A GREAT PASTOR PASSED AWAY
CARDINAL STANISŁAW NAGY SCJ
He remains an example but also a monument of a victorious battle for the welfare of the Nation and the Church.
A big golden book should be written, but there is going to be an enthusiastic commemorating article. Because it was a prominent priest Ignacy, archbishop and metropolitan of Przemyśl, a man of such a valuable and long life! today, after 94 years, it can be summarized in the words: A hero of fighting Nation and steadfast prince of the Church in the fight against the hating communistic system.
A determined democrat, born on the old lands of the Polish Republic under the historic Zbarazh, in a peasant family, whose fates not only was he worried about, but whose status he was also trying to improve. He suffered from the state of social impairment of the Polish peasant. It will have its repercussions in his priestly pastoral ministry. The peasant family was, however, so rich that it was able to provide the clever peasant with the secondary education finished with the secondary examination. After the secondary exam young Ignacy directed his steps toward the Higher Seminary in Lvov, still full of the tradition of the famous Theological Department.
The philosophical-theological studies not only did not bring any problems to the young seminarian but, giving reliable basics for the theological education, infected him with a taste of academic search which was seen in his later life.
Prickly trail of his priestly life
The end of the seminar proceeded in the atmosphere of trauma of war and Russian-German occupation. The situation became worse in 1942, which was also the year of priestly ordination of Ignacy. In the first months after his priestly ordination the young neo-priest works in Lvov. Later he is sent to Złotniki where he meets with the terror of the Ukrainian exterminating rebellion. As he says – only thanks to his hiding in a barn he saved his life from hand of henchmen, he was wonderfully saved from death.
After his coming to Poland, he settles down as a vicar of the cathedral in Katowice under care of a prominent parish priest. According to his academic sentiments he goes to Lublin for three years to study philosophy, at the Catholic University of Lublin, at that time developing, legal Catholic University in Poland. He wanted to study practical, social philosophy whose patron was professor Czesław Strzeszewski. Under the direction of this prominent representative of the Catholic social teaching the young Lvov inhabitant met with a group of young representatives of this area, such as: priest professor Józef Majka, priest professor Jan Krucina or priest professor Władysław Piwowarski. After three years of his stay in Lublin, having gained the Doctorial degree, sharing the fate of priests exiled from the East, he left for Olsztyn. In the beginning he was a lecturer in a seminary, and then a parish priest, and finally an academic priest in Olsztyn. In this way Olsztyn became a famous refuge on the difficult road of the priest, educated theologian, perfectly prepared for pastoral didactics. No wonder that at the Catholic University of Lublin, his chance opens to enter this didactics – he becomes a professor in the Cathedral of Pastoral Theology. This situation lasts full three years.
In this period our life roads converged each other unexpectedly. We worked in one department, lived in the same place, we used to go for a walk together after dinner, sharing our opinions on the socialistic Poland and its unfriendly attitude towards the Church. Ignacy, being better prepared theoretically, was much stricter in evaluation of the communist regime and its threats towards the Church in Poland. I can suppose that these my, and especially his opinions were well-known to governing factors. So, how we were surprised to receive a message that Fr. Dr. Ignacy Tokarczuk was nominated the bishop of Przemyśl. It was on 3 December 1965.
The consent of the state to his bishopric ministry in Przemyśl was thought by some people as a miracle. Whereas everything proves that it was not simply a pyramidal mistake of the regime, a neglect from which the government did not have any way out, but only agree to the candidate problematic for it. Bishop Tokarczuk used to say that he was afraid of his nomination, knowing well how the regime perceived his attitude towards the Church or to pastoral centres, as well as his evaluation of the methods of the fight of the regime against the Church. This method was based on the least number of churches in an area, which meant in practice a mad hatred to permission for building churches. Bishop Tokarczuk knew very well about this communist priority and decided to attack it. The young hierarch was aware that in the Polish communism the era of show trial passed, especially imprisoning bishops. It was a convenient field for his courage and readiness for any devotion. Beside it, there was a fruitful cooperation of the pastor of the Church with crowds of ordinary believers, well-known to him on the field of sociology. He knew well the potential of the religious Polish people in the opposition to the system hostile to the Nation and the Church. As a result of the negative attitude of the state towards building churches, he started building churches and chapels spontaneously and voluntarily. It put believers in danger of the obvious conflict with the structures of the regime, and in its prolonging, of high fines imposed on executors of these investments, in whose pay-off the Curia of Przemyśl and Bishop took an active part. As a result about 400 churches and chapels were built in the diocese, which meant a complete loss of the regime and showed a way to solve this problem in the whole country. The solidarity of the Bishop with these ordinary people deserves a special emphasis in this very important matter. The closeness of the pastor with sheep destroyed hostile canons of the impact of communism on mass of people. And in this archbishop Tokarczuk became an example of bishop’s role not only in those but also in the present times. With this attitude of the bishop towards the attempts of the regime towards the Church, it is not difficult to understand the crazy hatred of the authorities towards it. Beside the main person in the scale of the whole Nation, who was cardinal Wyszyński, suddenly a dangerous opponent of the system appeared, with the power of courage and consequence in action.
A personal simplicity, poverty, modesty
The discussed dimension of the bright activity of archbishop Tokarczuk is not, certainly, everything in the work he did. In addition to it there is an atmosphere of his personal simplicity, poverty and modesty and also trustfulness to the clergy of the diocese. He supported sensible activity of oppositionists, not avoiding reasonable engagement in politics. His activity in the Church was honored by pope John Paul II with the honor of archbishop ad personam, and the highest state reward from president of Poland Lech Kaczyński – the Order of White Eagle. During his bishopric ministry beatification and canonization of Jan of Dukla and bishop Józef Pelczar took place.
In summary – a great pastor passed away, who did many things. He remains an example and also a monument of a victorious battle for the welfare of the Nation and the Church.