INTEGRATION DOES NOT MEAN ASSIMILATION
LISTENED TO BY ANNA PRZEWOŹNIK
During a Vigil Night at Jasna Góra, on 17 and 18 October, bishop Wiesław Lechowicz, a delegate of the Polish Episcopate for Pastoral Ministry of Polish Emigration, in an interview with ‘Niedziela’, presented intentions with which he had arrived to the throne of Our Lady
I am arriving here in order to pray. This is the most important issue and often unappreciated in our life. We pay attention to what is quantifiable, effective, palpable, and we push a prayer aside into the background. It also concerns priests, both in Poland and abroad. Therefore, the Vigil Night at Jasna Góra, organized by Christ’s Order priests and Missionary Sisters, is an initiative which is very valuable reminding about what is the most important – about a personal relationship with Jesus, with His and our Mother. It is the source from which inspirations, strengths and all pastoral efforts should come.
If one does an analysis of pastoral ministry among emigrants, from the sociological point of view it turns out that all problems which appear in Poland, also appear abroad, only that they are increased. We can look at the pastoral ministry among Polish emigrants through the prism of pastoral ministry in Poland. The basic difference of these pastoral ministries is a big fluctuation of emigrants. Priests can rarely work with the same group of people for a longer time. Besides efforts connected with bringing people closer to God, which is the most important duty of priests on emigration, their task is to take care of maintaining Poles’ relationship with Poland. Let’s note that the chase for a better material existence causes loosening relationships not only with God, but also with families and our Homeland.
The situation in Ukraine shows how our life is fragile and allows us to understand what is really important, permanent and to what we should devote ourselves. And I think that in such a perspective priests should lead their pastoral ministry.
An important issue is integration with the local Church. This is a big challenge to maintain one’s identity, identification with the Polish Church, with tradition, with Polish customs, and also be active in the life of the local Church. Pastors of local Churches express encouragement and postulate, so that, we, Poles would not only create ghettos, but would also become an alive part of diocesan Churches. As much as it is possible, we try to respond to these postulates, and also, during talks with these bishops, I emphasize that integration does not mean assimilation, losing one’s identity. This effort must always be bilateral.
I would like to express my joy that the Polish Episcopate helped me broaden my activity, seconding me to duties towards pastoral ministry of Polish emigrants in a full time dimension, in the form of opening an office in Warsaw. I hope that that these decisions will bring me closer to Polish priests and the office will become not only a place of fulfilling duties which are strictly administrative, but also a reference point and help in leading pastoral ministry on emigration.