On the occasion of 50 years of priesthood
Fr Jan Gora speaks to the priests celebrating their jubilees
Five Dominican fathers are celebrating their 50th anniversaries of priestly ordination. Commencing with the oldest these are: Fr Filip Mituła, Fr Ryszard Kurecki, Fr Jozef Kostecki, Fr Czeslaw Bartnik and Fr Walenty Potworowski. On the occasion of their jubilees, on behalf of many people I would like to address them. Distinguished Jubilee Fathers, Most Reverend Fathers, Dearest Fellow Brothers! Astonishment and gratitude! Half a century in the service of Christ! How is it possible that such ordinary people were called and invited to serve in the court of the King of kings? How is it possible that sinners become ministers of grace leading to eternity? Taken and lured by the grace we followed him. He called you and filled you up with himself like the stone water jars in Cana of Galilee. Thanks to him you have become excellent wine with time. It was him that drew his hands over you and what was water in you slowly became wine by his Most Blessed Blood, by his love, all your lives. Today we kiss your priestly hands with honour and gratitude. Your priesthood, or rather the priesthood of Christ himself who let you receive it over 50 years ago, is a fundamental dimension of your lives and all these matters that count in your lives and after death. Priesthood became the measure of your lives and measure of your love. This is our faith and our hope. All things that constitute your lives, your experiences, all of this is inscribed in this priesthood. This is our awareness. Without it all these things would not have happened. Priesthood carries definite tasks and sacrifices. Thanks to these sacrifices the tasks are possible. Such a fundamental task is to show and give Christ to people, to testify about his love. This is discovering these values and meanings that relate to being people for others and being a priest for Christ. This is discovering these meanings that God himself gave through the work of the Creation and Redemption. Many people went closely after your priesthood and throughout years participated in this discovery of the meanings and values. And today we want to testify to all these values and all these meanings and above all this all-present Love coming from Christ himself. That’s why we discover them and inscribe them in Christ’s priesthood so that we could testify about this Love that Christ bestowed on us. It is a gift and mystery of the Crucified and Resurrected Love in any case. We find such a justification of this love in our consciences. We also believe that if Lord Jesus called us he called us with all the baggage of our human limitations and our conditions, the baggage of matters and people for whom we are the light and witnesses as well as mediators. Taken from among people and ordained for matters related to God. May God be praised in you. May Christ be showed and given in you. May his love be spread thanks to you. May Christ the Eternal Priest ensure you the chalice of Resurrection since you have trusted his Love. You have filled your hearts with it and you have radiated this love to others. For these 50 years you have been the area of special presence of God. God is everywhere but especially where man discovers him and where he finds man. Thanks to the gift of grace we have brought to this area the biggest mystery of God’s love for man, which is the Eucharist, Holy Mass. Thanks to priesthood we are those for whom Mass is the most important event in life. Today we should ask for a new dimension of this presence of God in your lives, for new frames, for a new horizon. Man’s calling is to be on the way and meet God before he comes to him. And in the meantime each of you is a beam of Christ’s love for us. I am a witness of that. I have something good to say to each of you. Yu were beautiful and young when I was a boy, an altar boy in the parish church in Prudnik, then a seminarian and a young friar. Fr Jozef Kostecki taught me religious instruction in the fifth and sixth forms. I will always remember his stories about the order, the Krakow monastery. I admired his passion when he built a church in Laka Prudnicka. He used to work physically there and carried planks or bricks. I owe him my vocation as a Dominican. He spoke about the order and the monastery in Krakow so beautifully. Then for one year he was my fist superior in Tarnobrzeg. He gave me my first typewriter: a white Remington with the Polish letters. I was impressed by one lesson of religious instruction given by Fr Filip Mitula, OP, when I was at grammar school in Prudnik. He came to us to teach because our catechist was absent. He ordered us to open the Holy Scriptures and read it. We listened that ‘the letter kills and spirit gives life.’ I remember this lesson of religious instruction or rather its improvisation. Then he was extremely kind to me in Tarnobrzeg as a friendly brother. Fr Ryszard Kurecki, OP. I remember you from Prudnik. He used to ride a Pannonia motorcycle. And then you welcomed me warmly in Gratz in 1975 when I returned hungry and penniless from my first trip abroad. Unaware of the effects I swam in the Mediterranean See near Ventimiglia and washed my clothes and then put them on and took a night train. When I arrived in Gratz my skin was burnt with salt. You have welcomed me, let me take a bath, gave new clothes and fed me and when I was leaving you gave me 100 dollars (the first dollars in my life) so that I could go abroad the next year. These trips have yielded fruit in my pastoral ministry. Fr Czeslaw Bartnik, OP, is my master in the novitiate. He was good and understanding to us. I owe him my presence in the order and priesthood. Today I do not know what I would have become. For years he calmly instructed me in Poznan and he supported me with kindness. Patient, discrete. He has time and strength for bores. He is my confessor. Fr Walenty Potworowski, OP. A special debt of gratitude. My provincial and prior, a friendly fellow brother, a man seeking Jesus and contacts with him. Impressive man despite his age – an apostle all the time. He does not pretend to be an old man or a retired man but he fulfils apostolic service in Kiev. I thank you for your love and visits to the students’ centre, for your kindness and good advice, not only for the advice concerning construction. For your desire to be with young people in Jamna and at Lednica. Dearest Fathers! It is you that have created my world. Your involvement has edified me. Can it be something more wonderful than the service to Love? Today astonishment has accompanied us, astonishment that the grace has touched you, that God has found you. With tenderness and gratitude I think that 50 years have passed. How moving is that Lord Jesus noticed you and chose you. Exactly you, each of you separately.
You belong to happy friars who have accepted the big grace from Lord Jesus. For 50 years you have served Jesus. He has called you and filed you with himself. You are happy because you have encountered the great grace of God. You have been gifted. And you have received this gift and remained faithful to it. Today you are like old soldiers. Ready to fight again when summoned and remembrance of fulfilled life follows each of you. And service full of sense. Our fellow brothers wrote about some mediaeval friar: he was not afraid of death since he fulfilled his life before death. He was not terrified by dying since he could live beautifully and he passed away, without slamming the door. Dearest fathers, teach us how not to slam the door. Teach us this one thing how not to slam the door. This is really enough. I would like to thank you very personally for your goodness and kindness you have had to me and which are still undeserved, unexpected gifts of God for us. Your lives have deep meanings. They are GIFT and they are MYSTERY and it is the GRACE in you that we thank Jesus for today. Today’s jubilee is a seal of sense on your whole priestly lives. May Jesus be praised in you. Amen.