EUROPEFirst priest from Turkmenistan ordained
On May 7, 2016, in St. Nickolas church in Kiev, the first Oblate and first priest ever from Turkmenistan was ordained – Fr. Anton LITVINOV. The new priest received the Sacrament of Holy Orders from his Oblate brother, Bishop Radoslaw ZMITROWICZ, Auxiliary of Kamyanets-Podilskyi.
Turkmenistan is a vast country, 80% of which is a desert. Since the first Oblate came there 19 years ago, after a century of atheist propaganda, there are around 300 Catholics. At the beginning of the 20th century, in Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, there was a Catholic sanctuary, which was taken away from the faithful and completely destroyed by communists after it had suffered major damage from an earthquake. It seemed that it would be extremely difficult to re-plant the seed of faith in the desert, but a request for a priest for Turkmenistan came from Krasnovodsk – the place where Fr. Anton Litvinov was born. To respond to this request of the Church, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were sent there. Despite extremely difficult circumstances, they continue their service there, and their mission has resulted in this priestly vocation.
Standing joyfully at the altar next to the Bishop was a Polish Oblate, Fr. Andrzej MADEJ, who has served for these past 19 years in Turkmenistan. With the Bishop, Fr. Andrzej was one of the first Oblates who came to Fr. Anton’s village.
Acknowledging the historic character of this ordination, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Oblate Superior General, wrote to the newly ordained: "I rejoice with you and all the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Ukraine and Turkmenistan for the grace of your ordination and on this day of your First Mass! I am filled with gratitude to God for your vocation which is a wonderful fruit of the Holy Spirit working through the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Turkmenistan. You are the first Turkman Oblate and we hope that many young men from your country will follow your example and become great missionaries for the Church. I give thanks to God that you have said ‘Yes!’ to his call and have persevered in following Jesus. I thank your family for the good values and the faith which they have given you.”
The event was attended by Oblates from all over Ukraine and from Crimea. Fr. Anton’s mother came from Turkmenistan; his relatives and friends arrived from other countries. The longest trip was made from Canada by Fr. Tomasz KOSCINSKI. The Oblates’ Polish Province was represented by the Vicar Provincial Vicar, Fr. Marian PUCHALA. St. Nickolas church in Kiev was filled with laity and religious women, rejoicing with Fr. Anton who had served there during his time as a deacon. (Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI)
In April and May of this year, the Oblate scholasticate in Obra staged a play, "Dreams of Power,” that perfectly corresponded to the atmosphere of the Year of Mercy. Since it was open to the general public, it also offered a unique opportunity for evangelization. "Dreams of power” is a musical based on the biblical story of Joseph "The Dreamer”, contained in the Book of Genesis (chapters 37-50). Adaptation of the original musical and its direction was undertaken by Fr Sebastian WISNIEWSKII, the professor of homiletics at Obra. The actors were chosen among the Oblate scholastics and youth members of the "Niniwa” Oblate youth movement from Obra and neighboring villages, including girls who in the "Sursum Corda Band” and the altar boys of the local parish. Preparations for the play began in January. The scholasticate’s auditorium become a real theatrical venue, with marvelous decorations portraying localities of ancient Egypt and the Holy Land.
Staging theatrical plays at the scholasticate at Obra is a long tradition and is done on yearly basis. However, this year’s initiative was unique because of the number of actors involved and the live performance of music, singing and dancing, as well as multimedia effects. The over two hours spent in Obra’s "theatre” seemed to pass quickly – the action was intense, the singing was beautiful and the actors gave all their heart to represent faithfully the Patriarchs, Egyptians and their families.
The performance was staged from April 15 to May 3 (a total of 22 times), always in front of a full house. It is no exaggeration to say that the musical was presented in front of a total number of some 6,000 people coming from Obra, the neighboring villages and cities as far away from Obra as Poznan. In some parishes, the pastors rented buses in order to visit our Oblate theatre with a larger group of parishioners.
