A CHAPLAIN OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE POLISH REPUBLIC
It was a few years ago when I met Fr. Zbigniew Kras for the first time, when I arrived in Lipnica Murowana, in order to write an article about the parish here. The parish priest hosted me in a parish office, went away from me for a while and came back to me with archive editions of ‘Sunday’ and showing them to me, said: - But you are not here! Being surprised by such lack of trustfulness, which I call right carefulness now. I took out my journalist’s card
Since that time I have returned to the issue about Lipnica Murowana several times- on the occasion of a weekly parish indulgence, monumental churches, concerts organized in them or, finally, a Festival of a Religious Song. And I could always rely on good information from the parish priest, holding also the function of a dean of the Dean’s Office in Lipnica. So, when I saw information on the local portal about the new function of prelate priest Zbigniew Kras, I phoned him at once and asked whether I could congratulate him. – I do not confirm nor deny – said the priest but when I asked if he was going to Warsaw for the ceremony of the president’s swearing and if I could hope for a meeting and a talk after that event, Fr. Kras gave me positive answers.
The parish priest from Lipnica returned from Warsaw to his parish at night of 7 and 8 August. On Saturday afternoon he was getting prepared for his Sunday duties, but as he promised earlier, he found some time for the talk.- Two weeks ago president Andrzej Duda arrived in Lipnica with his wife and suggested me this idea – says Fr. Zbigniew. He admits that when he was waiting for the foretold visit, he thought that it was to be an official meeting. – Whereas the president came with a particular offer which was a complete surprise for me. Fr. Kras says that after that visit president Andrzej Duda contacted the Ordinary of the diocese of Tarnów bishop Andrzej Jeż and asked to delegate the priest for this ministry, and an official letter was sent after he began his work in the Presidential Office.
Inhabitants of Lipnica Murowana had already known about the new role of their parish priest who had been with them for 16 years. Those to whom I talked, admit that it was a big surprise for them, but a distinction for Fr. Zbigniew, thanks to which Lipnica, famous in Poland for a contest of palm trees, got into the centre of attention again. Ryszard Grzesik – the local entrepreneur, notes that it was not a big surprise for people who know Fr. Zbigniew very well, his diligence and responsibility. – He is a man who can behave in many situations and, although we will miss him in Lipnica, we know that he is more needed in Warsaw – needed by the President of the Polish Republic and our country.
Agata Chmura adds that the information about the new role of the parish priest filled his parishioners with joy and moved them emotionally, but she also admits: - There also appears sadness because we are aware that he will leave us. When I ask shyly if everyone thinks so, she says: - Nobody has appeared yet to satisfy everyone. Fr. Andrzej Mulka (from a neighbouring parish in Rajbrot), knowing Fr. Zbigniew from the times of the seminary, also admits that not everyone respected and appreciated the work of the parish priest, his engagement and consistency in realizing plans and he states: ‘Well, now inhabitants of Lipnica will be proud that their parish priest became the chaplain of the President of the Polish Republic.
People to whom I talked say only good things about their parish priest. The former mayor of the municipality Lipnica – Jerzy Piś, and also a priest asked for a short description say that, first of all, he is the man of prayer who always has God in the first place. – He was a moderator of the Home Church and for these 16 years he had not missed any monthly meetings – says the mayor Piś. Agata Chmura confirms: - For Fr. Zbigniew a prayer is always in the first place. Some people even accused him of praying too much, for example, during trips organized for parishioners. Fr. Andrzej Mulka notes that his colleague has always been such a person: - In the seminary he used to be a ‘chapel person’, that is, a cleric looking after a chapel. As a cleric, he was strongly engaged in organizing foot pilgrimages of Tarnów. At that time, he used to help deceased Fr. Tadeusz Wiatr, and then he was the deputy of pilgrimages director – Fr. Stanisław Ruchała.
Jerzy Piś says that Fr. Zbigniew Kras lived with Lipnica and could promote it in Poland and in the world and that he gained means for renovating it, monumental churches and that it is his merit that the church of St. Leonardo has been inscribed onto the List of the World heritage UNESCO. – I remember when I went with the parish priest to Toruń years ago to participate in a conference devoted to monuments protection. Each of invited guests had 20 million in order to present monuments from towns which they represented. There were people from all over Poland there, including professors from big cities, but it was Fr. Zbyszek who received standing ovation, when he told everyone about the heritage of Lipnica – he says and adds that he was surprised himself by the knowledge of the issue presented by the parish priest. Agata Chmura admits that she will miss just these stories about the saints from the land of Lipnica.
Not only can Fr. Zbigniew speak about the heritage of Lipnica, or take care of it, but he can also write about it. He leaves his publications to others in which he presents the history and people related to it for ages. When I ask him whether he is going to develop this hobby, following the royal chaplain bishop Ignacy Krasicki, or the chaplain of Lech Wałęsa Fr. Franciszek Cybula, he admits that he has not thought about it. – My task is to pray with the President and also in his intentions, in the intention of our Homeland, be with those who work hard in the Presidential Office – he says briefly. He adds that clerks have already asked if the Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Presidential chapel every day and he admits that he would like to return to this tradition.
According to talks, Fr. Zbigniew is a man who can listen to others very attentively, is a good organizer who knows how to work on realizing assigned purposes. – He does not enter too close relationships, keeps distance towards his cooperators and is, simply, a diplomat – says Fr. Mulka.
Whereas, the custodian of a sanctuary in Pasierbiec near Lipnica, Fr. Józef Waśniowski admits that this is a great distinction for the diocese of Tarnów and that Fr. Zbigniew is very well-prepared to work as the chaplain of the President of the Polish Republic. He notes: - He is so emotionally-balanced. He reflects on everything longer than speaks. If he decides to say something, his statements are thoughtful, come from his pastoral experience because Lipnica Murowana is mainly a sanctuary. This is not only a place of the palms contest in which palms compete for a victory. This is also a tedious work in the environment where laymen were brought up – notes the custodian from Pasierbiec and explains: - Life of Fr. Zbigniew in the parish was so varied that there was a Palm Sunday when ‘Hosanna’ was sung…, and later there was everyday ordinary life and difficulties connected with it, which had to be undertaken and taken as a cross of everyday life to the Calvary Hill. Fr. Waśniowski notes that also this experience will be used by Fr. Zbigniew and when it is necessary, he will become this quiet Simon who will spiritually support the President of the Polish Republic and all those for whom he is going to work now.
On Sunday 16 August parishioners said farewell to their parish priest. Instead of flowers or gifts, they gave their donations to an ill little girl in Lipnica. This was the wish of their parish priest who starts his new pastoral ministry in the last week of August.
When at the end of the talk I ask Fr. Kras what his attitude is like when he is going to Warsaw, the priest says that he still relies on the support of people from Lipnica, with whom he made friendship. Referring to challenges he is going to face up, he says: - Our whole life is full of victories and defeats. I know that when I experienced a defeat today, I can deserve a success tomorrow. I am moving forward with faith, hope and optimism.