YOU MUST SHARE YOUR GIFT
Outside Poland, over 20 million Poles live, including a few dozen million children and the youth. This July 300 young people arrived at Poland for the First World Congress of the Polish Youth in Warsaw. Among organizers of the congress there were, among the others, the Polish Episcopal Conference and the Catholic Youth Association. The Congress gathered secondary school students and university students from 22 countries, mainly from Polish church groups – from nearby Belarus to far New Zealand.
They see Poland as an ideal land to live. Everything which is Polish is the best for them, although most of them was born outside Poland. They speak the language of their ancestors perfectly thanks to their parents, grandparents, classes in schools on Saturdays and Sundays. They know history and literature of Poland, at least a bit. The congress was attended mainly by young believers, although some of them are searching, but most of them are activists in communities and are spiritually mature. For many of them, not long time ago, the ‘god’ for them were pleasures of this world. Today they have come to the country of their fathers, and the Church for them is an ideal of Catholic faith, a fundament on which they want to build their spiritual home. The countries in which they live, are usually very secularized, turned away from God.
Patryk Sikora was born in Germany. He lives in Frankfurt on Main. He has been related to the Church since his childhood. Every day he takes an active part in a parish community. Thanks to it he did not only become stronger in faith, but he also got to know Poland. He notes that being a Pole in Germany, and particularly being an active Catholic, is not easy. – Most of my friends are German. They do not go to church – he says. – Press likes writing about Catholicism critically, as well as quickly formulating various accusations, not thinking what is entailed in our faith. But we are an important minority – sooner or later we attract German people at our age. Because, in fact young Germans are looking for sacrum which is disappearing in German churches.
Although there are various aberrations in the German catholic Church, which is ‘getting protestant’, then – as Elżbieta Steinberger from the Polish Catholic Mission in Wurzbrug emphasizes – it is necessary to distinguish between fashionable trends imposed on the Germans from their own desires. – Ordinary human religiousness is still in them – says Mrs. Elżbieta and she adds: - I know extremely fervent German Catholics, lovers of Divine Mercy. There is also a group of religious Germans who open up to us. To such an extent, that they learn Polish and…pray in our language. We and they made a pilgrimage to Poland following St. John Paul II. These are the events which enrich them. And they bring this richness into their environment. When we open ourselves up to the Germans, we change them. They learn from us, as well as we learn from them as they also have their own richness.
A bridge to a new life
Disappearing faith and attempts of stopping this process are also problems of the youth from Holland, Belgium or France. The young are trying to solve them, functioning in Polish Catholic communities. But lack of faith concerns not only the natives – including Poles who were born there or have lived there for some time. – My experiences in community life are various. It is sometimes difficult – says Joanna Wiera from York in England. – Most of my acquaintances are atheists, people who do not want to have anything in common with Church. A lot of Poles, whom I know, went away from Church for various reasons. However, we are trying to show people at our age that Church is something more than only a community participating in the Holy Mass. We are trying to attract people to prayer; show them what prayer with the Holy Scripture is. However, we still find it difficult to reach to Poles living in England. We want to reach to them with a message of love and mercy, a kind of natural kindness. And thank God that there is still a group of people who are with us, regardless of situations or circumstances.
A similar situation is in the Catholic Mission in Paris. Adults and more and more the youth are trying to prevent the progressing secularization, attract people at their age to Church, by engaging them in activity of various communities, beginning from rosary communities to the cultural and charity ones. Maja Korchel, a psychology student, who functions in the parish under vocation of St. Genowefa in Paris and in the Association Passerelle – Bridge, bringing help to Poles in France, says: - We help mainly Poles and people from Eastern Europe who are sometimes in a helpless situation. They do not have homes or relatives. Our activity is based on voluntary work. It gives us experience in helping poor people. We want to be a bridge for a man to get to a good life. We show how, thanks to prayer and work one can find the need of life in family.
Power of Church
There is a bit different situation among the Polish youth coming from Central-Eastern Europe or from Asia. It was mentioned by the youth from: Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldavia. Although there are a lot of people there overwhelmed by drugs, alcohol, sex, one can see more engagement in activity for building churches and Catholicism. Fr. Włodzimierz Maruszewski, a Christ’s monk serving in the parish under vocation of St. John the Evangelist in Mińsk, and born in a Polish family in Belarus, emphasizes: - Today in many Catholic groups in the East, what is important, is the issue of building the church. Region of Mińsk, in which I do pastoral ministry, is a young parish. People are willing and aware to come to church. We are the minority and it is not so here that ‘I go to church because it is not right not to go’ or that someone tells me to. Here believers come or those who ask others to lead them to Christ.
Walentyna Pruckaja, a 24-year-old woman emphasizes that Church is great hope for her. She lives in Krasnorajski Kraj, a small town called Karakuskaja. She has got the shortest road to church in Abakana, distanced by….160 km. – I belong to parish under vocation of Pentecost. The Catholics are the minority here. The first priest in our region was Fr. Walter Ciszek a dozen years ago, who spent over 20 years in prisons and Soviet camps – says Walentyna. – In 1993 Fr. Antoni Pazura arrived here. Later other priests who were travelling across villages to find believers, Catholics in them. At that time there were no churches, only a small chapel in Abakana. In 2011 Fr. Krzysztof Karbowski started building a church. Today we have relics of blessed priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, St. Father Pio, St. John Paul II. The church was built thanks to the help of Church in Poland. Following the example of Polish parishes, we organize ‘Holiday with God’ and winter holidays. During meetings, children learn to pray and behave in church. They learn about Jesus. And nobody is thinking of departing from Church. – Till the time of the war we had had a beautiful life here, which stopped existing. But the good that we received from priests will remain in Church – says Wiktoria from Ugańsk in Ukraine where war is still going on. – When priests arrived here from Poland, they thought that creating a community is the most important. However, it was difficult in our country to organize the Catholic Church, as in our region there were 150 nationalities. But a priest used to come out to the street with a guitar to ‘catch’ the youth. Thanks to it, the youth started coming to us and we created a family in this way. The community consisting of 5 people in the beginning grew to 600 members. And in a very short time. Today we are undertaking a lot of actions for the youth and adults. Recently we have organized Youth Days, Night of the Holy Spirit. We also set up a music band similar to Deus Meus and now we have a lot of Catholic, youth, children bands. The priest taught us that everyone who comes to the community should be ‘utilized’. So, it is necessary what talents this person has to use them, so that this person could serve to others as much as possible. When a man who is lost comes here, we cannot lose him. We are trying to pass over what we received from St. John Paul II: ‘You must share your gift with the one who comes to you and this is the power of Church’.