And it still makes a difference to us
At Easter, in 1926, exactly 80 years ago, the first edition of 'Niedziela' was published. The black and white paper was addressed to local readers, to the faithful of the newly erected Diocese of Czestochowa. In the year 2006 the Catholic Weekly 'Niedziela' is the biggest Catholic paper in Poland. It reaches the Polish communities in the whole world, has its own web portal, radio studio, television studio and 20 diocesan editions, including the primate Warsaw and distant America.
Anna Przewoznik and Marcin Maranda talk to the editor-in-chief of 'Niedziela' Rev. Msgr Ireneusz Skubis about achieving success of the Catholic paper in capitalistic Poland, about his fight against communism, about John Paul II and the Main Editress of 'Niedziela'.
MARCIN MARANDA: - This year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Catholic Weekly 'Niedziela' founded by Teodor Kubina, the first Bishop of Czestochowa.
ANNA PRZEWOZNIK: - The history of 'Niedziela' has been interwoven with the history of the Polish nation. But 'Niedziela' survived the hard times of the war and then the communist rules and won...
REV. MSGR IRENEUSZ SKUBIS: - Thanks to God's Providence. 'Niedziela' was set up in 1926. Its founder was Bishop Teodor Kubina, the first bishop of Czestochowa. He came from Silesia. He was the parish priest in St Hedvig's Church in Berlin and before that he had worked in Kolobrzeg. He was also the parish priest of St Mary's in Katowice. So as a priest he ministered in large territories. He worked very diligently with Polish immigrants in Germany. He was wholeheartedly Polish and did his best to keep the national spirit. One of his first steps as the bishop of the new diocese of Czestochowa was to call into being 'Niedziela', which appeared at Easter, in 1926.
M.M.: - According to Bishop Teodor Kubina the paper was to serve the faithful and the clergy, to bring together the clergymen coming from two other dioceses, which formed the diocese of Czestochowa. However, observing the evolution of 'Niedziela' one could not and cannot now limit the weekly to some concrete substantial forms. This is a very universal paper.
- Certainly, Bishop Kubina had unity in mind. Let us remember that the diocese of Czestochowa was created from the dioceses of Wloclawek and Kielce. But he was motivated by a patriotic idea. We should remember that the first editor-in-chief of 'Niedziela' was Fr Wojciech Mondry who fought for the Polish national identity in the region of Warmia and Mazury just like Fr Kubina cared for the national spirit in Silesia. The plebiscite in Silesia was won by Poland but we lost in Warmia, and Fr Mondry was even persecuted. Bishop Kubina offered his reliable friend the job of editing a new Catholic paper.
M.M.: - We notice six editor-in-chiefs in the history of 'Niedziela' and so six personalities, six different concepts of running a paper. These also meant various challenges, which you also faced and so did your predecessors.
- True. Each of us had a somewhat different task. Among the editors there were three who played a decisive role and the rest did not because they performed that function only for a short time. Fr Mondry's task was to create a friendly paper, a paper that provided information about the life of the diocese of Czestochowa. 'Niedziela' was to support parish priests. Bishop Kubina stressed that role of 'Niedziela', saying that it should be an extra assistant for the parish priest and was to support pastoral activities of priests. In 1937 the post was taken over by Fr Stanislaw Galazka who ran the paper till the outbreak of the war. However, he did not introduce any special changes in the mission of the paper. Then we had the time of the occupation. After the war Fr Antoni Marchewka assumed the responsibility and he devised a new formula. Before the war 'Niedziela' as a diocesan paper was published in 8,000 copies and after the war in 94,000 copies and it was not only distributed in Poland. Fr Marchewka ran 'Niedziela' till 1953. One should notice that in 1947 Fr Marchewska was arrested and spent 11 months in the Warsaw prisons. During that time the weekly was run by Fr Wladyslaw Sobon and Fr Marian Rzeszewski. After his release Fr Marchewka assumed his responsibilities but on 5 March 1953 the communists suspended the paper until 5 March 1981 when, after the appropriate decision of the Office for Control of the Press, Publications and Public Performances had been given. Bishop Stefan Barela entrusted me with the job of the editor since I tried to re-activate 'Niedziela' on behalf of the diocese of Czestochowa. Apart from the short break of the marshal law I have been fulfilling this role for 25 years.
