In service to truth
For 90 years John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (in Polish: KUL) has cultivated the Catholic faith and adherence to the Church. It is open to all people of good will who seek wisdom, truth and universal values in life. The community of the CUL follows the outstanding figures that have contributed to the history of the university by their love for man and search for truth. The key figure is indisputably its greatest professor Karol Wojtyla as well as Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and the founder of the university Fr Idzi Radziszewski. The creator of the oldest institution of higher education in Lublin used to say, ‘I have great devotion to the Heart of Jesus and I strongly believe in his care and help; that’s why I think that the university should be dedicated to the special protection of the Heart of Jesus.’ These words, written next to the portrait of the founder, draw the attention of those who visit the new University Museum, a special votive gift for the ninety years of the University’s existence.
History and memory
‘The idea to create a museum originated long time ago but it was only last June that the Rector of the University Rev. Prof. Stanislaw Wilk established an organisational committee and they began working at full speed’, says Iwona Pachcinska, Director of the Department of Information and Promotion at the CUL. She was asked to supervise the idea. In order to work out a concept of the museum a team of experts embracing historians, museologists and architects, including Prof. Grazyna Karolewicz, Katarzyna Gizka, architect Urszula Korona and Joanna Bojarska-Syrek, Director of the Historical Museum of Warsaw, was appointed. Mrs Bojarska-Syrek, a graduate in history of art at the CUL, took part in creating the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. Thanks to her the several decade-old history of the University has been presented in accordance to the most modern trends for exhibition design. ‘We are enjoying the moment of opening and dedicating the place that will remind visitors of the University’s history as well as of the figure and person of our patron John Paul II’, said the Rector Rev. Prof. Stanislaw Wilk on 30 May. ‘I often saw young people stopping at the monument to John Paul II in the courtyard of the CUL and wondering what was left after him besides his legacy of thought; what was the material testimony of the life and work of this great Pole’, he continued. ‘Today, thanks to the sacrifice of many people and the financial support of the Bank PKO BP, we can touch history in the museum. The exhibition hall, which you can enter directly from the courtyard, was dedicated by the Rector and the bishops, including Cardinal Marian Jaworski, who attended the opening ceremony. ‘Lord God, you let us open the museum of the history of the Catholic University of Lublin on its 90th anniversary’, prayed Archbishop Jozef Zycinski during the dedication ceremony. ‘We praise you that we can experience the power of the roots, sources and obligation of our work and science in this place. Make the memory and identity of the workers and students be renewed with your help! Strengthen the University in the mission, which its founder left!’
Tradition and modernity
Numerous exhibits connected with the person of John Paul II were placed in the former student dining room, which had been completely renovated. The throne on which the Holy Father used to sit in the university aula during his pilgrimage in 1987, his cassock and ornate, in which he celebrated Masses at the altar of the Weeping Mother of God in the Lublin cathedral, have been placed in the main display case. The curious visitors will see the cup that Prof. Karol Wojtyla used to drink coffee in the rector’s room and the diligent visitors can investigate the entries in the book of condolence exposed after the death of John Paul II or get to know the correspondence between the Pope and the University. ‘The displayed documents and photographs have been scanned and thoroughly described and their originals, because of security reasons, have been preserved in the archive’, explains Iwona Pachcinska, pointing to the photo of the first inauguration of the academic year in 1918, in the diocesan major seminary. An interesting solution is the touch screen monitors that can let you find the biographies of the honorary doctors of the CUL. The gallery of portraits of the rectors and grand chancellors, the commemorative tablets to the founder, sponsors have also found their way in the museum. Our attention is drawn to the wooden door that was brought from the monastery school. A tablet with small bells with the names of the eminent people connected to the University: John Paul II, the Primate of the Millennium, Fr Prof. Albert M. Krapiec, OP, Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, Rev. Prof. Czeslaw Bartnik, have been placed at the door. Pressing a bell and putting on earphones you can listen to the people who were connected with the university, with the papal words, ‘University, serve the truth!’, Iwona explains. Many of the displayed exhibits were given by donors including professors and alumni of the Catholic University of Lublin. ‘Stefania Fedorko, 95, probably the oldest living alumnus, who had completed Classical Philology in 1938, gave us the index log and diploma of her sister and wrote down her memoirs’, says Iwona Pachcinska. ‘We hope that the University will have many more precious objects, which our alumni will give us. The museum is so designed that some parts of its exhibition can be periodically changed.’
Professor of philosophy and shepherd
One of the first visitors to the museum was Cardinal Marian Jaworski, Roman Catholic Metropolitan of Lviv. He studied philosophy at the CUL fifty years ago. He was the first doctor promoted by Fr Albert M. Krapiec. On the day before the jubilee meeting of the CUL alumni he was deeply moved and said, ‘My God, you should be here in the 1950s to see all that happened here. I can say only one thing, namely that you cannot compare what was here, how I wrote my doctor’s thesis, with what we are experiencing today. I am very happy that this university can work and develop in freedom and first of all in friendly atmosphere. I think that it has its own place among the Polish universities and its contribution to the life and culture of our nation is certainly huge. The presence of Cardinal Marian Jaworski at the university foundation day was connected first of all with the conferral of Jubilee Doctor, i.e. recognition of his doctoral degree after 50 years. In recognition of the results of his scientific work as professor of philosophy, the Senate and the Council of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin confirmed and renewed Cardinal M. Jaworski’s doctoral degree after 50 years. ‘He has obeyed the doctoral oath, combining the apostolic ministry with his long standing service to Truth’, the Rectors justified the recognition. ‘As professor of philosophy of religion he has consistently sought relationships between reason and faith, philosophy and theology; in particular he reflected on the nature of the phenomenon of religion, religious experience and the nature of cognition of God. His scientific accomplishments include the fact that he was the first rector of the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, and as Bishop of Lviv he has stimulated religious life and conducted patient ecumenical dialogue. Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Coadiutor of the Archdiocese of Lviv, and Sr. Professor Zofia Zdybicka, who had been the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the CUL for many years, also focused on the merits of the exceptional graduate of the Catholic University of Lublin. ‘A doctor is someone who can teach; someone who has something to say; someone that has become wise since he has drawn from the source of wisdom hidden in God’, said Archbishop Mokrzycki. ‘Highly regarded by John Paul II, a professor of philosophy and a shepherd, educated in the school of good masters, an extremely versatile and creative person’, echoed Sr. Zdybicka. And the distinguished guest, humble as usual, thanked the Divine Providence for everything that he had managed to accomplish and asked ‘the Seat of Wisdom to beg for God’s mercy for all his shortcomings.’
On the occasion of the jubilee the University and his distinguished guest received congratulations and wishes. The regional authorities and the municipality mentioned the merits of the University, which during the times of the Polish People’s Republic was an anchor of free thought; which educated the intellectual elite and the motto of which ‘For God and Homeland’ allowed forming people’s characters and saved the Poles’ honour. All the things for which the academic community of the Catholic University of Lublin thanked God and which bring pride and joy are – as the Rector Rev. Prof. Stanislaw Wilk stressed – owed to the whole community of the University and most of all to the Divine Providence and the protection of Jesus in the Most Sacred Heart.