EUROPEITALY: European Mission Congress 2010
The European Commission for Mission (CEM) held a Congress in Vermicino, Italy, on November 10-15, 2010. The theme for this year’s encounter was: How to live family life so as to be a witness to Christ in society.
The vicar provincial of the Province of Poland, Fr. Marcin SZAFORS, organized and chaired the meetings. The provincial of the Anglo-Irish Province, Fr. Willy FITZPATRICK served as liaison for the provincial of Europe. The Oblate Vicar General, Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI, was also present and gave a talk summarizing the proceedings.
There were 21 participants and three translators at the Congress, including 10 Oblates from the various European provinces, representing eight different nations; and there were nine lay participants.
The overall purpose of the meeting was to learn about the involvement of the Oblates in the Family Apostolate in the European Region. Both the Oblates and the lay people working with the Oblates in this area shared their experiences from their respective countries.
In some places, the involvement with families is less (e.g., it is limited to preparation for marriage in the parishes). Much more is being done in Italy, Poland and Spain.
During the encounter, there was emphasis in particular on the Oblate charism, family life and a vision for the future.
Everyone agreed that the Congress was only the beginning, a first step toward a future Congress, which would be much broader and include the help of specialists such as sociologists and psychologists.
The participants hope that the provincials of Europe will make the Family Apostolate a priority and set up a commission to review the situation and organize both local meetings and a future Congress. (Robert WAWRZENIECKI and Richard WOLAK)
Since September, the Oblate community in Minsk has had three members: Frs. Piotr BIELEWICZ, Andrzej JUCHNIEWICZ and Dymitr ZANIAMOŃSKI, all of them citizens of Belorussia, since the local authorities will not register foreign pastoral ministers.
The Oblates’ “monastery” is on the tenth (and last) floor of an apartment building. Since there is no parish church, the 120 square meter apartment is the only parish structure available.
The Oblate parish is in its beginning stages. They have already received State and Church approval as an administrative entity. In practice, this means that people who live in the neighborhood are slowly beginning to identify with their pastors, the “Oblate Fathers,” but it will be a long process taking many years.
Since there is no church or oratory, they meet with the parishioners in one of the existing churches on the “Golden Hill” of Minsk, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
Besides pastoral care, the ministry includes other interesting services such as the preparation of couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony, usually in their homes; and there is the preparation of children for Baptism or the Sacrament of Reconciliation or First Communion.
The Oblates also contribute to the pastoral care of families; Fr. Piotr is the diocesan coordinator of this ministry and has acted in defense of the unborn at abortion clinics. He has often spoken with mothers who wanted an abortion and he has conducted training for family counseling. More recently, they organized a demonstration for life. In central parks in the Belarusian capital, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants came together in various ways to defend life.
Every Friday evening, there is meeting for ure study and depending on the season, 30 to 80 people take part, highly educated people such as doctors, teachers and students.
Minsk is a city of students; therefore, on Sunday evenings, there are meetings with young people. We have to meet in our Oblate apartment. These meetings are “illegal” because, according to Belorussian law, every meeting place for youth must be registered, especially if it is religious.
Many of the young people come for private conversations. Some of them are getting ready to approach the first of the sacraments, Baptism, Confession and Communion. Often, they are just discovering the reality of God which they generally have not experienced before.
There are also sessions for learning to play the guitar and for learning the Polish language. It will be a long wait before a church can be built because they issue only two building permits per year. But in the near future, the Oblates will introduce something new for the people: parish missions. (www.oblaci.pl)
The Nineveh Evangelical Communities have given new life to Oblate parish youth groups in Poland. Their spirituality is based on the apostolic person and they see themselves as sent into the world, the Nineveh of today, to call others to conversion.
This year, the Nineveh youth took up the problem of human freedom at their 13th Congress in Markowice. Some 230 people convened for a four-day meeting from Oblate parishes in Katowice, Kędzierzyn-Koźle, Poznań, Iława, Gorzów, Lubliniec, Laskowice and Kokotek. The Congress was also attended by Oblate Sisters from Spain and Sisters Servants. Father Krzysztof JUREWICZ, Director of the Vocation Department was also present.
On the first day, Father Tomasz MANIURA from the Nineveh Formation Centre greeted all those who had arrived and after a short joint prayer, the participants went to their assigned places around Markowice to spend the night in the houses of the parishioners.
