Staff Photo: Karen J. Rohr. Father Luke Kot, who turned 100 on Aug. 3, displays the original cross he and 19 other monks carried with them in 1944 on their journey from a monastery in Kentucky to property in Conyers, where they established the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
Of the never-ending conversations Father Luke Kot has with God, a pivotal one occurred at age 14.
While celebrating at his then 17-year-old sister's wedding in 1925, Father Luke felt a longing to know what his future held. He asked God, "What will I do?"
Kot glanced out the window and found the answer -- a church and rectory sat across the street.
"I said 'religious life,'" Kot said.
He wouldn't receive the next sign about how to serve God until more than a decade later. At 26, living at home with his Polish-born parents, Kot prayed to God to lead him to a monastery in the United States, not Europe.
"If you do, then death do we part," said Kot, recalling his words to God. "Don't lie to God. You have to be honest. Be who you want to be. You can't fib to the Lord."
Not long after, he came across an article in the newspaper about the Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.
"I got the answer from a periodical. I opened it and there was an introduction to the monastic life," Kot said, who entered the monastery there in 1938 and made his solemn monastic vows six years later.
This year marks 100 years of life for Kot, 83 of those spent as a monk in service to God.
"My life is wrapped up with faith. It's a life I would never change," Kot said. "I can't believe that God has been so patient with me."
Kot gets lots of use out of the sturdy black tennis shoes he wears. He uses a walker to traverse the monastery and attends most of the several prayer vigils held each day. He is also involved with planning meetings for the monastery.
Kot worked as a tailor for the monastery for 54 years, making habits, jumpsuits and the occasional curtains. He also devoted time to monks in the infirmary, some of whom came with him on the journey from Kentucky to Conyers in 1944, when the Monastery of Holy Spirit was established on 1,450 wooded acres in the Honey Creek area.
When the group of 20 monks arrived in Conyers 67 years ago, they lived in an existing barn on the property for eight months, said Kot. They had to get special permission to construct a pine board monastery because World War II resulted in a moratorium on building projects.
Kot said that the monks made inroads with the local residents, who were skeptical of the monks' presence, by serving as volunteer fireman, helping the poor and destitute, and praying for the community.
"It got better," he said.
Kot's religious path has been in part guided by his parents, devoted Catholics who emigrated to the United States from Poland as a young married couple.
His parents settled in Niagara Falls but then traveled west to look for work. Kot, one of four children, was born in Montana on Aug. 3, 1911.
Driven out by the cold weather, the family left Montana and went back to Niagara Falls, where Kot grew up. Though his parents never learned to read or write, Kot said they were wonderful storytellers. He also learned Polish from them and to this day speaks both Polish and English.
Kot attended church with his family regularly and went to Catholic school for four years.
"I was raised Catholic and lived as a Catholic," Kot said. "If Christ said it, I believe it."
Kot's voice rises in excitement when he considers the infinite nature of God.
"(God says) 'The heavens and earth will pass away, but My words are forever,'" Kot said, recalling a Bible passage. "If you don't believe in scripture, then brother, you're out of luck."
For Kot, the most fulfilling part of being a monk is embracing God's gift of faith.
"He gives it. We don't deserve it," Kot said.
Kot said that religion is "a living thing" and, that if people read and believe scripture, then God will give them the grace they need for faith.
"If you pray, He won't refuse you. God is love," Kot said. "God is (also) truth and I can't resist the truth."