50th anniversary of priesthood and 30 years of working as Editor-in-Chief of ‘Niedziela’
To our Reverend Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis
on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of priesthood
we wish all necessary graces of God,
creative inspirations of the Holy Spirit
and constant care of Our Lady of Jasna Gora.
We also congratulate him on his 30 years of leading ‘Niedziela’
as its Editor-in-Chief.
May Divine Providence guard our Chief,
so that he enjoys good health and have inner joy,
contributing to the evangelisation of the world
through the Catholic communications.
With our great appreciation – the team of ‘Niedziela’
‘An editor-in-chief is a martyr. He cannot close the door behind him and go home, to his life. An editor-in-chief must be watchful all the time. He must know what is happening in the world, in the Church, who said what, what it is worth commenting on and what should be omitted…’ says Fr Jerzy Tomzinski, a Pauline priest.
Fr Ireneusz Skubis, a monsignor of the Papal House, a doctor of canon law, has been called ‘Chief’ by his closest collaborators. It shortens the distance, for sure. But ‘Chief’ originated in the times of student pastoral work. ‘In a public place, not to betray that we were travelling with a priest, which was not regarded proper during the communist times, and which could direct the eyes of the secret services on us, we decided to call Fr Skubis ‘chief,’ the former students recollect. Several of them have joined the editorial board of ‘Niedziela.’
Time of growth
Fr Ireneusz Skubis was born in Chruszczobroda, in the region of Zaglebie, to a worker-farmer’s family. He has three siblings: two sisters and one brother. ‘I remember our family saying that his decision to be a priest surprised everyone,’ his sister Jadwiga says. ‘Our parents did not oppose his decision. He was 14 years old then and went to Czestochowa to the Minor Seminary on his own. Of course, he was accepted. But the problem was that the school required the whole equipment. It was in the 1950s, post war poor years. Mummy did not know what to do. They could not afford it. So it was decided that our brother would not go to the seminary. If it were not the generosity of our aunts things might have been different. Ireneusz remembered that generous gesture. His dream came true. He became a student at the Minor Seminary.
From the Major Seminary, located in Krakow, he used to write long letters. Jadwiga’s task was to answer them. ‘I still have these letters. He was constantly worrying about something: whether I have warm shoes, whether his sister could still wear her coat this winter, how our parents were doing… We have been very close as family and so no one was surprised by this care and today we still care for one another. We do care for others, too. He cannot bear seeing harm being dome to someone. Then he offers spontaneous help…
‘That’s right, he helps at once,’ says one of the closest collaborators of Fr Skubis Mariusz Ksiazek, his deputy. ‘He makes phone calls and looks for solutions. It is one of the strongest features of the Chief’s personality. I remember eating lunch in some bar near Piotrkow. A poor man was standing behind us. He did not even ask for anything; he simply looked greedily at the food. The editor-in-chief could not stand it, gave me some money and asked to give that man. Such events often happen. When he was studying his parents were building a house. During his holiday he was still their son and had to help them build the house. He did not protest. He did not avoid hard work. He dug the foundations like all men in the family although he was not used to physical work as a seminarian. And he caught typhus. Until today we do not know what the cause was. He went to his good aunt to go through the disease. He did not say a word to his parents. He did not want them to worry about him,’ his family recollect.
Go to students
On 29 June 1961 he received the Holy Orders from Bishop Zdzislaw Golinski. He began studies at the Catholic University of Lublin choosing of the most difficult fields – canon law. He defended his doctoral dissertation in 1978. He worked in the Diocesan Curia in Czestochowa as a notary and until now, for over 40 years, has been a defender of the marriage bond in the Bishop Tribunal. He lectured on canon law at the Major Seminary in Czestochowa and the Theological Institute in Czestochowa, which he co-created and was its administrative director. His ability to establish contacts easily, his sense of humour and charisma made the bishop appoint him a chaplain of students in 1965. During that time real relationships were established and they have been not destroyed by time and distance. Until now his former students regularly visit their ‘Chief.’ Then the construction of the editorial board of ‘Niedziela’ originated from people formed in the student centre. And all of that was thanks to ‘Piwnica’ [Cellar], the name given to the meeting hall of the academic circles in Czestochowa, the only place where one could breathe freedom during the communist times.
