'Niedziela' in the Diocese of Sandomierz
Monsignor Ireneusz Skubis speaks to Andrzej Dziega, Bishop of the Diocese of Sandomierz
Andrzej Dziega, Bishop of the Diocese of Sandomierz
Bishop Andrzej Dziega: - I am thankful for the meeting, which took place almost two years ago. When I began my bishop's ministry in the Diocese of Sandomierz one of the first issues I enquired about was the readership of the Catholic press in families in our diocese. It was with great joy that I learned that there was a diocesan edition of 'Go? Niedzielny' (Sunday Visitor). But I was little sad when I learned that its circulation in the diocese was rather small. In my opinion there should be more Catholic magazines available in our diocese and then every believer will choose a magazine, which suits him/her best.
Numerous priests informed me that a considerable number of Catholics read 'Niedziela', which they subscribe or buy in newspaper stands. But it was a weekly without the so-called diocesan insert. At that time it was too early to make any decisions and that matter had to be postponed. Nevertheless, I never forgot it. I thought about it a great deal and discerned the potential and needs of the diocese. At the moment we are about to begin a new project. This moment in history is of great pastoral importance to the diocese because we are organizing the Diocesan Year of Family to begin on the first Sunday of Advent. Nowadays some pastoral activities are being carried out in all parishes. They aim at deepening the teaching of the Church on family and pastoral orientation to family issues. Therefore, I thank God and am grateful to you that we can publish our diocesan edition of 'Niedziela' in these days.
- In 1926 Bishop Teodor Kubina, the founder of 'Niedziela' said to the priests in his diocese that 'Niedziela' was to be an additional assistant to the parish priest. What would you say about this?
- It is a very accurate remark of a wise bishop but today one could speak about a somewhat different dimension. One could speak about an additional parish group, which lives in a certain community of themes, attitudes, thinking and becomes a community of prayer in the parish. It is very important that this group of families, reading 'Niedziela' every week, can get to know something about themselves. In fact, a Catholic magazine can become something more than an assistant because it does not only constitute a forum for proclaiming the truths of the Good News but also becomes an extremely strong forum for forming practical attitudes. A Catholic periodical allows believers to stay in contact with the teaching of the Church during the week. I think that in this sense it is something more than the work of one assistant to the parish priest.
- The Holy Father gives us a message entitled 'The Media in the Family: A Risk and Richness' for the third Sunday of September, which is the Day of Means of Social Communication in Poland. Would you be so kind as to share with our Readers your reflections on this theme?
- Being grateful to the Holy Father for his precise formulation of the problem I would also place it in the context of celebrating Sunday. Therefore, I regard the title of our weekly as blessed. It would be good if on Sunday - the holy day, the Lord's day - every family, adults and youngsters, plans to have some time to sit down and read a good positive text, which will lead them to good life and which will provide the right formation. Thus every family would get help for its growth and could mature beautifully. I would see a Catholic periodical not only as an element of family formation but also as an element of celebrating the holy day.
-Thank you for such an approach to the problem. We also do our best so that God's commandment 'Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy' will be fully observed and we would like our weekly to help in this area as much as possible. Please tell us how you see the project to publish the Sandomierz edition of 'Niedziela' and its usefulness to the faithful.
- I must say that I am an optimist although perhaps a little incurable optimist. My optimism results from certain calculation. In the Diocese of Sandomierz the pastoral care embraces about 150,000 families. If every tenth family regularly reads a Catholic weekly, that will give 15,000 families. It is a big number. Nevertheless, in my opinion such a number of readership is possible to achieve when we involve associations, Catholic movements, parish councils as well as parish priests and their assistants if we provide certain inspiration. We should also take into consideration the efforts of catechists, teachers and multitudes of laity that are involved in the pastoral ministry. 'Sunday' will be the second title, beside the insert in 'Go? Niedzielny'. If we statistically divided that number by two we would have 7-8 thousand potential readers. Now the readership is half that number. I think when the Sandomierz edition of 'Niedziela' is published we will take intense actions to contribute it in the diocese. And I say it openly that it will also be some test in our pastoral dynamism in the context of the Year of Family, which we are about to begin. It will be an examination on our care for families.
- What is your opinion about pastoral ministry through media and what is the role of pastoral ministers i.e. parish priests? I think the fate of Catholic press is in their hands.
