Adventure – Something Strengthened by Time
Dariusz Dudek talks to Marek Sacha, who worked as a lay missionary in Bolivia
Today, in the Male-Catholic Church, we will visit distant countries, because our guest will be Marek Sacha, who has devoted quite a long period of his life to distant countries, i.e. Bolivia, and more precisely to missions in that country. Buenas tardes, Marcos! ¿Que tal? (Good afternoon, Marcos! How are you?)
Muy buenas tardes! ¡No sabía que hablabas español (Good afternoon! I didn’t know you spoke Spanish)
That would be more or less everything I can say in Spanish, but I have to admit that I liked the language very much and I always had a nice feeling when I listened or used it. And my first question – before I ask how you got there, on this Bolivian soil – my first question is: do you miss?
Not a day goes by that I don’t think more or less about Bolivia, about that time, about those people, because most of all I have constant contact with the local people, but also through such seemingly prosaic objects, souvenirs, things that I have a lot of, which I don’t have buried deep in the closet. I have to admit they take up most of my room. When I watch them, memories come back, so you miss them in a specific way and remember that time.
If I remember correctly from our conversation before this meeting, you said that you spent a year and a half in Bolivia. When did you leave? When did you come back?
I left at the end of November 2016, and a few days before reaching Bolivia, I went to Spain to change the climate a bit – to a warmer one. I also wanted to visit a place that is important to me, which is called Torres Ciudad. It is the sanctuary of Our Lady, to which my patron Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, a Spanish saint, founder of Opus Dei, has honored. I wrote my master’s thesis about him, more specifically about his Marian character, so it was an act of thanks on the one hand and a request on the other hand for the time that I was about to spend in Bolivia. When I was leaving, I didn’t know exactly for how long I was going there – I signed a contract for a year and it was a preliminary contract between the Tarnów diocese, between me and the local bishop. That was the plan, but what could have happened? I didn’t have a return ticket, so it was a so-called “one way ticket”. I finally returned in May 2018 – on the 1st of May I flew out of Bolivia and was here on the 2nd of May. The history of the trip is very long and, frankly speaking, it is difficult to indicate one moment of the decision. For the first time in Bolivia, I found myself in 2012 as a seminarian of the seminary in Tarnów. I went there for a month’s internship and I want to say that “it all started there”. And then, during one visits to remote villages – if I remember correctly, this village was called Yaguaru, with a beautiful Franciscan church – there the sacristan was showing us this church. Unfortunately, in this parish, in this church, there was no permanent priest who would live or work there, there was only a missionary priest who came there from time to time. That sacristan, when we left the church, said with tears in her eyes that the villagers would like to have their priest. Not one that commutes – although of course they enjoy it – but one that would be there all the time. These words stayed deep in my memory and in my heart, and I promised then that I would come back. I didn’t know in what form yet! I had to wait 4 years to find out that I would go there as a layman, too, to help with all this activity.
What does the process look like from the decision “I want to go” to “who should I report to?” And “what to do to sign this contract” – whatever this “contract” means? What does the “official route” look like for a lay person’s mission?
I am not entirely sure if I am the best example, because with me, due to the fact that I was already in Bolivia, I knew Spanish quite well, I could speed up the process a bit. Normally, a lay person goes to Warsaw, to the Missionary Formation Center, to prepare for a year to go to a mission country. Due to the fact that I was already somehow prepared – especially linguistically – I could, together with the Tarnów curia, with its representative, Father Krzysztof Czermak, who is responsible for the missions in the Tarnów diocese, and on the other hand, Bishop Antoni right there in Bolivia, initially set the date of arrival by e-mail and telephone. A few months before my departure, Bishop Antoni came here for vacation, he visited the diocese, my family, and we met at the curia to talk, and thus we “made an appointment” and then signed a contract stating that I would be leaving for a year.
For me personally – and I think that many of our listeners and viewers – the missionary is associated with a priest or nun who preach at the ambo, catechize, celebrate the sacraments and so on … And what can a layperson do on missions?
He can do a lot. Perhaps, answering this question, one should say what he cannot: he does not celebrate the sacraments and everything that is reserved only for the priest, but otherwise he can, as a lay person, do everything else. When I was leaving for Bolivia, I was directed to help Bishop Antoni: I was his secretary, driver, guardian of the whole house, the whole bishopric, the cathedral; together with the sisters, I was also responsible for the cathedral, I worked in the curia, which consisted of three people, namely: the bishop, the secretary from Bolivia and myself. In the so-called “meanwhile” – we also renovated 10 rooms in our house in order to rent them and have some money for maintenance.