‘Piwnica’ is a separate chapter. An extraordinary place and an extraordinary priest that formed it. Thanks to Fr Skubis known men of culture, journalists, actors came to Czestochowa,’ recollects Krystyna Korn. ‘The Weeks of Christian Culture he organised gathered crowds. We ran from the academic church to III Aleja to ‘listen to Skubis.’ He preached fervent, courageous and intelligent sermons,’ his former students say. ‘And he could see concrete people, who were sometimes standing shyly at the back of the church. He always noticed them, cared for them and invited them to the student pastoral centre… It was known who opposed the communist authority. The SB officials beset him all the time. When the file of Fr Skubis was opened after years there were the words, ‘Object impossible to be recruited.’ He was not broken down although ‘informers’ were even among students coming to ‘Piwnica.’
Courage is another characteristic of the editor-in-chief of ‘Niedziela.’ When Bishop Stefan Barela of Czestochowa assigned Fr Skubis the task to obtain consent to reactivate the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’ it seemed to be ‘mission impossible.’ But his stubbornness, courage and consistent actions yielded fruit – on 5 March 1981 the authorities allowed the Catholic weekly ‘Niedziela’ to be published again. ‘With a group of enthusiasts we began dynamic work to create the paper from the beginning. Of course, censorship was a real obstacle,’ Fr Skubis recollects after years. Until now those struggles for each word are recollected at the editorial meetings. ‘Censors were very active. What happened then is beyond understanding. And the editor-in-chief had to bear the censor’s attacks and not to yield to his provocation. He realised that the next edition was at stake. Tough man and nerves of steel,’ Fr Jerzy Tomzinski, a member of the first editorial team, analyses those times. The publication of ‘Niedziela’ was enthusiastically received by readers. Its 100,000 copies were sold at once. One copy ‘went’ from hands to hands, among several people. ‘In those days we were one big family. We met at the long table covered with green cloth in the editorial hall. What discussions, hot and zealous, there were! Fr Skubis listened to them. And the skill of listening is extremely important for the one that creates a paper. He listened to us and did not interrupt. He did not say that someone was talking nonsense or was not right. He never forced his opinions. Where did that man get so much patience from? I have no idea. And phenomenal ideas were conceived at that table,’ Fr Jerzy recollects with emotions. Another member of that editorial board Rev. Msgr. Ludwik Warzybok, the author of popular homiletical, who has been writing for ‘Niedziela’ for 30 years. It is another record. ‘I have never had any argument with the Editor-in-Chief. We have not quarrelled for 30 years. I like ‘Niedziela’ from its beginnings. I especially read homiletical texts written by a very well known author from Warsaw. When I saw that her texts did not appear in several last issues I asked the editor-in-chief who was young then, whether he wanted me to write such texts. My only recommendations were my texts in the Preacher’s Library in Poznan. And that might have convinced him,’ Fr Warzybok recollects. Fr Ireneusz could discern a good author…
Time of trial
The time of marshal law and then the political transformations that lead to bankruptcy of many titles on the pres market were difficult for the weekly. ‘Niedziela’ had texts on religious subjects but also on social, cultural, economic and political issues. Its Editor-in-Chief had such a conception of the weekly. ‘Niedziela’ became a forum of exchange of thought of people for whom the Church and Poland were two fundamental goods. ‘I admired his courage in those times. Today he belongs to these editors-in-chief that have the courage to write what they think. I am fearfully waiting when they want to close his mouth. He has very courageous texts. Few people wrote about Katyn and Smolensk the way he did. There are very few patriotic papers on the Polish market. It is not writing about nothing, not play on words. He can distil the very essence from the media noise…’ says Fr Jerzy. ‘Fr Ireneusz is a patriot, a man who preaches the truth in a courageous way,’ says Lidia Dudkiewicz, his deputy. ‘taking ‘Niedziela’ through the rough waters of the marshal law and then the time of economic transformations was a big achievement… The editorial board of ‘Niedziela’ and its distribution had to be built again. Its volume had to be increased, its graphical design changed and increasingly modern technologies of publishing had to be used. At every stage the Editor-in-Chief had to face new challenges. ‘In various situations concerning the editorial board and his life I had the chance to observe the Editor-in-Chief. I know all his editorials published in ‘Niedziela’ and many of his official and private speeches, and with all conviction I can testify that he is a priest who loves the Church and Homeland even at the cost of pain. He is ready to bear sacrifice in the name of faithfulness to Christ and to defend the fundamental values and those who have been harmed, e.g., by activists of various political options,’ Dudkiewicz says.
