A CHRISTIAN – A FACE OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD
Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with an auxiliary bishop from Chicago, Andrzej Wypych about who a bishop is for believers, about the importance of a family as God’s image and about patriotism of Polish Diaspora
FR. INF. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - Bishop is the main pastor of the Polish Diaspora in Chicago – the biggest group of Poles in the USA. It is a very necessary function, somehow connected with the mission of fatherhood…
BISHOP ANDRZEJ WYPYCH: - It is a kind of a challenge and privilege that I can do it. Being a parish priest for many years, I had a pleasure of fulfilling my ministry not only among the Polish Diaspora, but also other groups – Chicago and the archdiocese consists of any possible cultures and languages in the world. Now the archbishop of Chicago entrusted the Polish Diaspora in Chicago to me. I accepted it with great joy – because I can give the Polish Diaspora what I learned in Poland, in Cracow, where I come from – but also with some anxieties, because it is a big group of the Polish Diaspora. Moreover, I do not know whether my skills are sufficient, therefore my hope is in the power of the Holy Spirit. Priest Monsignor said it beautifully that bishop’s function is connected with the mission of fatherhood, as the bishop, like a father, gathers members of his family, and he should take care about its safety – it does not only concern spiritual matters, but also the social ones, and he must also know that his family is fed with alive food which shows a path which the family should follow. And there is one more element about which we do not often think but it is very important: a father is somebody who sanctifies his family. It is his duty and my family which is the Church of the Polish Diaspora and the Church of Chicago archdiocese must know that there is a father who takes care of all the members so that they would be saints. It means that also I have to be a saint so that my family of the Polish Diaspora would also be saint. And this is my joy but also care which I want to express through my ministry.
– Bishop is a father for Poles but also for priests. How do you find your work with priests?
– Similarly as in the family, the dynamics of the work is various. At present we have about 110 priests who speak Polish in their pastoral ministry. We meet together on different levels, among the others, on the spiritual level, of experiencing one’s faith because what a man has, shares with others – if he does not have anything, he has nothing to share with others. We pray together and from time to time we organize days of recollection. We also meet together to integrate with one another. After all, priests of the Polish Diaspora come from various Polish dioceses and they surely want to be connectors between the Church in Poland and in Chicago. I also want them to maintain their emotional bonds with one another – I know myself what it means to be in touch with priests of my age, with whom I have been in contact for 35 years. I want priests to come here like to their home. I do not want them to be ‘mercenaries’ but I want them to feel home. As their brother at home, and also as their father due to my bishopric ministry, I would like them to integrate with one another.
The effect of our meetings is also an attempt of establishing Polish centres in parishes in which not only the Holy Mass would be celebrated but also we could serve to Poles’ needs. As it concerns the family development, children upbringing – we would like to give Poles here, especially young married couples, a possibility of using saint examples. Because secular examples are everywhere – on TV, radio, in press – whereas we should show the beauty of the family in the Catholic version. This attitude of our families not only will help people recognize Risen Christ’s face in the world, but it will also be beautiful, because we, the Christians, are Christ’s face.
– As far as I know Excellency is undertaking the pastoral ministry among families in a fundamental way…
– Because the family is the most beautiful sign of God’s presence. God creates a family relationship of People – we say: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. So, if God shows us this kind of relationship, then we, people should create its reflection. The relationship of a father and a mother, parents with children, the mutual relationship of members of the family – are also a relationship of God’s love which penetrates a family. Therefore, we, the Christians, from the anthropological point of view, should perceive the family as not only a fundament but everything – in contrast to what is happening especially in the American society, which is offered more and more individualism. Anyway in Poland people do not tend to say today: husband, wife, but: my partner. Whereas the word ‘partner’ means only a temporary relationship. As long as the inter-human dependence of partners is necessary or sufficient, they are partners. But when it stops functioning, partners may split up – partnership is finished. Husband and wife are a fusion of each other: there is difference between the people but, first of all, their unity is joined with the sacrament. Therefore, our Christian family is the only real form of the family which will survive. Because all new relationships and names will give in to a new philosophy which will offer people new forms of behavior again. You have its example in Poland – all situations connected with the gender philosophy: it started with the fact that we do not say ‘husband’, ‘wife’, but we say ‘partnership’. And we say ‘partnership’ then there can be various configurations of the partnership because it is only a kind of a contract, but it if is legal or a contract of one’s will – it is a controversial issue.
– I remember pope Francis’ catechesis pointing to a kind of cult of temporariness existing now. Nothing is permanent. Bishop says very firmly that marriage is something more than only a partnership, and it is surely a kind of a hint for pastoral ministry in Chicago, in America, which intends to go towards building a strong family.
