The 47-year-old dean of faculty of canon law and vice-rector at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) told The Tidings on his pre-Easter visit to Los Angeles that his life took an unexpected turn during his university days after meeting an “undercover” Jesuit who gave him some startling news. “Young man,” said the Jesuit, “You spend all your time with Dominicans.”Unbeknownst to the veterinary student who was engaged to be married, his closest friends at the university town of Kosice were clandestine Dominicans studying engineering and medicine. While he was familiar with diocesan priests he met growing up in his devout Catholic family, he had never met religious order clergy. University theology courses had been unavailable for 40 years. “For the government,” Father Adam explained, “it was unthinkable that a doctor or engineer would be a believer. The government only accepted belief from uneducated people. They thought that when everybody was educated, nobody would believe anymore.”His university contact with religious order priests inspired him to think about the priesthood, even though anyone entering a congregation as a novice would receive a three-year prison sentence if discovered by the authorities. His first inclination was to become a Jesuit, because his spirituality was more solitary, and he also didn’t like the thought of wearing the Dominicans’ white habit.But he started thinking: “If God gave me so many Dominican friends, then maybe his way is for me to be a Dominican because God works through people.” And, he surmised, “If God wants me to be a Dominican, then he is going to make me able to live this [communal] life.”So, at age 25, while continuing to work as a microbiologist for the government checking meat and dairy products for pathogens, he applied to the Dominicans and was accepted. Clandestine studiesHe entered the novitiate in a clandestine ceremony in a priest’s apartment where he was given a new name: Constans (Konstanc). He did his novitiate studies at home in 1989, the same year a regime change ending communist rule in his country took place in December.Ten days after the regime change, he told his parents that he was a Dominican novice. “They cried and didn’t sleep,” said Father Adam. “For 40 years, nobody saw a religious [order priest] and it was a shock. They thought my life as a religious would be segregated [from] the family.” His older sister accepted his decision, however, and his parents would eventually be very happy with their only son becoming a Dominican. He continued to work as a doctor of medicine, still keeping his religious order status secret from authorities. “I didn’t leave my job because I didn’t like it; I loved it,” said the priest, who worked as a veterinarian on the weekends.“I still loved the animals, but I loved the people better. I felt my personal mission was to help the spiritual life of people. I left a good life to find a better one.”The early ’90s found him living in a seminary in the Czech Republic, and studying theology in the state university which had reinstated the subject after four decades. Following his ordination in 1995, he worked for a year as a university chaplain in Slovakia’s capital before being sent to the Angelicum in Rome to study canon law.There, he met fellow student, Msgr. Charles Chaffman, currently judicial vicar of the Los Angeles Archdiocesan tribunal and director of the International Institute of Theological and Tribunal Studies (IITTS). The two priests kept in touch over the ensuing years as Father Adam served as Slovakia’s first Dominican provincial in decades and later became an Angelicum canon law professor. They brainstormed for a year-and-a-half over how they could bring Msgr. Chaffman’s idea to fruition of creating a collaborative venture which would allow students the experience of studying canon law during the summer in the L.A. Archdiocese as part of the process of obtaining the Licentiate in Canon Law through the Angelicum. ‘I still loved the animals, but I loved the people better. I felt my personal mission was to help the spiritual life of people. I left a good life to find a better one.’In late 2008, Cardinal Roger Mahony received letters from the Angelicum’s rector and the dean of the faculty of canon law that the faculty council unanimously accepted the proposal for students to attend two summer semesters in Los Angeles as part of their three-year coursework, which would be completed the last two years in Rome. “For many Americans, it’s easier to come to Los Angeles for two summers than do three years in Rome,” said Father Adam, who has been the Angelicum’s dean of faculty for a year-and-a-half. This fall, students who began their canon law studies during that first 2009 summer semester in Los Angeles will be continuing their studies at the 500-year-old Angelicum.‘Summer with the Benedicts’Last month, Father Adam and Msgr. Chaffman met with Archbishop José Gomez to update him on IITTS, which offers canon law classes as well as continuing education for clergy, religious and laity. Both the 2011 Summer Semester of Canon Law classes in Los Angeles and the “Summer with the Benedicts” continuing education workshops will be held within an 11-week period from June 13 to Aug. 26 at the Immaculate Heart Retreat House in Los Angeles.“The archbishop would like to improve the education of the clergy, religious and lay people, not only for the tribunal but for the whole archdiocese,” said Father Adam. “He was very interested and he gave his approval.”According to Msgr. Chaffman, the church is facing the prospect of a dearth of canon law lawyers. “After the 1983 Code of Canon Law in the United States,” he explained, “bishops were heroic in their efforts to reach out to those who were divorced. They sent a huge number of students to Rome, Catholic University and Ottawa [to study canon law].“But, so many of those wonderful lay people, women religious and priests who went away to study and came back and did such a great job are now of retirement age. So, there’s a big vacuum that will happen in the future.”Msgr. Chaffman noted that one of the benefits of the program for IITTS canon law students is that they can get a combination of experience and education, since there are opportunities to assist at the archdiocesan tribunal.“Many don’t know what the work of the tribunal is for,” said Father Adam. “It’s pastoral work.”“Because of the amount of hurt and the spiritual needs of the [separated and divorced] people we meet,” added Msgr. Chaffman, “you would only want a lay person, a religious, or a priest [doing this work] to have a pastor’s heart.”For more information call Immaculate Heart Sister Rita Stuckey, (213) 637-7275 or log on to{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0520/benedict/{/gallery}