Since the beginning of his primate's ministry, cardinal August Hlond has been arguing that 'nobody can be indifferent to the fact that one fourth part of the nation live among foreigners in difficult and abnormal conditions, often doomed to exploitation and poverty'

In 1926 the bishop of Katowice August Hlond became the archbishop of Gniezno and Poznań and a protector of the Polish emigration. The new Primate knew the situation of Polish emigrants very well and was aware of their religious needs, because before he became the primate, he had stayed abroad himself for over 20 years. In Warsaw in 1929, during a meeting of Poles from Abroad, he informed: “The Polish Episcopate is trying to give a new form to the foreign pastoral ministry'. And, indeed, he became fully engaged in emigration, understanding it as his participation in the mission of a Good Pastor.

He set up fundaments

The Primate Hlond, considering organizing the central management of emigration pastoral ministry, in 1928 he established a Bishops' Commission for Pastoral Ministry Abroad. He personally presided over this commission as an important advisory body supporting his actions. He organized a Centre of Pastoral Ministry Abroad, at the office of the primate in Poznań, as one of its main departments. The Centre was gathering all information about the state and needs of emigration pastoral ministry, was pursuing negotiations with bishops from countries where Polish emigrants are staying, was in touch with Polish Catholic missions, was organizing trips of priests and consecrated people to pastoral ministry abroad, was coordinating the activity of welfare works for emigrants in the country, was making a cooperation with suitable secular institutions, was promoting ideas of care for emigrants, was gathering funds for the needs of emigration pastoral ministry. The activity of the Centre abroad was supported by delegates, bishops and priests, whom the primate Hlond had sent to countries where Polish emigrants were staying, in order to make contacts with them, cheer them up, visit Polish pastoral places and give hints to priests working there.

An important event assuring about the effectiveness of the actions of cardinal Hlond was giving him the title of the Polish protector of emigration by the Holy See. The Primate Hlond received this title to his request and from this moment he could give public pronouncements on behalf of the Holy See in the issues of Polish emigrants. This title gave him new possibilities of organizing Polish pastoral ministry abroad and managing it in cooperation with the bishops of the place, taking care of Polish emigrants and their priests, negotiating with bishop about settling down of Polish emigrants in order to gain rights for their priests, intervene in the Holy See. The effectiveness of care about Poles abroad, according to the plan of the Primate Hlond was thanks to the reorganization of the national base of the emigration pastoral ministry. According to the Primate, the Polish pastoral ministry abroad cannot exist without the Church in Poland, but needs its spiritual, moral and personal support. Pastoral ministry in Poland has an irreplaceable function of care about those who are leaving their country and is based on preparing believers to live in emigration conditions, spiritual accompanying abroad and care about those who are returning their homeland.

He sent sowers

The Primate Hlond considered every parish in Poland as the first pastoral emigration centre. He emphasized that care about emigrants belongs to 'the modern pastoral tasks of parish priests' Within the care he enumerated: keeping an exact list of emigrants from a parish, being in touch with them via letters, sending them Catholic newspapers and good books, organizing a department of Association of Polish Care about Compatriots Abroad in a parish, organizing celebrations of the Emigrant's Day, organizing money collections – twice a year – for the Polish pastoral ministry abroad. According to cardinal Hlond, the parish is 'an alive cell of the Church' and all believers, not only a parish priest, must participate in its mission towards emigrants. The Primate Hlond was making lay believers engaged in the apostolate of emigrants. He reorganized and gave the Catholic character to the Association of Polish Care about Compatriots Abroad. He pointed out to the purpose, which was 'devoting oneself to the emigration service , in order to take care of it in a social and moral sense during a journey abroad, and while being in a spiritual contact with it, give it a moral support of native culture and customs'.