M.M.: - When you took on the function of the editor-in-chief of 'Niedziela' you were chaplain for students and the paper had not been published for 28 years. Were you not scared that firstly the profile of your ministry was going to change and secondly that you had to run a paper in the militant communist reality?
- We got used to the forms of communists' activities, they did not make it easy for us, especially for chaplains for students. All the time we were watched by the security services, we were pestered, monitored and photographed. The students were also blackmailed and kept under surveillance. The all-present and crushing censorship was the element that disturbed our work extremely. Although I had some experience since I was the editor of the annals 'Czestochowskie Studia Teologiczne' [Theological Studies of Czestochowa] from 1974 (I published several volumes) and I had to meet the censors while editing almost every text, the conversations with the censors in the weekly cycle were something very hard, requiring proper arguments as well as tenacity. We should remember it was still the time when even a priest who wanted to print pictures, with some short inscription on the back page, for his first Mass needed to have the stamp of the censor. But then we were keen on working and with joy we took up the challenge for the good of our Church.
A.P.: - The period you have recollected is also the beginning of the series of changes of the Polish political system, and consequently, the economic changes. How did 'Niedziela' pull itself together in that reality?
- The years 1981-89 were the years of huge and hard work. The Office for Religious Affairs imposed the following conditions on us: the circulation of 100,000 copies, limit of paper, printer's shop and censorship in Opole. The weekly was to be of a national character. They surely thought it would be impossible to begin and maintain a paper under such conditions, the more that 'Ruch' was to distribute all copies. The copies were taken directly from the printer and transported to the kiosks. And the parishes were to buy them in those kiosks, too. In those times it was simple, there was no choice, you had to follow the instructions of the government. Thanks to the extreme perseverance and total dedication the people working in the editorial board were able to maintain the title and to increase its circulation. Moreover, the weekly spread, meeting the needs of particular dioceses and publishing new diocesan editions.
And our method to fight against the censorship was that we marked its interference in the texts. I remember the case of Fr Popieluszko (1984). He wrote a lot about him and in one text we had as many as 14 censor's interferences. In fact, there was no issue without the censor's interference. That continued till the year 1989.
M.M.: - What could you as the editor-in-chief say about the co-operation between the editorial board and the Polish dioceses?
- In the 1990s, after the free elections in 1989, there was a new situation in Poland: we regained freedom, the censorship disappeared. We could make free decisions as far as publication was concerned. Many bishops got interested in close co-operation with 'Niedziela'. We had a very good editorial board, many experienced journalists. We were received well in Poland, too. Thus apart from publishing a national edition we made the decision to publish local editions, directed to the local faithful in the dioceses that asked us to do that for them. It began with the diocese of Czestochowa and soon we embraced Lodz, Sosnowiec and other dioceses. The development of the diocesan editions was spontaneous. The bishops appointed their priests who became the diocesan editors. We also welcomed the local experienced people to work with us. Thus we have created a network of diocesan editions in almost half Polish dioceses. In addition, we took international initiatives, for example we started press service for the Archdiocese of Chicago. We have also got new plans and proposals, which we are going to present to our readers in a short time. Practically speaking, we are present all over the world, in all places where Polish people live. We send 'Niedziela' to the missionaries in Africa and Asia, and also to the East, to Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Latvia or Kaliningrad. Of course, 'Niedziela' is known in Western Europe. We are aboard the Polish Airlines. We have signals that our paper is known in South America, one parish in Argentina subscribes 50 copies. This is a map of 'Niedziela'.
A.P.: - Certainly the editions of 'Niedziela' have contributed to the increase of the circulation. What is the role of the diocesan editions within the framework of the national weekly?
- First of all, we have some ecclesiological guidelines. If we are invited to some diocese we want to be a paper of this place, we want to serve. Naturally, the circulation is bigger but 'Niedziela' has to finance the given edition, employ people, cover the costs of local editorial boards, and all this means big expenses. Therefore, I think that if one wants to serve the Church one should above all focus on solid and deepened work in every field.
A.P.: - It is worth mentioning the multimedia forms of 'Niedziela' and there are quite a number of them.
