SALT LAKE CITY — Father James Kurzynski will greet the solar eclipse later this month with deep Roman Catholic faith and telescopes equipped to study the sun. He plans to host a viewing party with members of his western Wisconsin parish who are used to hearing about his love of the stars and sky.
“I like to show people that I do a lot more than celebrate Mass,” said the self-described amateur astronomer, who started an astronomy minor in college but never finished it.
A portrait of Father James Kurzynski, an amateur astronomer and priest, with his telescopes at his church, St. Joseph Catholic Parish, in Menomonie, Wisconsin, on Aug. 9 2017. | Jen Ackerman, For the Deseret News
Father Kurzynski stands out because of his unique set of interests, but he’s not the only faith leader getting involved in the solar eclipse. Some have gone so far as to use it to predict the end of the world, while others have taken on the less glamorous task of warning people about the health risks of the upcoming festivities, beyond the potential eye damage.
“Our community leaders are encouraging people to not wait until the last-minute to buy water and food or fill up your car with gas. There will be a zillion extra people on top of us,” said Jim Creighton, who serves on the parish pastoral council for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Hopkinsville is in the eclipse’s path of totality, a swath of the United States where people can view the moon completely cover the sun for around two minutes on Aug. 21. Millions of Americans are expected to flood into the path, potentially overwhelming small towns with limited lodging accommodations and cell service.
Affected cities have spent months preparing for the rush of visitors, promoting town festivals, free concerts and lots of faith-related events, too. Creighton’s parish in Hopkinsville will host an astronomer from the Vatican to discuss the science of the eclipse. In the predominantly Mormon town of Rexburg, Idaho, the Tabernacle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will welcome guests to a night of sacred stories and music.
These faith communities are…