A GUARDIAN ANGEL OF CHALLAPATA
Challapata, a town in the Bolivian Andes, situated nearly 4 thousand meters above the sea. There are regular fights in it between an army and members of the local car gang. There are killed and the injured. The situation is getting more and more dramatic. A young priest in a cassock functions between the fighting parties. He talks with soldiers and criminals, appeals for peace, comforts scared inhabitants of the town that everything will end happily. He gives confession to those who want it.
His mediation brings a result – there is ceasefire. Inhabitants of Challapata feel a relief.
This is not a scene from an action film. It happened in real, and the main role is played by Fr. Mariusz Graszk, a missionary from the Ełk diocese, called simply padre Mario by local people.
Unfortunately, Fr. Mariusz is not among us. He died tragically a few month later – run over on the edge of the highway by an irresponsible bus driver while he was going to help nuns who had a failure of a car trailer. He died in the way as he had lived – near people, always ready to help. After his unexpected death, the town council proclaimed padre Mario ‘a guardian angel’ of Challapata. For natives he is something more than a patron.
Death of Fr. Mariusz was shocking for everybody who knew him. He was perfectly prepared for missionary ministry which he treated as his great vocation. Speaking humanly, his death was absurd. This missionary of the greatest hopes about whom his bishop did not hesitate to say after the tragedy: the saint, seemed so needed by the Church.
On the occasion of the Mission Week, let’s reminisce and pray for all dead missionaries: killed, victims of tragic accidents, like Fr. Mariusz and those who passed away to Lord, when being away from their homelands. Let’s pray – it costs only little – for new missionary vocations. This is an issue of our responsibility for the universal Church.
When I started journalistic work in the second half of the 70s of the last century, we ‘were reaching’ the number of a thousand of missionaries. Today the Church in Poland gives them twice more but this is not enough. Why? Because our staff potential is still high, while possibilities of the Churches in the West which used to give more missionaries, are definitely getting smaller. We must get used to the thought that the Church in Poland will take on a leading role in the missionary work soon.