- It is a very apt remark. It shows certain necessity for pastoral anxiety. I do realise that many priests in Poland and in our diocese are tired of their pastoral ministries. One of the reasons is that we have got so many different pastoral initiatives that the tension about the pastoral ministry and priests is stronger that before and numerous priests feel they are under intense pressure. But perhaps it is so that they should not defend themselves in this situation but they should go out to people with something concrete. And this is extremely important from the psychological point of view. Do you want an example? If someone comes to the parish office and he/she is a reader of some Catholic weekly, the priest can talk to him/her about some topic he/she is interested in. Thus such meetings in the administrative office can become places of formation and pastoral care. And if this person does not buy any Catholic paper but the parish priest can see he/she is a thinker he can give him/her some Catholic paper and encourage them to read it. And looking at this issue from this administrative point of view we can see this situation as an opportunity to inspire good people who are a little spiritually lazy and make them get interested in the teaching of the Church and the value of Christian life. In fact, even if there is some network of distribution organised by some dynamic laymen - movements, associations, various communities - the person of the parish priest will always be the source and centre of initiatives. He wants to have some pastoral effect for the benefit of the people but also for the whole parish and the dynamism of the parish life.
- Apart from the role of the parish priest in the distribution of the Catholic press the school forum with its teachers of religion is extremely important. How should catechists react to the pastoral help the Catholic press offers?
- I smiled a little when I heard this question. It reminded me of the conversation I had with a narrow group of people - two priests and two or three laymen, teaching religious instruction at school - about half a year ago. We were trying to simulate the possibility of subscription of certain weekly by one school class in the gymnasium or high school. Please believe me the sum per year for the class seemed to be very small. I do not know how many catechists will take up this initiative but I am convinced that this is one of pastoral ideas. I also observed the catechists: one drew a smiley face, another summed up 'again collection, again subscription and again work and responsibility...' However, if a class collected money once a year to subscribe one Catholic weekly, pupils will have a wise forum for discussion every week. And apart from this it is exactly at school age that people learn to use the Catholic press, to get knowledge about issues and events concerning the Church from the radio and television news.
- How good it is to use your pastoral ideas and get a new point of view! What do you think about the possibility of involving the intelligentsia, e.g. seminary professors, in the work with 'Niedziela'?
- I would see two stages in this action. The participation of Catholic movements and associations in distributing the Catholic press is undoubtedly vital. And as far as our diocese is concerned the activities of the Catholic Action and the Association of Catholic Families are great. I will make these circles committed to animate the readership of the Catholic press.
On the other hand, I thank you for your remark about professors and lecturers of the Higher Theological Seminary. And that also applies to the school of theology for laymen in Sandomierz - Blessed Vincent Kadlubek Theological Institute. Kadlubek is the patron saint of Sandomierz. I want to propose this group of people to use the Catholic Weekly 'Niedziela' as a forum for debate. Many of them publish good articles in accord with their scientific interests, many often go to parishes to preach, give retreats and missions. The forum for preaching God's word in a popular way would perfectly get in between the sphere of transmitting the teaching of the Church, the science of God, and the sphere of scientific research. I will talk about this to professors and lecturers of these two institutions.
- 'Niedziela' would like to get involved in the pastoral programme of the Year of Family, which begins in the Diocese of Sandomierz. How could we be useful?
- You have already been helping me because you got involved in our programme by publishing this insert. The diocesan editors will see to have a column about pastoral issues concerning the Year of Family. It will not only contain a calendar of events but first of all it will announce future events and write commentaries and supplements. It will be a stable forum for discussions with readers about everything what is going on within the framework of the Year of Family. That is why I want to thank you in advance and I think when the Year of Family finishes there will be other subjects which we will treat in a similar way.
- Earlier you mentioned the advice, which was sent to every parish, to read a fragment of the Catechism of the Catholic Church before every Mass on Sunday. Could you explain our Polish readers this idea, which is certainly worthy of attention.
- For a long time priests have signalled me to return to the catechism, the so-called catechetical sermons. The signals were sent by those priests who give retreats or missions. I also remember from my own experiences that on such occasions as retreats priests analysed the truths of the Catechism in a simple way when they spoke about specific subjects, for example 'what is marriage', 'why is marriage a sacrament and what does it mean for the couple', 'how does marriage as a sacrament help them beside the fact it binds them or make their life difficult'. I remember the church became silent and people began listening carefully. I felt they wanted to hear such catechetical sermons, they felt hunger for that. Therefore, taking into consideration the Year of Family and after having thought about it and consulted the need for such means, we began applying the idea. Since 19 September two or three paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church have been read before every Mass in all churches in the Diocese of Sandomierz. It is our pastoral preparation for the diocesan Year of Family. Suitable texts have been assigned for every Sunday. It is recommended that these texts should be read by laymen, adults and first of all, by parents of the children who are preparing for their First Communion or Confirmation. The texts are also read by members of the Catholic associations. Our aim is to form a wide group of active believers around the parish priest. I deeply believe that in this way - reading the texts patiently - we will arouse some interest in the faithful. Laymen will feel the taste of the catechetical truth, the value of concrete answers to various questions. I treat it as a forum for preaching the teaching of the Church. For there is a homily during Mass, which has a different form of preaching. Those three minutes before the Mass can be a profound introduction to the core of the Church's teaching and can help believers open to prayer and living presence of Jesus Christ in the sacraments.