On the second day of the Congress, the young participants not only prayed together but they also listened to two lectures on freedom. The first one was given by the honorary Oblate Mr. Edmund Mikołajczak, a history teacher, in which he spoke of freedom against an historical and political background. The second lecture was given by Father Wojciech POPIELEWSKI, biblical scholar and director of a divinity school, who showed freedom in the framework of Holy Scripture.
An important event of that day was the Way of the Cross that led to the Oblate cemetery, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Eucharist presided by Father Andrzej ALBINIAK. Father Łukasz ZAJĄC delivered a fiery sermon.
Saturday morning began with a prayer service in the Shrine of the Mother of God, Our Lady of Kuyavia, and a lecture by Fr. /Dr. Paweł Gabar, who spoke about modern threats to freedom.
After the lecture, the participants had an opportunity to visit the sites at the Shrine of Our Lady of Kuyavia. Before noon, the participants of a cycling tour to Jerusalem shared their experiences during their journey to the Holy Land.
After dinner, the whole community went to take part in Holy Mass presided by the Oblate Provincial, Fr. Ryszard SZMYDKI. In the afternoon and the evening, the participants went on a sightseeing tour of Inowrocław and attended a concert performed by a Katowice band TEA.
The last day of the Nineveh Congress began with Morning Prayer and then the young participants were invited to take part in the activities of the missionary volunteers who will go on a mission to Ukraine in July and August.
Those who were particularly touched by God’s presence during the Congress had an opportunity to give witness. Before the Congress came to an end, all the participants were invited to the next one in the Spring. (Błażej MIELCAREK)
On Sunday, November 7, there took place in Naples an event for the youth of Campania who are in contact with the Missionary Oblates. It was called: “In the steps of St. Eugene in Naples.” The agenda for the day focused on the year 1798, the year when young Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of the Missionary Oblates, lived in Naples.
The day began with the celebration of Holy Mass in the Church of the Immaculate at Pizzofalcone where the Oblate community resides. Then the participants came together to listen to biographies of St. Eugene during his Neapolitan period. In the afternoon, there was a visit to the Church of Santa Maria in Portico on Riviera di Chiaia, the neighborhood where sixteen year-old Eugene lived with his father.
Besides the young people from Naples, there were also youth coming from Santa Maria a Vico, Aversa, and Nocera Superiore, a total of 80 participants. Among the participants, there was also the Oblate novitiate community from Marino near Rome. Organizers for the gathering were Frs. Pasquale CASTRILLI and Ciro ANDREOZZI.
On November 12, several members of the Oblate scholasticate community at Obra participated in a meeting with Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq.
The first part of the meeting was a poignant Way of the Cross, led by the pastor of the Cathedral of Poznan, Fr. Irene Szwarc. The participants prayed for countries where Christians are being persecuted and murdered; they associated with the pain of followers of Christ in China, India, Sudan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and many other places.
Then Archbishop Sako spoke of the situation of Christians in Iraq. He told of murdered priests, of attacks on churches during services, about the fear that haunts Christians every day. He also spoke of the heroic priests who devote themselves totally to God and to His people. He talked about the October 31 massacre of priests and faithful when armed militants entered a Church during Mass.
The archbishop begged the participants not to abandon the Christians of Iraq. The worst thing would be for them to think that the Church has forgotten them. They feel very lonely. (Bro. Bart PAŁYGA in www.oblaci.pl)
Málaga is full of excitement because of the preparations for World Youth Day (WYD). The Spanish Oblate youth are preparing to welcome the thousands of pilgrims that will visit them next August in the days leading up to WYD.
The Oblates’ greatest contribution to “Madrid 11” will be the International Oblate Youth Encounter held in the Diocese of Málaga. It is a gathering of Oblate youth from all over the world that will take place in the week previous to WYD (from August 11th-15th), to welcome over 2,000 young people from Spain and other parts of the world such as Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada, or Paraguay. This isn’t the first time that this encounter takes place; it was also done in Sydney and Cologne.
The objectives of these days in Málaga are to prepare the young people for WYD, to hear testimonies that will help them go deeper into the missionary spirit in their lives, and to encourage an intercultural exchange in the Oblate family through an interpersonal encounter, for which catechesis, Masses and meetings are organized. All of this will be done in the different languages of WYD. To be able to reach their goal, the Oblates are counting on eight parishes and a sports center to receive the pilgrims.