– This is my thought, my desire, my prayer, my whole attitude. Thanks God, there are many priests and laymen, and not only among Poles in America, who think in this way. And it is necessary to show the beauty of the family. It reminds me about my own family, not big, because I was the only child – my parents are deceased – but a beautiful and happy family. Because it makes a sense, as we would say, considering American pragmatism – it is a good institution which makes people happy here, on the Earth. Certainly, it is not easy as the family is a great work. But it is also a great goodness for the man.
– What is your work for the sake of the family like?
– Considering the Polish aspect, in Chicago we have 19 thousand children and the youth, who attend Saturday schools where they also learn Religious Education. A significant majority of these people are the Christians and the Catholics, with whom we cooperate. We have groups of academic youth – about 10 thousand Polish young people study at local universities. It is an army of people to whom we are trying to reach and who are waiting for us. These are folkloristic groups – it is not only a dance, it is also a catechesis, a form of building inner life. We would also like to help Polish young people through granting them scholarship, so that they would gain education and make their life better – we will take care of their Christian and Catholic formation.
– Bishop mentioned Saturday schools. It is a very important element of Poles’ and pastoral life.
– I am very grateful to parents that they care about their children and to our teachers who devote themselves a lot, teaching history, Polish language, geography and, certainly, religion; we have 800 catechists who teach religion at Catholic schools. We meet together at catechetical meetings, we care about good preparation for teaching this subject. These are often people already prepared in Poland for it, where they graduated from catechetical studies, but my care is that they would adjust their ministry to the family, parents and children to the needs of the Chicago Church which is slightly different – we have the same religion but we are slightly different in our ministry and they, forming children, must be aware of it.
– Excellency is telling us about the Chicago archdiocese but there are many other places of America where Poles are. Are there any Polish pastoral links in this country?
– In my opinion they are quite loose because distances, both the geographical and time ones are enormous in America. So, there is a pastoral variety. First of all, I want to help centres. We created 14 regions, through which we would like to reach to everybody who somehow identify themselves with the Polish culture, with our language. Now I thank Prelate Priest for a possibility of cooperation – a website of ‘Niedziela’, a portal, is being established which is intended to reach to all people interested in issues in the regional centres: in New York, in Buffalo, Detroit, all over America.I think that every Polish group here, wherever it is, uses the same methodology. It loves its Homeland even more than while being in Poland. For example, care about the Polish culture – if it was not Poles' love to their homeland, all these dances and songs would not have survived. Polish culture has a strong religious accent. Patriotism is not nationalism. And here is my role: to give knowledge to Poles, so that they would not become Polish nationalists but they would be real Polish patriots.
– The forthcoming canonization of John Paul II is inscribed in this all. As far as I know, Priest Bishop was ordained a diacon by cardinal Wojtyła. And now, you are a witness of holiness of John Paul II in the world.
– Yes, I say that I am a living relic of the third class because we were the last year ordained by cardinal Wojtyła before he was elected for the Holy See. Later I met with the Holy Father in Rome – these are the most beautiful memories. I also had a privilege that I could be in his school, in the family about which he cared so much. Bishops much younger than me, often seeing that I am from Poland, say about themselves that they are a generation of John Paul II. It is incredible that they identify with the Holy Father so much. Also laymen who are working at every social level today emphasize that they are people of John Paul II. I think that here, in America, there are not as many monuments of John Paul II as in Poland, but his thought is taken very emotionally, as well as what he paid attention to. There appeared various kinds of institutes which promote the thought of John Paul II, his influence is very visible and I think it will be so in many generations. In my opinion what St. Thomas did for the Church one day, our St. John Paul II the Great will be doing for at least next 500 years when we will be developing his thought.
– ‘Niedziela’ can also be proud of a good contact with the Holy Father. We used to be in Rome as an editorial team and the Holy Father always hosted us. We have many souvenirs connected with these pilgrimages. During long years of his pontificate we were bringing his thought to the world and we want to continue it. We were also conducting the Chicago edition of ‘Niedziela’ for five years and I think we can return to it. Our purpose is serve Poles wherever they are.
Thank you, Excellency, for this meeting. I hope that now we will be in amore friendship and enrich each other from now on…
– God bless you and I can only add: Amen. I do not only assure myself but I also promise that we will be trying to promote ‘Niedziela’ among Poles, among the others, through the Catholic League – people who know one another, who are dynamic and open up to others. Looking at Your people, I also see that they love what they do. It is not only technics, it is also mission which I feel from the first contact.
You do a good work and we, in Chicago, are very grateful to you for beauty and wisdom which you give us through the written word, radio, television and internet.