The Primate Hlond was promoting the idea of emigration apostolate during the annual celebrations of the Polish Emigrant's Day,in which he actively participated, for example, by celebrating the solemn Holy Mass broadcast on radio. From January 1937, it was, among the others, thanks to his initiatives that the Day of a Pole from Abroad started to be celebrated. The Polish pastoral ministry, developing in the world, needed new priests from Poland. For this purpose, in 1928, he established the Foreign Seminary in Gniezno and Poznań whose purpose was to educate the future priests, who declare to work among emigrants for at least 12 years. Seeing the lack of priests, he was going to entrust pastoral ministry abroad to a convent. When it turned out that the Foreign Seminary did not meet the expectations and when an attempt of transforming one of the previous convents was not successful, he decided, with a consent of Pius XI, to establish a new convent, which would completely be devoted to the Polish emigration. In 1932 he established Christ's Society for Emigrants (at present Christ's Society for Foreign Polish Diaspora).In the acts for the new convent written by him, he pointed out to an outer purpose of apostolate for the sake of compatriots abroad, and first of all, pastoral and religious activity. In the second place he put the social and cultural apostolate among emigrants.

Serving to emigration

Knowing life conditions in emigration, he demanded from candidates for emigrants' priests, suitable qualifications, life holiness and good preparation for emigration apostolate. Establishment of Christ's Society for Emigrants is generally considered as the greatest work of cardinal Hlond for the sake of Polish emigrants. Apart from establishing institutions working in Poland for the sake of emigrants, the Primate Hlond undertook actions connected with organizing structures of pastoral ministry among Poles abroad. A special achievement was establishment of the Polish Catholic Mission in a few countries, that is, a structure comprising all Polish priests in a particular country. The Mission was also run by a rector who was a delegate of the Polish primate, appointed and dismissed by him. This structure enlivened pastoral actions among Polish emigrants in a particular country.

The first Polish Catholic Mission was established by cardinal Edmund Dalbor in France. The primate Hlond contributed to its development, writing a code of rules for the Polish Catholic Mission, and then, hints for the rector and taking care for guaranteeing priests for Poles in France.

In consultation with bishops of the place, in 1926 he established the Polish Catholic Mission in Belgium, which, he later expanded to Holland and Denmark.

After the end of the Second World War, due to the actions of cardinal Hlond, on 5 June 1945, the Holy See established an Ordinariate for Poles in Germany and Austria, for about 2 million of emigrants in Germany, which comprised 694 pastoral centres and 502 priests. A permanent sign of the Ordinariate is the Polish Catholic Mission in Germany at present.

At the same time, there appeared a need for organizing the Polish pastoral ministry in Great Britain, where after the war there were over 100 thousand Poles. Having gained a consent of the primate of England, at the beginning of June 1948, cardinal Hlond erected the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales with the headquarters in London. In similar circumstances, on 4 October 1948, he established the Polish Catholic Mission in Scotland with the headquarters in Ediunburgh.

He was trying to send priests from Poland to the countries where he did not have a possibility to create Polish Catholic Missions. He remembered about big groups of Polish Diaspora in USA, Brazil, Argentina, and also small groups of Poles in Romania, Yugoslavia, Estonia, etc. He organized a network of the Polish pastoral ministry in the world.

Cardinal Hlond took care of his personal contacts with Polish emigrants. He used his each stay abroad as an occasion to meet with Poles living there. He delivered speeches addressed to all emigrants on radio, in the form of feast messages and pastoral letters.

He raised an issue of the Polish emigration to the rank of important national issues. The Church in Poland perceives the great significance of care of the primate Hlond about Polish emigrants. His direct successor at the primate's capital city – cardinal Stefan Wyszyński said: “It will undoubtedly be a memorable merit of cardinal August Hlond, that he regularly took care of pastoral, religious and also national needs of our emigrants'.

At present time, when we are experiencing a big wave of migration among our compatriots all over the world, it is worth entrusting all problems connected with emigration pastoral ministry to God's servant cardinal August Hlond.

The author is a director of the Institute of Emigration Pastoral Ministry, named of cardinal August Hlond and a moderator of the Movement of Emigration Apostolate in Poznań.


"Niedziela" 37/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl