Michael Woroniecki, the boisterous street preacher who was exiled from his native Grand Rapids 25 summers ago, hasn’t hung up his cross yet.
He and his wife, Rachel, and their six grown children surrounded the stadium in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon and, while wielding banners threatening fire and brimstone, took it on the chin every bit as much as the Fighting Irish did in their 23-7 loss.
A group of five men wearing blue Notre Dame shirts — three of them hoisting beers — told Woroniecki they were Catholic, they attended Mass, they were baptized and read the Bible.
Woroniecki seemed unimpressed, telling them they needed to abandon the lives they were leading and follow Jesus.
His banner took it a note further: “TURN TO JESUS,” it read, “YOU ARE HEADED TO HELL.”
Beside him stood daughter Elizabeth, 24, with a banner that read, “LAST DAYS. SATAN RULES. TURN TO JESUS, NOT CHURCH.”
Woroniecki said he could “count on one hand” the number of positive responses he and his family had from the 76,000 who filed into the stadium.
He’s used to verbal — and sometimes physical — abuse.
Woroniecki is 54, and Rachel is 52. Their children are Sarah, 28; Ruth, 26; Elizabeth, 24; Abraham, 22; Joshua, 20; and David, 18.
When I asked if he’d stand in the way of any of them marrying, Woroniecki told me, “They’ve been trained to love Jesus, so they’re not looking for gratification from some sinner.”
As for “natural desires,” he said “There is a greater power than your natural desires.”
Woroniecki and his family travel the world in a Freightliner cab pulling a fifth- wheel trailer. Besides crossing the U.S., they have visited 50 countries in Africa, Europe and Central and South America.
He was arrested numerous times in Grand Rapids for disturbing the peace before agreeing to leave town to get multiple charges dropped.
Woroniecki and his wife gained national attention six years ago when it was divulged they counseled Andrea Yates, the Texan who confessed to drowning her five children in a bathtub. She was judged not guilty by reason of insanity and now resides at a mental health facility in Texas.
Woroniecki disputes reports from Yates’ trial suggesting his spiritual influence contributed to her state.
Michael Peter and Rachel Woroniecki are controversial preachers whose behavior while ”evangelizing” is despicable. Their extremist views and behavior fall outside the norms of normal, orthodox evangelical Christianity. In our opinion the group forms a one-family cult of Christianity.
The family had Bible study three nights a week in the living room because Rusty had not found a church he liked. He had learned the faults of organized religion from Michael Woroniecki, the traveling preacher who had sold him the bus. Rusty did not agree completely with the extreme views of his old spiritual mentor. But Andrea, moved by the repent-or-burn zeal, wound up exchanging letters with the preacher and his wife for years after they bought the bus. Woroniecki wrote that “the role of woman is derived…from the sin of Eve” and that bad children come from bad mothers. Sometimes her family life seemed to parallel his: raising kids on the road, home schooling, God fearing. At one point, she asked Woroniecki to write a letter to help convert her Catholic parents. The influence worried the Kennedys. What had Rusty got her into? But even Rusty grew concerned with her obsession with Scripture. Still, he says, “a guy cannot really complain that his wife is reading the Bible too much.”