The spectacle’s main focus on the immensity of God’s love. The story of Joseph made it clear that there is no evil from which God could not redeem a person. Each sinner can experience God’s love and turn away from what is causing him pain towards better life, full of forgiveness, love and service. The viewers were encouraged to find in their own lives the situations similar to those which were faced by biblical Joseph "The Dreamer”. Every situation can be an opportunity to seek and experience Divine Mercy.
A very special group of viewers came to Obra on April 30. Some 80 parents and close relatives of our scholastics from all over the country came to the scholasticate to celebrate in a family way the 200th anniversary of the Oblate Congregation. They were happy to see the scholastics perform really well and enjoyed the fraternal atmosphere of the scholasticate. (Pawel ZAJAC)
Villorba, the birthplace of the 11th Superior General of the Oblates, has renamed a plaza in the city after its famous son: Piazza Arcivescovo Marcello Zago. The ceremony of renaming the plaza took place on March 1, 2016, the 15th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Zago. At the time of his death, he was serving as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Among the several speeches given during the dedication, his niece, Manuela Zago, spoke of her beloved uncle:
I would like to remember Father Marcello on the 15th anniversary of his death and share with you, if only in synthesis and incompletely, that which animated his religious life. As many of you already know, Fr. Marcello was born just a few steps away from this piazza.
His life was entirely dedicated to the missionary Church. He himself revealed the secret of his whole personality and fruitful activity in his spiritual testament. He wrote: For me, there are three important things: Jesus Christ, the Church and the mission.
A man, a religious at the service of the Church, esteemed by Pope John Paul II, but also a teacher of humanity, communicated in many ways.
He paid attention to every person he met, believer or non-believer, or of a different religion; the welcome he had for everyone was personal and sincere.
In spite of his many and important responsibilities, he always maintained the humility and the simplicity of the bygone families of this place.
He had been a missionary in Laos for several years; there he nurtured a passion for the study of oriental languages and for the study of Buddhism. He founded there a center of study and research that allowed him to establish wonderful relationships with the civil and religious authorities.
In 1973, for the first time he accompanied a delegation of the principal Buddhist authorities of the East to meet Pope Paul VI.
We can find a synthesis of his entire missionary zeal and his experience in Laos in an interview he gave in 2000, on the occasion of the Jubilee Year, not long before his death. Here are his words:
"I would say that I experienced my greatest joy in the evening, after having met so many persons, simple people, intellectuals, Buddhist monks. I realized that in some way, I had shared the same love of God for them, and then, I perceived that they too were seeking this supreme reality, not only as an indefinable reality, as they say in Buddhism, but one who also has a heart for real persons.
I believe that at these very moments, more than in others, I saw my vocation fully realized.”
Fr. Marcello, with the witness of his life, has left us a precious inheritance, a good that we will guard with care.
The 24th NINIWA convention took place in early May at Kokotek. The convention is a gathering of youth from every Oblate community in Poland – altogether more than 200 people. It takes place twice a year, once in the NINIWA Formation Center in Kokotek and once in an Oblate parish. The first convention was held in 2004.
The convention lasted 4 days (April 30 –May 3). The youth arrived in the evening of the first day. After the evening meal and a prayer session, the principal theme of the convention was introduced: Mission ImPossible. Local families offered the attendees lodging for the nights.
On the second day, after a prayer session, the Provincial of Poland, Fr. Antoni BOCHM, presided at Eucharist; then there was a conference and time for worship and confession. In the afternoon, the Catholic band, Full Power of the Spirit, entertained.
After Mass on the third day, everyone took part in Mission Possible – games with an apostolic theme. The participants were divided into groups of 12, each with its own leader and a list of tasks to accomplish. They went into the forest, each group in a different direction. All of the tasks were based on the Holy Bible; the purpose was to teach the participants how to be apostles. The tasks required them to leave their warm and safe everyday lives to cooperate with each other and to trust their leader. Everyone enjoyed the game and found it uplifting. It lasted for eight hours! At the end of the day, there was a bonfire.
