and priests a calling became clear to my heart. I knew that I wanted to do what they were doing. I wanted to live full time for Jesus. It was several priests who heard my confessions and counseled me who showed me how important and meaningful the life of a priest truly is.

Why did you choose the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts?
I knew of two Sacred Hearts priests in California, and they both left a strong impression upon me of the love of Christ. Their charism to me was clearly one of love. I had discerned also being a Benedictine monk, but at that time I came to feel called to minister in the world, not in the cloister. I recognized Christ so strongly in these two men. I think they are the reason I became a Sacred Hearts’ religious.

Favorite hobbies and/or fun fact about yourself:
I follow professional skateboarding very closely.

Favorite Bible passage: Proverbs 3:5
"Trust in the Lord wholeheartedly, put not faith in your own perception."

Your favorite saint: St. Therese, the little flower.