Lorena is one of the young people that collaborate with the congregation. She is 21 years old, and tells how excited she is for WYD to arrive. She participated in other World Youth Days in 2005 and 2008, and from her own experience she affirms that she is looking forward to “seeing so many people that live the faith like you do, that have the same experience as you. To share this is a very powerful feeling.”
Fr. Ismael GARCÍA is in charge of coordinating the preparations of this massive encounter. This includes speaking to the local authorities to find places for the youth to stay, asking banks to help to finance the costs, and even contacting food chains to be able to nourish the pilgrims. His work also includes looking for cultural activities that will show the Spanish culture to the young foreigners, or searching for translators to facilitate communication during those days. They are also doing everything that is possible to get help in order to bring in young people from disadvantaged countries, like Bangladesh.
But Fr. Ismael is not alone. Lorena and the rest of the young volunteers are getting together regional choirs and flamenco groups, who with their art will give testimony of the Andalusian patrimony and culture to the foreigners who will come to the International Oblate Youth Encounter. They are also going to the schools of Málaga to make the youth aware of the unforgettable experience that this great Catholic youth event will be.
After the days in Málaga, they will all travel to Madrid to meet up with the thousands of other young people who will be waiting for them in the Spanish capital. There, they will stay in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a city close to Madrid, where the Oblates have a house of formation. During those days they will have a ceremony in commemoration of the martyrs that died in that house, and who will soon be beatified.
For those two weeks the Oblate theme has been adapted from the WYD theme: “With the Oblate martyrs, planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” (www.madrid11.com)
The European Commission for Youth and Vocation Ministry met in Malaga, Spain, on November 19-24, 2010. Oblates from most of the European Units prayed and discussed important topics related to their commission’s portfolio.
Fr. Ismael GARCIA gave a progress report about preparations for the Oblate World Youth Days to be held next summer in Malaga, prior to the WYD events in Madrid. Further proposals were offered and some concrete plans were made for the program of this gathering of Oblate youth from all over the world.
A retreat for European youth had been held in Marino, Italy, during the summer. There was an evaluation of this event and the decision was made to have such retreats every three years. For the youth, it was a good opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Oblate charism, to become more familiar with St. Eugene de Mazenod, and to create a network among youth of the various Units in Europe. The commission appreciated the contributions of Frs. Frank SANTUCCI and Fabio BASTONI during the retreat.
Guest speakers at the commission’s meeting were the General Councillor for Europe, Fr. Chicho ROIS, and the provincial of Spain, Fr. Otilio LARGO. They helped the participants integrate their ideas and plans with the goals of the whole Congregation. (Bartosz MADEJSKI)
There have been Polish members of the Oblate Congregation since the late nineteenth century. However, after their vows and ordination, they exercised their ministry primarily among Polish immigrants in Germany and in Canada.
Eventually, especially after the 1918 independence of Poland, they desired to spread the charism of the St. Eugene de Mazenod in their homeland. On June 6, 1920, the first Oblate community was established in Krotoszyn, Poland, directly dependent on the General Administration in Rome. Shortly thereafter, a second house was opened in Markowice and a vice-province was created, the beginning of the present province. It was governed by a vicar-provincial and four councillors.
On June 13, 1925, Poland became the twelfth province in the Oblate Congregation. It consisted of only 12 priests and 5 Oblate Brothers.
After years of domination by other countries, Poland was experiencing an extraordinary religious revival, so much so that it was, before long, able to send missionaries to the ends of the earth.
On September 20 until October 18, 1926, the 21st General Chapter was held in Rome. It was attended by 64 provincials and delegates, among whom the first two Poles: the provincial, Fr. Francis SMITH, and Fr. John PAWOŁEK. They were able to report on the first successes and joys of the young province: the increasing number of juniors in Lublin and Krobia; the developing houses of formation: a novitiate at Markowice and scholasticates in Krobia and Obra. They also reported on the pastoral work in Poland: hundreds of sermons preached and dozens of missions and retreats conducted. They also mentioned the missionary magazine, Oblat Niepokalanej (Oblate of Mary Immaculate) which had many subscribers. It was clear to everyone that the youngest province, Poland, was one of the most thriving in the Oblate world.
A paper that emphasized the participation of the Poles in the General Chapter of 1926 was presented at the 90th anniversary celebrations held at the scholasticate in Obra on October 11, 2010. It complemented the witness of the oldest men in the Polish Province who still remember the good men who shaped it from the beginning. (Paweł Zając in www.oblaci.pl)