These days, Rev. Laurence Olszewski, C.S.C. ’61 is painting a lot, especially landscape art depicting natural scenery like trees, forests, rivers, mountains and valleys.

Retired and living with the Holy Cross community in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the former Stonehill trustee and member of the Class of 1961 finds the late afternoon a productive time for artistic inspiration and often spends several hours happily immersed in the creative process.

“Early in my career, I enjoyed oil painting for a while, but work and travel intervened and I let it slip. With more time now, I am painting again but in acrylics, which is easier, less messy but also satisfying,” notes Fr. Olszewski, who is very much an outdoors person with an eye for nature. 

When they are finished, Fr. Olszewski gives away many of his paintings to help church groups with their fundraising.

Painting came to him through his late sister, Jessie Tierney, adult education classes and You Tube videos. His influences include Andrew Wyatt, Van Gogh and Picasso.

However, painting is just one aspect of Fr. Olszewski’s ability to enjoy a full life while keeping his brain sharp in retirement.

A Sense of Purpose

At 83, he pitches in at a local parish, participates in community life, exercises daily, enjoys fishing, loves baseball and is an avid reader of everything from John Grisham novels to spiritual texts that he always has on hand for a quiet or down moment of reflection. 

This sense of purpose in retirement comes as no surprise given Fr. Olszewski’s diverse career, which includes successful tenures in parish ministry, college administration, humanitarian relief and development, teaching and fundraising. 

For example, at Stonehill's sister school, King’s College in Pennsylvania, he served as its vice president for external affairs and chief development officer, raising $20 million in support of the Campaign for King’s, which ran from 1985 to 1993.

In addition to postings in many U.S. locations, he has worked in Peru, Senegal, Tanzania and Burundi and studied in Montreal, Salamanca and Rome. Plus, in addition to English, he speaks French, Spanish and Polish, the language of his parents and his language of prayer until high school.  

As the director of Career Planning and Placement at Stonehill from 1973 to 1976, Fr. Olszewski advised and guided many students, including Leo Meehan ’75 after whom the College’s School of Business is named.

Meehan recalled his experience with Fr. Olszewski in an article for the Stonehill Alumni Magazine [Winter/Spring ’18]. At a time when he wasn’t getting any job offers, Meehan remembers a phone call from Fr. Olszewski, his career counselor, who said: “I have a lead on a job in Brockton for an office supply company that, frankly, is tiny. Do you want an interview?” 

Meehan took the interview, got the job and went on to become the president and CEO of W.B. Mason, an outcome that gives Fr. Olszewski great satisfaction.

I have never doubted God’s call to this vocation, and it has been a time of great blessing and grace for me.

Photo of Fr. Olszewski, courtesy of the Stonehill Archives. 

Blessing and Grace

From Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Fr. Olszewski chose Stonehill after high school instead of Providence College where many of his peers attended. 

During his first semester on campus, his roommate asked him to visit the Holy Cross vocation office as he was considering the priesthood. His roommate did not pursue that vocation. On the other hand, Fr. Olszewski was so impressed by the vocation director, Fr. Joe Quinn, C.S.C., that he decided to enter the seminary. 

The Congregation of Holy Cross has been integral to his life for the past 66 years.

“I have never doubted God’s call to this vocation, and it has been a time of great blessing and grace for me,” he says.

When he arrived on campus in 1956, there were four buildings—Donahue Hall, the old science center, Holy Cross Center and what is now Alumni Hall. 

As an alum and a former trustee and employee, he is proud of how the College has grown in academic stature and enhanced its facilities while ensuring that campus is well-planned and maintained.

On a visit to Stonehill last year, something caught Fr. Olszewski’s eye when he drove onto campus.

“There were these beds of beautiful wave petunias, purple and white flowers. I thought what an artful touch and so impressive,” he says.

Whether he is painting, fishing, traveling or finding a down moment for spiritual reflection, Fr. Olszewski is alert to the joyful details of life, a key ingredient to living well at any age.