ABOUT POLES AND POLISH DIASPORA IN CHICAGO
Fr. Waldemar Wesołowski talks with bishop Andrzej Wypych from Chicago about pastoral ministry in American parishes
FR. WALDEMAR WESOŁOWSKI: - How did it happen that Priest coming from Kraków, is in Chicago and became bishop there?
BISHOP ANDRZEJ WYPYCH: - First it is God’s grace that it happened so, and later human conditions. My family left for the United States, and I stayed in Poland on my own. I graduated from a seminary in Kraków, after my ordination I worked in the parish for three years, and later I joined my family. In the USA I have been working for 30 years. In the recent years I was ordained an auxiliary bishop. How did it happen? I do not know it. I think that finally God’s grace started working. Although there were many others, God looked at me and wanted me to be His apostle, for which I am grateful to Him. I am glad because as a bishop I can do a lot for Lord and people and Polish Diaspora.
– Are there any differences in the pastoral work in Poland and the USA?
– Working conditions are always connected with time, place and historical circumstances. The Church is still developing, is not passive. The Church in Chicago is characterized by many nationalities, variety of cultures and civilization. We run pastoral ministry in 32 languages. Their mutual penetration, certainly influences the Church. In pastoral ministry we must consider this variety. Also Poles bring a lot into the life of the local Church. We have got a lot in common, but we also differ a lot. It proves great richness and possibilities. In the American and Chicago Church we accentuate engagement in the life of the community of laymen. Forming laymen in the parish life is strongly emphasized. We engage laymen in liturgy. Considering its preparing and experiencing, I am impressed by the Polish Church. I must say that in this respect you are further than us, although we are trying to care about it. People coming to us from Poland, bring a good spirit into our life, and they also learn about new pastoral form. My role is based on care so that it would go into a good direction.
– When we speak about Polish Diaspora in Chicago, don’t we mean a uniform society anymore?
– Since 1830 Chicago has been developing as a city, population started immigrating here. Many Poles arrived here especially at the end of the XIX century. These were very difficult times. The big economic development took place not earlier than in the 50s of the XX century. After the First World War, some Poles returned to Poland, but not all of them got adapted to new conditions and returned to Chicago. Later the Second World War broke out, and there was another emigration. Children of the first emigrants, born in the United States ‘became strongly American’, although they were trying to refer to the Polish tradition in the cultural sense. There were also strong patriotic feelings and care about Poland. And, in this way the Catholic League for Religious Help to the Church in Poland was created. It was somehow the first Polish Diaspora. We speak about the second one, when we are thinking about the 80s of the XX century, about the spurt of ‘Solidarity’ and the martial law in Poland. It was the time when many people emigrated. About 300 thousand Poles arrived in Chicago. This group brought other cultural elements than the previous one. The next one was employment emigration. So, Polish Diaspora is not a monolith and a lot can be said about each group.
– Bishop mentioned the Catholic League for which He is responsible. It is, among the others, thanks to it that many priests could study in Rome.
– The Catholic League for Religious Help to the Church in Poland and now of Polish Diaspora, is an organization consisting of mainly people of Polish origin. In the beginning its purpose was to organize help to Poles before the Second World War, after its end and during communism. The purpose was also to claim for Polish matters from the American authorities. I hastened with material aid myself in Poland at the times of ‘Solidarity’. In the League clergy and laymen are engaged, who give material and spiritual help to Poles in homeland and all over the world. Since then the situation in Poland has got improved, we direct our actions towards Poles in poorer countries. For example, we support two Polish houses for priests studying in Rome – Polish Institute and Polish College; there was also a Polish seminary in Paris, but the situation got changed there. Every year we give about 200 thousand dollars for this purpose from fees of Polish Diaspora. We find it important that Polish priests can get educated so that they would be open to the world, wise and intelligent, the Polish Church would have educated priests. It is a great value. Later they pay this debt with their pastoral ministry and academic work.
– What are the most important purposes of pastoral ministry of the Polish Diaspora in Chicago?
– We do not have any Polish parishes. Pastoral ministry among the Polish Diaspora is a part of the diocesan pastoral ministry. Under an umbrella of the Catholic League we created Pastoral Ministry for Families named Our Lady of Częstochowa. So, in the centre there is family and various dimensions of its life: religion, education, work, culture, leisure. On these sphere we form our Christian and Polish identity. We put a particular pressure on formation of children, the youth and students. We care about pastoral ministry of fiancé and fiancées, we emphasize the beauty of the Christian marriage and the significance of the sacrament of marriage. We also care about maintaining Polish culture and tradition. Moreover, our mission is building the unity of the Polish Diaspora, promoting Polish Diaspora in the Church and American society, active participation in missions run by Polish missionaries, granting academic scholarships to Polish young people of the Roman Catholic faith, financial aid in educating and forming leaders in parish structures in the USA.
– And what is the issue of vocations in the Chicago Church like?
– Thanks to God we have vocations, we observe the visible increase of vocations. The only problem is that we do not have priests for bigger groups of believers which come to the United States and which have their specific needs, like, the Polish Diaspora. Local priests – even those who come from Polish families, but were born and educated in the USA – are not able to understand all problems or find solutions to them. Therefore, we are looking for volunteers for this work. However, I would like to emphasize that these must be priests whose attitude to this pastoral ministry is positive, who are somehow heroes and want to show the beauty of the Christian life. Priests who are open, generous and brave, and devoted to the matter of the Church and want to build the civilization of love…