Kalkow paths to God
Will the development of another material work not dominate the spirit of prayer? But it was exactly the spiritual aspect that gave colours to the 'investment' in Kalkow, which was necessary to the spiritual existence of thousands of pilgrims and which was realised thanks to God's sparkle lit in Fr Czeslaw Wala.
Small - great man of God
Neither his parents nor his superiors (nor he himself) saw special mission in the fragile, ailing, calm seminarian. As a seminarian, curate, parish priest, and today a custodian and Monsignor, Fr Wala has always cared for the poorest and weakest - the sick and lonely. This was the way he saw the region of Swiety Krzyz, between Krynki and Kalkow, while walking many kilometres in his muddy or snowy cassock to teach religious instruction, not finding any understanding. The local tough folk had to walk many kilometres to reach a church. A baptism or a wedding or a religious burial was enough. Religious negligence was mixed with various social deficiencies. The local people, with all those things, seemed very poor to Fr Wala. It was for them that he, as an assistant in the parish of Krynki, wanted to build a church in 1967. In the year 1971, Fr Wala was a lucky owner of a shed where he was to catechise; with time he would change it into a catechetical classroom and then a chapel. Fr Czeslaw was not discouraged by the problems with accommodation and building as well as constant insults from the local authorities. The believers from Kalkow and Godow, who were involved in building the church, were more and more questioned by the secret police and so was their priest.
On 14 June 1971, Fr Czeslaw Wala celebrated first Mass in St Kolbe's chapel in Kalkow-Godow. He decided to spread the cult of the Virgin Mary under the protection of St Maximilian. Since that moment the local people have regarded the chapel as their church and Fr Wala as their parish priest (the parish was formally created on 1 May 1981).
Now we have severe winter in 1972. On a frosty day Fr Czeslaw loads his poor belongings on a cart and together with his elderly father moves to Kalkow. There he immediately organises a circle of altar boys, four groups of girls' choir, parish theatre group, orchestra and attendants.
God's work on a grand scale
Do we need a bigger miracle than this sudden religious revival on this forgotten land in which people slept all Sunday behind a stove and did not bother about the third commandment of God? The priest organised religious and patriotic plays, performances, evenings of music and poetry. On 21 May 1983, Fr Eugeniusz Makucki, MIC, custodian of Lichen, who was born in Kotarszyn, not far from Kalkow, brought a copy of the miraculous picture of the Dolorous Queen of Poland from Lichen as a gift for the parish of Kalkow. The number of pilgrims increased. It was their presence that inspired new works (the number of pilgrims allows to place the church among the leading national shrines). Hundreds of paths and corners of cult spread around the church - this is the panorama of religious possibilities that take into account individual needs.
Church built in 153 days
The construction of a two-floor sanctuary lasted merely 153 days. People's enthusiasm was enormous. The walls of the nave leading to the main altarpiece have inscriptions of gratitude and requests in form of votives, letters, names, thanksgiving and painted hearts. The lower chapel is dedicated to the Home Army. There are tablets with the texts of the 'Swietokrzyska Litany' on its walls.
Among the bushes you find a Bethlehem chapel, an outline of Poland's map made of rosary beads and a figure of John Paul II. On your left you can see the John Paul II House, flower beds, a wicker garden, a Pilgrims House and souvenirs shops; you can pray along the Way of the Cross in the open air. This kind of place called Golgotha turned out to be a great success. Thousands of pilgrims travel across the hilly land among rowans, larches, and spruces, from one stone station to another. The twelfth station called Golgotha resembles a medieval castle and dominates the whole place. The station has 5 floors and contains over 30 oratories and chapels commemorating the martyrdom of Volhynia, martyrdom of Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek, martyrdoms of: the Primate of the Millennium, Siberian exiles, founders of congregations, candidates for sainthood, priests of the Solidarity movement from various regions of Poland with Fr Jerzy Popieluszko at the head, the Warsaw Rising, Polish foresters, the martyrs of World War II, Katyn, Pilsudski's legions, Radom events, December '70, Polish peasants and railwaymen. There is also a death cell of St Maximilian Kolbe... Polish cause in a nutshell.
One of the valuable aspects of the life of the sanctuary is spiritual and physical care for the disabled and the elderly. These groups are here from the beginning because the sensitivity of Fr Wala's heart to the needs of the deaf mute (as a curate he learnt the sign language) was the germ of the shrine in Kalkow. Today several houses and a chapel of Saint Father Pio form the Disabled Children's Village. The settlement, snuggled into the Golgotha, is filled with voices of participants of retreat-rehabilitation holidays. An orphanage for 70 children and the lonely - the deaf - was built in Rudnik on the San. Another initiative is a complex of buildings for the elderly in Kalkow-Godow. And the next proposal of Kalkow-Godow is hermitages, with a separate chapel, which are delightfully situated over the reservoir - a perfect place for those who want to take a spiritual retreat and calm themselves down. And so many conversions to Good, so many acts of spiritual adoption of conceived life are connected with the chapel of thanksgiving for the gift of life. Who can count them...
- How was it possible to do all this good? - I ask Fr Czeslaw Wala, the custodian. 'When I look at the work of the Swietokrzyskie sanctuary from the perspective of time, it becomes spiritually and materially more beautiful every year; I take care, do my best, for the beauty of the Polish soul and the Polish heart', Fr Wala says. 'I think that God himself demanded this land, which was so much persecuted for its patriotism and religious attitude. Good deeds result from faith. This is constant and sacrificial support, through prayer and widow's mite, for those works that happen in the sanctuary. Therefore, I am much moved because of constant giving of wonderful testimonies, constant care and various help as well as support in many dimensions. I pay my debt of gratitude to God in my priestly prayers'.
The Swietokrzyskie land, Kalkow, about 700,000 pilgrims each year, hundreds of pictures, sculptures, little chapels and places of worship. 7,000 trees and bushes on 8 hectares of land. The smell of forest, the horizon closed by the oldest Poland's mountains, a concert of crickets. Our land, yet a different land.