Voice of the Notre Dame Prep Saints

The Seraphim

Do you know Dr. Matuszak?

A glimpse into the life of new theology teacher

Mr.+and+Mrs.+Matuszak+on+their+wedding+day+in+1989
Mr. and Mrs. Matuszak on their wedding day in 1989

Mr. and Mrs. Matuszak on their wedding day in 1989

Mr. and Mrs. Matuszak on their wedding day in 1989

Sophie Rodriguez, Staff Writer

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The names Nicholas Sparks and Stephen Matuszak might not seem to have much in common, but both have quite the love story to tell. After all, not many people can claim to have met their spouse in a monastery.

Somewhere between a film-worthy romance, a sequence of educational merits and a model of discipleship, Dr. Stephen Matuszak’s life experiences thus far have spanned more realms than most.

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Whiteboard caricature of Dr. Matuszak drawn by student Mallory Walker

Folding his hands behind his head and leaning back in his rolly chair, he jokes, “Free time? You mean like the 30 minutes I have?”

When he is not fulfilling his various duties as a new Theology and Philosophy teacher at Notre Dame Prep, Dr. Matuszak enjoys camping, hiking, playing the banjo and guitar and watching sports like soccer and football.

But there is much more to his story than that of the average outdoorsman.

For one, his mind seems to double as a Catholic encyclopedia. He spouts off religious tongue-twisters like the “Olivetan Congregation of the Pecos Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe” as though reciting the contents of his lunch, and he references saints like they are close personal friends.

According to one of his senior Theology students Haley Kenner, he teaches to a high level that students have found somewhat challenging. She describes him as old-fashioned and thorough, and says that “he knows his stuff.”

As he speaks, his eyes light up behind his thin, rectangular frames, accentuated by his expressive brows. In between every phrase or so a half-smile appears on his face, as though he is unable to contain his enthusiasm.

Charismatic is the word that Father John Parks, campus chaplain, uses to describe Dr. Matuszak. “He really loves the Lord.”

 

He appears to have a steel trap with regards to chronology as well as theology, seamlessly recalling the dates of all of his educational milestones and the names of the several institutions he has been involved with over the years:

He earned his M.A. in 1992 from the University of Dallas, worked on his thesis at the John Paul institute in D.C. from 1995-97, defended his Sacred Theology License in 2000, began teaching at the College of St. Thomas Moore near TCU and in 2005 was hired by Our Lady of Grace high school in the diocese of Fort Worth.

He taught high school for four years and college for a total of 10 years. He has also spent time as a dean of students and has developed online Catholic courses.

The list goes on.

“His curriculum vitae, which is like his extended resume, was seven pages long,” says Father Parks, who interviewed Dr. Matuszak for his position at NDP.

“He taught a whole class on metaphysics, a whole class on ethics, a whole class on ancient philosophy… So yeah, he’s like, remarkably accomplished.”

After working on his doctoral dissertation about St. Bonaventure’s teachings of the virtues for more than eight years, Mr. Matuszak became “Dr.” in 2013. He chuckles as he describes how his daughters would joke with him, saying, “Dad, you’ve been working on that my whole life.”

Every topic seemed to return to Catholicism, to faith and to trust in God. His nomadic lifestyle – jumping from New York, where he was born, to New Mexico to Texas to Washington, D.C., to California to Florida and to Arizona in 2016 – can seemingly be attributed to his faith as well.

He says, “You never know ahead of time what the future holds and you just, in faith, live the life that God has called you to.”

 

So what called Dr. Matuszak to NDP?

Initially, he decided to move to Arizona after his mother’s death in order to spend more time with his father, who lives locally.

He says that he checked the Diocese of Phoenix website, saw a job opening at Notre Dame and recognized it as the high school attended by his niece and nephew alumni Julia and Matthew Matuszak. He applied, interviewed and the rest is history.

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Dr. Matuszak and wife, Kathy, celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in a special Mass honoring couples married 25 years or more. From left are Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Fla., the Rev. Frank Dewane, Kathy and Dr. Matuszak.

The point in time when his future was, perhaps, the most uncertain was during his two years spent living in a Benedictine Monastery in Santa Fe, discerning whether he would become a monk. As it turned out, this was also the place where he met his future wife, Kathy Rudolph, who was considering becoming a nun.

“I do remember the first time that I met her,” he says. “She was like me in that she was a Catholic school teacher. She had come to the monastery to be part of the community.”

He continues, “We were all given a job. She was working in publications; I was doing outside maintenance construction work. I remember talking a lot with her about University of Dallas Catholic liberal arts, her philosophy background. I was also a major in philosophy.

“She and I got to be friends. We prayed the rosary together. That’s kind of when, you know, we began to realize that God had other plans,” he adds with a chuckle.  

 

Along with the help of a spiritual director, who aided them in the process of discernment, they kept a dream journal and learned “how to listen to your dreams to understand God’s will in your life.

“We kind of paid attention to our dreams, asking, “Lord what are you trying to say to us?””

Evidently, the Lord was telling him that Kathy was the right decision. He moved to Texas where she lived, got to know her family and proposed to her on Valentine’s Day.

“I think I took her out to breakfast or something like that,” he said, trying to recall his proposal. He explained that marriage proposals back then were much less dramatic than those of the 21st century.  “Basically, I just told her I loved her very much, and I wanted to spend my life with her, and I gave her a very nice diamond ring.

“Well, we thought you were going to go become a priest…” Dr. Matuszak recalled his father saying upon hearing the news that he met his fiancé at the monastery. He explained that his family was “surprised but supportive” and that Kathy’s family was happy as well.

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Dr. Matuszak and his family, from left, Grace, Rose and Kathy, enjoy the beach.

Grace, Rose, Kathy

After 27 married years and two daughters, Grace who is 22 and Rose who is 25, Dr. Matuszak reminisces on this time of decision.

He sits, eyes closed and unruly eyebrows furrowed, as though sorting through his dense volume of thoughts to deliver the most informative response: “Love is something that we learn how to do sort of gradually. Love is a decision and a commitment.”  

The clearest message that Dr. Matuszak has ever received from God is the simple statement: “I have created you for love.” He recognizes this as his purpose in life and the basis of all Christian life.

In the future, he hopes to continue theological research, to travel and spend time with his family and to teach until retirement. He says, “as a teacher I hope I can inspire students I teach to love the Lord more.”

And that, in a sense, is its own love story.

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Do you know Dr. Matuszak?