As for the faith … I always said that maybe I go there to teach Bolivians something, but in fact I always came back taught something by the locals. And whoever would like to leave and only want to teach, although it is understandable, it is not the attitude of a missionary or a Christian, because in fact we also have to learn and we should learn from those to whom we preach, so despite the fact that their Faith is a little shorter than ours, from a historical point of view, it does not mean that it is poorer or worse. I admit that their faith sometimes took my breath away; sometimes I was positively surprised, but sometimes also negatively, because it is enough that, for example, it is raining and they will not come to the church as crowds as in nice weather. People who believe strongly and with principles will come, but when others see that it is raining heavily, they will not go to Mass anymore.
You mentioned a dream, a hardship, a certain effort that involves, for example, a trip… this is a perfect description of an adventure. I think that the word “adventure” is inherently related to the word “man” – what do you think? Does a man need adventures?
It probably depends on the man. Because there are those who can sit on the couch all their life and not move. I am quite an active person – maybe now the coronavirus has limited me a bit. I can’t sit in one place for a long time, and I think the man who, looking at history, was responsible for searching for food, supporting his family and so on, has this aspect of the adventure in his genes and blood. However, it is worth recognizing what an adventure it is: whether it is about tourism or God’s adventure on the religious level.
I will come back to the issue of desires, because it is a very important topic for me. How to listen to your desires? How to hear them? How to get to what is deep in the human heart?
Time. I think time is the best answer. The best thing the bishop said to me in 2014, when I was “bathed in hot water” as a young boy and said that I can stay now, is: “Give yourself time. Think, think, also on your knees, of course, and talk to people – especially your family – and discover if it is your desire or just a whim”. Such a momentary desire to satisfy the adventure, but written with a lowercase letter. Because speaking of this Adventure written with a capital letter, it must be said that it is something fortified. Confirmed sometimes. If it takes more than one day than one week, it gives you confidence in the rightness…
Time is a relative concept and for one it is enough to find out about something, while the other takes 10 years to find out about something – and I mean everything: life path, profession… human ways you thought and analyzed the matter (sometimes it’s worth writing the pros and cons – I personally did not do it, but I think my head did it, a bit unconsciously). If you are calm and still convinced that you want to do it, and it is also – more or less – a righteous desire, because we are talking about such desires, then God will bless you in all this, because it is His voice inside that we should read.
And what would you advise someone who has such a desire in their heart to take a risk and go on longer missions?
If you are free, if your health allows you and the whole situation of your life – then go. Do not hesitate! I left and I do not regret it, if I had not left, many things would certainly not have happened: first, we would not talk here, and secondly – it would never leave me alone.
Of course, it’s not like everyone will applaud you – I also had a hard time with my immediate family, because it’s not an easy decision to go to a dangerous country, so it took a while for them to accept it and come to terms with it. For a long time, even during my stay, when it was difficult, they saw that I came to it with peace and it was a really profound experience, they had to accept it directly. So don’t be put off if someone tells you, “What are you doing ?!” Surely there will be a lot of people who will say, “Don’t waste your life this way,” “It’s pointless,” “But you have a job,” and so on. I had a job, but the inner voice – if it is not fulfilled – will remain and it is hard to drown out with anything later, especially with material things, so if there is a voice in you, recognize it, then talk to the right person and dare to because it’s really worth it. A person who returns from a mission returns transformed, learned, because each departure opens his eyes. And this is done especially by going to poorer countries, to a situation where it is more difficult – we also immediately appreciate what we have here. We go back and see things differently, talk to people differently, pay attention to different things. From the mission trip, apart from a few bacteria and viruses that we can bring with us, we will only come back enriched – this is my opinion.
Thank you so much for your testimony, for this story of your adventure with Bolivia and the time you spent there and the joy that is in you all the time, and for these tips on how to find and fulfill your own desire that is in every one of us, in every man, because God has “instilled” them there.
Thank you very much for being with us, for watching and listening to us. We invite you to subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow us on Facebook and Instagram and see you in the next videos in our Male-Catholic Church.