In the early 1990s the first diocesan edition of ‘Niedziela’ – regional editions –was published. It was the edition of Lodz. Fr Skubis was convinced, rightly as it turned out later, that we should give readers information about their parishes, dioceses, cities and villages they live in. Then there had not been such types of Catholic press, and the bishops liked this idea. Within several years the diocesan editions of ‘Niedziela’ embraced almost half of the Polish dioceses.
‘The design of these editions and the ways to work were the ideas of the Chief. He explained the bishops that the present time was a time of information. That if something was not in the media it did no exist in people’s awareness. That the Church could not linger in that field,’ Mariusz Ksiazek says. ‘The Church must keep pace with the present time. That’s why the Chief decided to create a radio studio and then a TV studio of ‘Niedziela’ and finally, the Internet editorial board and our own portal. He has a modern look at media. He thinks several movements ahead… They say he knows how to deal with people. This skill to establish contacts made even over 1,000 authors wrote for the weekly every year. Fr Tomzinski says, ‘He likes people; he likes being surrounded by people and that’s why he gets to know more and more new people. Can he be rigorous? I think that such an attitude is not an element of his character. I know that as an employer he must be firm because otherwise one cannot direct a team but I think it always makes him feel badly. The workers of the weekly stress that two personalities fight with each other in their Chief: a priest who treats human weaknesses with gentleness and an employer who must make people work because the paper must be maintained on the market. In these inner struggles a priest usually wins…’ they conclude. Many people asked about Fr Ireneusz Skubis point to the style he leads the weekly. ‘It is an international phenomenon – 30 years of leading a national paper… To find new authors, to have new ideas, to create a new quality of Catholic journalism. Is there another man like him? I cannot recollect anyone,’ Fr Tomzinski says. ‘One should thank God for such a man. He has never written evil things about anyone, has never given negative opinions. How many rectifications have been written in other papers and in ‘Niedziela’ these are incidental…’Niedziela’ is faithful to the teaching of the Church, which is also thanks to its Editor-in-Chief. He has the skill to look at the matters important to the Church and Poland as if from the bird’s eye view…He goes beyond doggerel verse to much wider fields… Thanks to him ‘Niedziela’ has become popular. And you either like it or not… It does not leave readers indifferent and it is the most important thing.
The awards and distinctions:
The Officer’s Cross of the Order of the Restoration of Poland (2000)
The St Maximilian Maria Kolbe Award, given by the Association of Catholic Journalists (1995)
The Wlodzimierz Pietrzak Award (1995)
The Platinum Laurel of Skills and Competences, given by the Regional Economic Chamber in Katowice (1997)
The Karol Miarka Award (1998)
The Award of the Catholic Publishers ‘Feniks 2000’
The Honorary Tablet ‘To Those Doing Good’ and the statuette ‘Summa Bonitas’ of the Foundation ‘Help on Time’ (2000, 2005)
The Distinction of the Pastoral Work of Creative Environments of the Archdiocese of Czestochowa ‘Angel of Hope’ (2003)
The Award ‘Media Totus 2004’ for the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’ (2004)
The Award of the President of Czestochowa ‘Those Who Serve the City and Homeland’ (2004)
The Julian Kulenty Award ‘Multimedia in the Service of Evangelisation 2005,’ given by the Catholic Film Association (2005)
The Award ‘Feniks’ for merits in development of the Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions SKOK (2009)
The Honorary Statuette of the Medical Society of Czestochowa