The place of the French immigration in Poland's history

Fr Jan Robakowski

In the service of the Fatherland

The massive immigration of the best sons of our nation began after the November Uprising. Thousands of Polish officers and civil participants of the rising, coming mostly from the gentry, were forced to leave their homeland in order to avoid being transported to Siberia. Most of them went to France. It was them, headed by such spiritual leaders as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Zygmunt Krasinski, Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, that formed the Great Immigration. Its motto and only raison d'etre was fight for Poland's freedom and return to the country. Referring to that important event of Poland's history John Paul II said to the Polish Community of Paris in the Field of Mars on 31 May 1980, 'We must mention with emotions the Great Immigration and those who created and revived it. At this place we must mention that it was here in Paris that the Congregation of the Resurrectionist Fathers was founded to bring moral help to the Immigration, to build the Polish Catholic Community, the objective being included in their programme. They all understood their stay here, in Paris, as services to the Fatherland and the nation. This was the aim of their cultural, political and religious activities, and their raison d'etre.'

Salutary idea of founding the Catholic Mission

The Great Immigration could not exist and fight without a real base, without the real spiritual support, which only the Catholic Church could provide. The leaders of the Immigration understood that very well. Adam Mickiewicz said, 'Only on the foundation of Catholicism unity of Poles can be built' 'No foreign doctrine can save us, only love for the Fatherland and the Son of God can do this', added Fr Hieronim Kajsiewicz. The Immigration and first of all its representatives: Bogdan Janski, Piotr Semenenko, Hieronim Kajsiewicz, Aleksander Jelowicki and Adam Mickiewicz, founded the Polish Catholic Mission. Its creation was closely connected with the foundation of the Congregation of Resurrectionists on 17 February 1836. Since then the Polish Catholic Mission, in accord with the motto of its first rector Fr Aleksander Jelowicki, has continuously reminded the fellow countrymen that 'The nation whose faith is most sacred, most lively and most faithful is the happiest one and it will last longest'.
In his speech to the Polish Community of Paris John Paul said about the work of the Mission, 'The Christian past of the nation, our Christian tradition, was preserved here. The Immigration was morally restored here and it deepened the awareness of its mission: service to the Fatherland. It was in the past, it was so, and it should be forever'.

Celebration of the anniversary in Paris

The celebration concerning the 170th anniversary of the foundation of the Polish Catholic Mission began on 21 January 2006. A special scientific seminar was organised, during which the role of the Polish Catholic Mission in the life of the Polish Community in France in the past and the present was discussed. The most important moment was Mass, during which the hymn of thanksgiving Te Deum was sung. It was celebrated in the Church of St Mary Magdalene. Over 2,000 people participated in the Mass. It was presided over by Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Primate of Poland. The other celebrants were: Apostolic Nuncio to France Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly from Rome, Bishop Claude Schockert, Ukrainian Exarch of France Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn and rectors of the Polish missions in Paris, Brussels, London and Vienna as well as numerous Polish priests who are working in France.
Let us remember that it was in the Church of St Mary Magdalene, which is so close to us, Poles, that the whole Polish Community of Paris and the representatives of the French cultural world met on 21 January, exactly 150 years ago, in order to say good-bye to our great poet Adam Mickiewicz. It was his funeral Mass. On Sunday, 22 January, the Primate of Poland celebrated Mass in the Polish Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, called 'at Concorde', and in the evening he participated in a Christmas social gathering. On the occasion of his visit to Paris the Primate met the Polish Pallottine Fathers on the feast day of their patron St Vincent Pallotii. This year the Pallottine Fathers are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Catholic Congress in Osny. On 24 January the Primate participated in the celebration in the new building of the Polish Seminary in Paris in Issy-les Moulineaux. Exactly 10 years ago he signed the contract to buy this building from the Sisters of Notre-Dame de Sion. Currently, 117 priests work in the Polish Catholic Mission. They celebrate masses in Polish at 137 places with about 100,000 Polish participants.

Distinction for Prof. Dlubacz

On the occasion of the 170th anniversary of the Polish Catholic Mission in France (Adam Mickiewicz was one of its founders) the rector of the Mission Rev. Msgr Stanislaw Jez conferred the Golden Medal of the Meritorious for the Polish Catholic Mission and Polish Community of France on Wlodzimierz Dlubacz, Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin and director of the Philosophical-Ethical-Social College in Paris.

"Niedziela" 8/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: