The sign of time and hope
Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś
We are impressed by the ingress of Archbishop Wacław Depo to the cathedral in Częstochowa, which took place on 2 February this year, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, that is, the Feast of God’s Mother of Candlemas. Despite of the strong frosty weather and working day – although it was a feast –and vast space of our cathedral basilica, the church was filled up with warm-hearted people of God, who are faithful to the new shepherd of the archdiocese of Częstochowa. Beside a wide group of hierarchs of the Church, there were big groups of clergy, nuns, members of religious movements and associations of the archdiocese, many guests and, certainly, the faithful residents of the diocese.
On the same day – 2 February 1926 – the first bishop of Częstochowa, dr. Teodor Kubina had his ingress to this cathedral 86 years ago, after his earlier bishop’s ordinations at Jasna Góra. And now the Holy See sends the fifth Ordinary to us. So, we are looking at this ingress in a very reflective way. The pastoral government of the diocese was begun by a bishop who was fighting for the Polish character of Silesia in a plebiscite, although the bishop spoke German better than Polish and he was respected by priests who had arrived at the new diocese of Częstochowa from the dioceses of Kielce and Wroclaw. The time of the first years of creating a new diocese is also the time of the beginning of the Catholic weekly ‘Sunday’, the time full of efforts, poverty and unemployment, the 20s - were the result of the partitions and policies of neighbouring countries towards Poland. I was lucky to obtain the sacrament of confirmation from Bishop Kubina – I still remember the welcome songs for the shepherd which we learnt in a primary school in Chruszczobród. In 1951 the second bishop arrives in Częstochowa – Zdzisław Goliński, a well-educated man, a docent at the Catholic University in Lublin, ambitious, a man of initiative, very hard-working and demanding a lot from himself and always cheerful. However, he lived only 54 years. He was the bishop of my priestly ordination.
The third bishop – dr. Stefan Bareła took over the diocese in 1964. He came from the area of the diocese of Częstochowa. He was an unusual priest, in love with academic youth and being in a good relationship with young people. A charismatic loving singing and being consistent and keeping secrets entrusted to him. He was in love with the Church, extremely devoted to the Primate of Millenium and being in friendship with Cardinal Karol Wojtyła from Cracow. At the age of 68 he died and went to Lord with a will left to ‘Sunday’ – that the Church in Poland should care about Mary’s pastoral ministry. Another bishop’s ministry in the diocese is taken over by Bishop Stanislaw Nowak. He is a man of asceticism, deep reflection and taking example of Holy Father John Paul II who was rooted in Cracow and its people. He is also a great adorer of God’s Mother of Częstochowa, entrusting more matters to her, than we would suppose. He is the man of great mercy towards people and mostly towards priests who may once have overused his warm-heartedness.
And here we are standing today in front of the new bishop of the archdiocese who is coming to us. We say: ‘homo novus’ – a new man with his spiritual history and his own way of looking at life. His sincere, like a child’s, entrustment to God’s Mother in the matter of his priesthood is not meaningless – exactly 16 years later he received priestly ordination. It is surely a God’s sign – like the fact that he takes over the bishop’s ministry in the Church of Częstochowa.
We greet Archbishop joyfully! We also know that the new Shepherd accepts great commitments resulting from the signs of time – every bishop must recognize his new tasks in a specific and not another place; we are people of faith and entrustment and it cannot be different. Blessed John XXIII paid attention to it, but, first of all, beloved John Paul II, who often used to say about the signs of Divine Providence and reflection over them. Especially, a priest or bishop must be aware of the fact that his life is not accidental, that he must look for the signs which come from God and are important in his life and pastoral ministry.
It seems that this very significant sign in our pastoral ministry is a number of priests who arrived in the cathedral of the Holy Family in Częstochowa for the ingress of Archbishop Wacław Depo. Not only did they want to see the new shepherd, but they were also interested in his message; they came to learn what he thought to be a priority and the most important. For, priests always wait for God’s wisdom of those who are to lead them. And the boat called the Church of Częstochowa with the tower of Jasna Góra is visible both in the country and all over the world. So, bishop as its captain is also an important person of the Polish Church. And he does not have to be a cardinal in order to meet one of the evangelical missions.
Częstochowa does not belong to rich dioceses, and we have 311 parishes among which175 do not have even a thousand of the faithful which means that many priests live meagrely. But it is important that the Star of evangelisation would shine to us and that our Church would sail courageously, coping with submarine rocks, depth or storm in unexpected situations. A peaceful rhythm of work of the Church is necessary so that we, as faithful Catholics, would feel safe. This safety is possible by the presence of the miraculous God’s sign on our area – that is, the image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. However, we must realize that all the time, and, first of all, listen to Mary because her presence is not enough.
As a priest directing the weekly ‘Sunday’ for 30 years – the newspaper accompanying the diocese of Częstochowa from its beginning, I will remind once again what Bishop Teodor Kubina said about this weekly in 1926, sending it to inhabitants’ homes in our diocese. He called the weekly ‘Sunday’ a vicar for a parish priest and suffragan for a bishop. We would like the usage of Catholic media to be a very important matter also for the new Archbishop in his pastoral ministry. For, the onslaught of atheism, words and actions against the Church and Christ is coming from all directions. Therefore, a vicar in the form of the Catholic newspaper in every parish is a very important herald; it is an influx of information of the life of the Universal Church and current matters but shown in God’s light.
These are the requirements of the present time. So, in the pastoral ministry the desire for real knowledge about the Church must be awoken and about the fact that the Gospel is not something distanced or strange but is given to us for a better quality of our life. The pastoral ministry through media about which we can read in documents of John Paul II, should become the highest requirement in the life of the Church in Poland.
Today I consider the matter of Catholic media as one of the most important matters in the pastoral ministry of every bishop. Without the pastoral ministry in media, without considering the fact that a man who is bombarded by much information coming from various newspapers stands in front of a priest in the church and who should know that there is still the voice of the Church which is a Catholic newspaper which answers various questions and accusations from atheists who want to discourage a man from the Gospel and Christianity – without this, the social awareness of parishioners may be very poor today.
So, when we are saying sincere and kindly wishes to the new Archbishop, we are asking Him to consider the fact within his pastoral plan that the contemporary man lives social communication and various information coming from it, that a man can find answers in catholic media, among the others, in our Catholic weekly ‘Sunday’ to many doubts.