The local bishop presided at the closing Mass and the youth were invited to look forward to the next gathering in November.
A popular saying states: "For feasts, there is no table without snacks and no Mass without preparations".
Preparations for our patronal feast, the "Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima” included the person of Archbishop Nicolaos Matti, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Spain. He preached each day of the Octave which was animated by the parish choir. His simple reflections on Jesus, based on the day’s gospel, and linked to the miracles of Mary in her visits to our land, led us daily, hand in hand with the Son and the Mother, to the fervent celebration of her feast day on May 13.
We had a pause in Nicolaos’ Octave on Sunday, May 8. Our Archbishop Carlos Osoro took the presider’s chair, preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. We had an emotional moment at the Greeting of Peace when both bishops came together in an ecumenical embrace, demonstrating the longed for unity of Christians.
On the 13th, the doors of our parish were open from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. It was the "Day of Open Doors,” with a continual coming and going of the people whose eyes were fixed on the beautiful image of Our Lady of Fatima. With the simplicity of the shepherds, they asked for her blessing, her help and her strength.
At 10:00 p.m., we celebrated the Eucharist. Our church, very nicely filled with God’s people, was a wonderful witness as to how a Mother calls her children to come close to her son. The circle of Oblates gathered in the sanctuary was a silent witness to a unique celebration in honor of their Mother. Adding a special touch was the presence of our vicar provincial, Fr. Ismael GARCIA, and Archbishop Nicolaos, whose vestments contrasted with the sameness of our own.
The Mass was solemnized by the "Saint Thomas Choir” from the Complutense University of Madrid and who delighted us with some songs in Latin.
At the end of Mass, the pastor thanked all for their presence and their participation in both the Octave and the Eucharist on the 13th. Then we went to share some wine and hors d’oeuvres. As we were walking to the dining room, we received many congratulations and an unexpected comment by one of the women who has been coming for many years: "Never have we had such a beautiful celebration in our parish.” (http://nosotrosomi.blogspot.it/ )
In the July 2013 issue of OMI Information, Fr. Joaquín MARTÍNEZ VEGA, the General Postulator of that time, announced that the cause for the beatification of the presumed martyr, Polish Oblate Fr. Ludwik WRODARCZYK, had been resumed with the Superior General’s approval of a new Vice-Postulator, Fr. Andrzej MACKOW.
On May 11, 2016, the official "diocesan phase” of the cause was opened at the Cathedral of Lutsk, Ukraine, by the Ordinary of that diocese, Bishop Vitaliy Skomarovskyi. Gathered in the Cathedral were most of the Oblates ministering in Ukraine and Russia, as well as the Vicar Provincial of the Province of Poland, Fr. Marian Puchala and the Delegation Superior, Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI.
In his greeting to those in attendance, Fr. Pavlo stated: "We Missionary Oblates are mostly about the same age as Ludwik (36 years); most of the Oblates came from Poland where he came from. He too worked in a small parish that had to be built virtually from scratch. So it is for us. His is an example of faithfulness to the end. He too suffered during a war. He became a martyr of reconciliation. He went out to everyone, regardless of nationality.”
Ludwik Wrodarczyk was born in 1907 in Silesia into the family of a miner. In 1927, he pronounced his first vows as an Oblate at Markowice and then moved on to the scholasticate in Obra. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1933 and served as a parish priest in Koden until 1939 when he was sent to a newly created parish in Okopy on the border of Ukraine, then occupied by the USSR. He devoted himself to all in need and would make missionary journeys into territories beyond the former Polish border where he risked his life serving even the medical needs of the people. He knew full well the danger of falling into the hands of Ukrainian nationalists. On December 6, 1943, he was kidnapped from the church at Okopy. After several days of harassment, he was tortured to death in the woods.