Fr Jozef Kubicki, TChr
In Poland and the Polish immigrants’ centres we are experiencing the ninth Day of Prayer and material help for the Church in the East, which was initiated by the Polish Bishops’ Conference and approved by Bishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the delegate of the Bishops’ Conference for Polish migrants abroad. It is estimated that ca, 250 diocesan priests, 450 religious priests, over 550 nuns and 23 religious brothers as well as several laymen left Poland to help the Catholic Church in the East that experiences renewal. They are the most precious gift of the Polish Church for the Church in the East. The poster inviting us to pray for the Church in the East contains an image of the Pregnant Holy Mother of God from the Sanctuary in Matemblewo near Gdansk. Mary is shown in the blessed condition. This image has been chosen because it corresponds to the motto of the pastoral programme ‘Let us care for life.’ It means that one should proclaim the Gospel with Mary, the poorest of the poor, care for it with love since it is a gift of God, the source of all life. Furthermore, it means that we should be close to Christ with Mary because he said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). Together with Mary and Christ we should stand by every conceived and unborn life as well as to show solidarity with all those who are sick, hungry, lonely, suffering, homeless, unemployed, addicted so that we can proclaim them the Gospel of life and hope of eternal life. The Team ‘Aid for the Church in the East’ located in the Offices of the Bishops’ Conference in Warsaw conducts activities concerning animation and formation as well as it offers liturgical, catechetical, charity and construction-investment help. Speaking about the need of prayerful and material aid for the Church in the East one should mention the history of the Church in the countries that were liberated from the atheistic totalitarianism. Commencing with the October revolution these countries, which were connected with Christianity for a thousand years, were transformed into spiritual deserts. Their churches and liturgical books were destroyed; the priests were murdered; the religious and monastic life was liquidated and all traces of religious worship were wiped. The regime did its best to erase the traces of the presence of Almighty God from the awareness of adults, children and young people. During that period the Catholic Church became the Church of martyrs and faith survived only in the hearts of the oldest people and in their families. Thanks to the initiative of John Paul II the ecclesiastical structures began being restored in the East: new dioceses were erected and run by newly appointed bishops or apostolic administrators; thanks to the newly arrived priests from Poland, Slovakia, Argentina and the United States. The network of parishes is being rebuilt. The visible signs of the vividness of the Catholic Church were: the dedication of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Church in Moscow in the December of 1999; the dedication of the cathedral in Irkuck in Siberia in the September of 2000 and the re-consecration of the church in Pietropavlovsk in Kazakhstan in the July of 2002. Moreover, the two apostolic visits of John Paul II in 2001, to Ukraine and Kazakhstan, strengthened spiritually the Catholics in the East and revived their faith. But this is only the beginning of the difficult way. The recent changes have showed the largeness of the destruction caused by the totalitarian regime. Systematic catechisation and evangelisation of people living in those territories are needed. Above all, the Church in the East needs priests, nuns and secular volunteers. It is the most valuable aid that the Church in Poland ensures the Catholics living in the East. The priests and volunteers that minister in the East work in difficult conditions. Therefore, they do not only need our material support but also and above all our prayers so that the Holy Spirit directs their activities. Our prayer is also needed to wake the local, new and holy priestly and religious vocations in the parishes where religious life has already been organised. This is a very important matter since the Church is vivid when she ‘bears vocations’ and when she has her own priests and nuns because they know the language and traditions of their own nation best. As far as material help is concerned it is given first of all to the poorest dioceses. The money offered by Polish Catholics is used for renovation of churches or to support financially constructions or equipments in churches by buying tabernacles, bells, books, liturgical vessels and robes or electrical organs. Additionally, thanks to these funds prayer books, catechisms and religious books are published; retreats and summer ‘Encounters with God’ for children and young people are organised. We also support the canteens and soup kitchens run by religious sisters and brothers who provide food for the poorest and children living in orphanages and care centres. We also support major seminaries in Belarus and Ukraine, providing religious books and didactic materials in Polish. Moreover, we support the Polish Catechetical Centre in Vilnius. The means offered by Poles are used to spread the Russian version of the paper ‘Liubitie drug druga’ and ‘The Diary of Sister Faustina’ as well as the monthly ‘Miłujcie sie’ [Love One Another] and 300 copies of ‘Wiadomosci Katolickiej Agencji Informacyjnej’ [The News of the Information Catholic Agency]. They reach bishops, major seminaries, parish and religious communities, together with the monthly ‘L’Osservatore Romano’. They are very grateful for that.