- The fact is that numerous people read our web service. The questionnaire that has been drawn up recently shows that we have received as many as 1/4 of the 2,500 replies through e-mails. This is another form of reading, and which is important today it is free of charge. Many texts of 'Niedziela' appear in English and Russian. And through the Internet English speaking readers present their opinions and sometimes they propose to collaborate with us. 'Niedziela' shows the world the Polish ecclesiastical thought. Those who have problems with reading can hear us in the Internet. 'Niedziela' is present in various radio stations, including Radio Maryja. Of course, we have got our own radio studio as well as a TV studio, which has already produced many short films and they won the recognition of the experts. The Library of 'Niedziela' consists of over 190 titles. Children at the age of 4-9 have their own colour bimonthly 'Moje Pismo Tecza' [My Paper Rainbow] with interesting themes, which are to help parents talk with children about God... So the spectrum of our activities is wide. We are trying to do everything for the good of the Church. People may not realise how big the effort is. We trust that it will be noticed in the future. We would like to fulfil the words of Jesus 'Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations' (Matthew 28:19). In the times of Christ the natural pulpit was a hill or a boat on the lake. Today this boat has been enlarged with radio and television antennas as well as the Internet. So this is our activity.
A.P.: - You have mentioned that 'Niedziela' serves the Church. I will ask about concern and faithfulness of 'Niedziela' to the Holy Father.
- When John Paul II was elected Pope I was a chaplain for students. That academic environment had an idea, and it was in the period of the communist regime, to introduce the speeches of the Holy Father, Polish Pope, to the people. We did our best to record the programmes of the Vatican Radio, which was very hard (remember it was jammed), and then to type them, with time we managed to buy an electric typewriter, and we sent those texts (in a few hundred copies) to various environments in Poland. We called it 'Monitor Koscielny' (Church Gazette). Later I offered two volumes of the Gazette, in white cover, to John Paul II, one volume in Czestochowa and the other one in Rome where I went with the chaplains' pilgrimage. Therefore, from the very beginning it was our service to the Pope. We were very happy when the Holy Father noticed our work, sent us his greetings or met us in the private audiences. I dare say that we wholeheartedly served John Paul II. Our work was to the end, to the day of his funeral, and today we are continuing this service to his Successor.
A.P.: - I will also ask about the Marian motivation of 'Niedziela'. Fr Izydor Matuszewski, General of the Pauline Order, said once that 'Niedziela' taught people to contemplate the Holy Icon and saw the role of Jasna Gora to bring Polish people together, showing the readers of 'Niedziela' the image of the Picture through the eyes of contemporary pilgrims against the background of various patriotic-religious events.
- I will add: we regard the Mother of God, Our Lady of Jasna Gora, to be the Main Editress for 'Niedziela', this is the title we gave to her. The Mother of God has always been close to us because of our dedication to her: people from distant places feel the need to come to her and we can see numerous graces through her intercession. We want to remain faithful to this Polish legacy. Mary is wonderful 'Regina Poloniae', with a royal seal in the masthead of our paper. She is also our Mater Verbi - Mother of Word, and therefore, our special Patroness and Help. We want to share this experience of Mary with all people.
M.M.: - On the 80th anniversary of the first edition of 'Niedziela' the Catholic weekly will certainly pray at the hour of the Jasna Gora Appeal. What will you tell your Main Editress?
- For sure we will say what all people say: 'I am, I remember, I am on the alert'. As a matter of fact there are no more beautiful words to express your love. John Paul II commented on those words during the Jasna Gora Appeal in Czestochowa in 1983. As the Mother of God is, remembers and is on the alert so we want to be with her, remember her and be on the alert. 'Niedziela' is to serve Marian pastoral work. The Late Bishop Stefan Barela, referring to the words of John Paul II, stressed before his death that the Polish pastoral ministry should have Marian character. I personally treat the Marian character of our faith as some kind of Bishop Stefan's last will. This is also the will of the Holy Father John Paul II.
A.P.: - In his history 'Niedziela', in the person of the editor-in-chief, has been awarded many times. Which awards or distinctions are the most valuable ones?
