The image of the Church in Poland after the pandemic – was the theme of this year’s gathering of popular missionaries and retread directors of the Province of Warsaw. On 6-8 February 2023, thirty Redemptorists met at the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Cracow, Poland, to reflect and discuss how to effectively preach the Gospel in the post-pandemic era.
The assembly began with an evening Mass, presided over by Fr Sylwester Cabała CSsR, ordinary consultor. On Tuesday morning, Prof. Kaja Kaźmierska, PhD, sociologist, professor at the University of Łódź, head of the Department of Sociology of Culture at the University of Łódź, gave two keynote presentations. They were devoted to the topic of religious choices. The professor characterised the reasons for the decline in religiosity among the faithful during the pandemic and outlined the main motives for abandoning religious life, especially among young people.
In the afternoon, Fr Dr Jacek Wróbel SAC, a retreat director, pastor and professor in homiletics at the Pallottine College in Oltarzew, took the floor. He presented various ideas for creative storytelling so as to awaken listeners’ interest and stimulate them to reflect. The speaker pointed out that a story cannot just be written but must first and foremost be lived. The day ended with Holy Mass at the Shrine, presided over by the Provincial Fr Dariusz Paszyński CSsR. In his homily, he encouraged the missionaries to arouse a longing for God the Creator in their preaching.
The third day of the assembly began with the morning Eucharist in the sanctuary. It was presided over by Fr Zbigniew Małolepszy, who gave the homily. In his words, Fr Zbigniew, referring to the cult of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, shared his rich experience of preaching the Word of God in his missionary work in Brazil in the Vice-province of Bahia.
On Wednesday, the guest speaker at the assembly was Fr Dariusz Pabiś, PhD, a professor at the Redemptorist Major Seminary in Tuchow. He presented the situation of the Church during and after the pandemic. He pointed out that this was not the first epidemic in the history of mankind, but the COVID-19 pandemic became a catalyst for certain attitudes related to religiousness. Unfortunately, many people loosely connected to Church used this moment to justify their departure from the faith. Hence, today it is important to reach out to them and, first and foremost, preach the kerygma so that they can rediscover God in their lives.
At the end of the assembly, the participants were also acquainted with current developments in the field of popular missions and retreats, presented by Fr Wojciech Bieszke, CSsR, chair of the Provincial Secretariat for Mission and Retreat. At present, approx. 65 Redemptorists are directly involved in missionary and retreat activities in Poland and Belarus. In the last four years, in spite of the pandemic and thus limited possibilities for activity, Redemptorists in Poland have conducted 269 popular missions, 144 mission renewals and 1026 parish retreats.
Fr. Łukasz Baran CSsR