- You have already mentioned that the patron of the Diocese of Sandomierz is Blessed Vincent Kadlubek. This fact leads to history, to the Polish culture. Certainly, there will be place to develop this theme in 'Niedziela Sandomierska'; this theme is a characteristic feature that differentiates this diocese from other dioceses, which cannot boast of such treasures of Polish culture...
- I must protest a little here because every diocese, every place has got its extraordinary spiritual, cultural treasures. Therefore, I do not see any special differentiation. However, it is a fact that the Diocese of Sandomierz has its own specification. Referring to the person of Blessed Master Vincent, he is an extremely interesting figure, a very deep person and in my own opinion, he was involved in the life of the Polish Church and in the Polish history more than it seems to be. He was not a very humbly saint. As a bishop he left his place in order to be closed in the Cistercian abbey and to devote himself to the work for the nation, which shows what extraordinary person he was. However, in the last decades people did a great harm to him when they showed certain inconsistency, incoherence or historical failure of his chronicles after they had carried out strictly scientific analyses. The harm is that, in my opinion, he did not write his chronicle as a historical work. He wrote it as an ascetic treatise for the nation. He showed certain close relationships between the Christian experience of daily life and the experience that we were the Polish nation, one nation. I am deeply convinced that his work contributed to the unity and Christian identity of the Polish nation much more than we realise. But we need time to prove it. In Sandomierz, in the Blessed Vincent Kadlubek Theological Institute we have a special project to show people this saint and to examine the relations between the value he showed and the Christian identity of the Polish nation.
As far as the territory of the Diocese of Sandomierz is concerned, in the context of Master Vincent, the important fact is that he was born here, in the parish of Wostw, near Opatw, and he spent a big part of his life in Sandomierz, I mean, his participation in the Sandomierz chapter. Only later he moved to the bishop's cathedral in Krakw. Thus, he is rooted in Sandomierz and in the Sandomierz land. He leads us to certain spiritual riches of this land, which was the land of the Piast dynasty and which was an extremely important territory in the Polish Kingdom in the Middle Ages. Some research shows that here, the Sandomierz land was the centre of the Polish political thought as far her relationships with the East are concerned.
But this is a treasure, which is not only history, but a treasure of Christian spirituality. Sandomierz is located very close to the ?witokrzyska land and the range of the ?witokrzyskie Mountains. And ?wity Krzy (Holy Cross) is marked by 1000 years of the Benedictines' presence on the mount, which had been a place of pagan cult earlier. The arrival of the monks caused a new quality - the change of the spirituality of the whole land. We are preparing to celebrate the jubilee of the old Benedictine monastery in the year 2006. Now it is the monastery of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in ?wity Krzy, where the relics of the holy tree have been kept. It is one of the oldest Polish sanctuaries, undoubtedly a very important place in the map of the Polish religious culture and Polish Christianity.
- Thank you very much for our conversation. Would you give your blessing upon our work as well as your encouragement for priests and laymen so that they would receive cordially the new title 'Niedziela Sandomierska'?
- As for the encouragement for priests, it will be given through other means; in fact it has already begun. I am very much grateful and I really appreciate it when I see the priests waiting for the insert with great openness because there are several thousand copies of the weekly distributed in our diocese and many people read it with tremendous interest. It is a great pastoral chance.
I would like to thank you as the editor-in-chief for your pastoral work, which is so important for the Church in Poland, and which you inspire and co-ordinate. Today we need to speak with courage about the truth of the Good News and the teaching of the Church and we should also keep speaking how we are to discern our Christian duty in our daily lives, in our family, social, national, cultural, political, international and universal life. Only when you get to know your responsibilities for the nation, state, local environment, parish, family and yourself and bear them well, you can discern and take on responsibilities on the international or universal level.
It is with joy that I welcome this edition in the Sandomierz land and wholeheartedly give my blessing.
- Thank you very much for your sharing.