- In fact, there were many awards, I have received many myself, including the Wlodzimeirz Pietrzak Award ('Civitas Christiana'), the Award of the Catholic Association of Journalists, the Laurel of Arts and Competence (Regional Trade Chamber in Katowice), the Karol Miarka Award, the Cross 'Polonia Restituta', the Maximillian Kolbe Award for multimedia character of 'Niedziela', award for collaborating with the Foundation for Children 'Help on Time', the TOTUS Award, received together with 'Gosc Niedzielny', the Foundation 'New Millennium Work, and many local distinctions. I do value being included among friends of Jasna Gora and my joining the Confraternity of the Pauline Order as an evidence of gratitude of Jasna Gora towards 'Niedziela' and myself. We offer all these valuable and prestigious awards before the Picture of the Main Editress of 'Niedziela' to her praise and glory of her Son.
M.M.: - We have talked about the past and present of 'Niedziela'. Now let us talk about its future: let us image some radio presenter speaking to the next editor-in-chief of 'Niedziela' in 80 years. What do you think what kind of 'Niedziela' they will be talking about?
- Life changes very quickly. We witness extraordinary development in electronics. So perhaps there will be no need to print texts, there might be new forms of messages. But something very important will surely remain: man who is open to God, Poles who love the Most Blessed Mother, the Holy Icon at Jasna Gora. That's why 'Niedziela', in whatever form, will fulfil the same role: to lighten the paths of people going to God, to revive the faith, to build Polish culture based on Christian roots, to guard the world of our greatest values.
M.M.: - What should we wish 'Niedziela' on its beautiful 80th anniversary?
- Like everyone we desire good development. John Paul II said 'Rapido sviluppo' in order to define development. Therefore, rapid, but at the same time deep and true, development is possible. We must only collaborate closely with the Grace, sparing no efforts.
'Niedziela' yesterday and today
Calendar of events
1926 - Bishop Teodor Kubina set up the weekly 'Niedziela'. Fr Wojciech Mondry became its first editor-in-chief. The first issue appeared on 4 April 1926.
1937 - Fr Stanislaw Galazka was appointed the next editor-in-chief.
1939 - The last issue of the weekly was published - the outbreak of World War II.
1945 - A new editorial board was organised. Rev. Dr. Antoni Marchewka became the editor-in-chief.
1947 - The communist authorities arrested Fr Antoni Marchewka.
1953 - The last issue of 'Niedziela' was published.
5 March 1981 - The authorities gave their permission to publish 'Niedziela'. After 28-year break the first issue appeared on 7 June 1981. Rev. Dr Ireneusz Skubis became the editor-in-chief.
On 13 December marshal law was imposed in Poland. 'Niedziela' was again suspended.
1982 - The first issue was published after the weekly had been re-activated.
1993 - The first book of the series 'Biblioteka Niedzieli' and 'Moje Pismo Tecza' appeared.
1995 - The editor-in-chief received the Wlodzimierz Pietrzyk Award and the Award of the Saint Maximillian Maria Kolbe Catholic Association of Journalists. The radio studio of 'Niedziela' was opened, too.
1996 - The meeting with John Paul II in Rome on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of 'Niedziela'.
1998 - The editorial board and the editor-in-chief received the Platinum Laurel of Arts and Competence and the K. Miarka Award.
1999 - Internet service was launched.
2000 - Rev. Msgr Ireneusz Skubis was awarded with the Cross 'Polonia Restituta'; 'Niedziela' received the award 'Feniks' in the category of editorial series for its 'Biblioteka Niedzieli'; the journalists of 'Niedziela' were present at the Journalists' Jubilee in Rome; the television studio was opened; 'Niedziela' participated in the 52nd International Frankfurt Book Fair.
2001 - As the first periodical in Poland 'Niedziela' launched a special World Wide Web service concerning the pilgrimages of John Paul II in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia.
2003 - The Institute of Public Affairs published the results of its survey - 'Niedziela' was the most popular weekly read by Polish priests (52%).
2004 - The electronic versions of 'Niedziela' in English and Russian appeared. 'Niedziela' received the reward 'TOTUS 2004'.
2005 - 'Niedziela audio' - 'read' electronic version addressed to people with impaired sight was set up.
2 April 2005 - The book of condolence on our webpage was created, connected with the passing away of the Holy Father John Paul II. In Niepokalanow the editor-in-chief received the Prize of Julian Kulenty 'Multimedia in the service of evangelization'.
2005 - The Papal Collection of 'Niedziela' was published; The workers of 'Niedziela' made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; The editor-in-chief of 'Niedziela' received the statuette 'Summa Bonitas' [Highest Goodness].
2006 - 'Niedziela' celebrated its 80th anniversary.