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Mission of the Congregation – Disciple:
George: Good morning. My name is George Karpiński and this is my wife – Monica. We are married for over 30 years. We have four children: three daughters and one son. They are adults. We live in Wojnicz, Poland, near Tuchów.
Monica: Because we live near Tuchów, we used to go on pilgrimage there, in our youth. We were connected with Girls’ Marian Ministry and every meeting of that group took place in Tuchów. Our relationship with this town is quite long. I think that we have been visiting Tuchów for over 40 years – going there on foot or driving there for a trip or pilgrimage.
George: There were our first meetings with the redemptorists, without any obligations. Only because we live nearby and redemptorists have their monastery there.
Monica: Our stronger relationship with the redemptorists has begun when our children went there for Redemptorists’ Youth Days. They found out about the Missionary Association “Wschód” (the East) and they went for their very first mission trip with the Association. Our daughter was adult and she could go on her own, but our son wasn’t of age…
George: He was 16…
Monica: Exactly… Therefore, a problem has arisen if he could go without guardian. Father Witold, moderator of the Missionary Association “Wschód”, proposed my husband to go with our son. Even if he weren’t a member of the Association.
George: In fact, father Witold wanted to have a car rather than guardian (laugh), but let’s say, it was the Holy Spirit working. I’m very glad, that all it happened. Because of that, together with my wife, we joined the Missionary Association. I went there very first time, without my wife, because they needed only one person, both guardian and driver. My wife was, let’s say, to the side. It was our first contact with the Missonary Association. What is that group? We are talking about it, but it can be unknown. The Missionary Association “Wschód” is a association of redemptorists and lay people created in 90’ in redemptorists’ seminary in Tuchów. The main aim of that group is evangelization in the Eastern Europe. Of course, it is not a constant religious service. Our goal was to be an assistance, because during that time, there were lack of priests and the Church was getting back her buildings. The opportunity to go there arose, to do there something, but there weren’t enough people for such work – there were no priests and every help was quite important. Father Grzegorz Ruksztełło took the initiative to create a group which could provide such aid. And this is how the existence of Missionary Association “Wschód” begun and continues to this day. During that time more than 150 lay people, dozens of fathers and clerics went through the Association. “Wschód” conducted more than 200 series of retreats. We count the number of participants in thousands. I have some data from 2 or 3 years ago showing that we already had more than 7000 participants. By then, we conducted several series of retreats more. Every retreat has about 50 or 60 participants. So, the total number has increased.
George: There was an episode in our life. Many years ago, when we were young, living in the same town, we were members of youth parish group called “Kometa”. I believe this occurrence was crucial, because the priest, who was a leader – late Stanislaw Marek – has instilled a need in us to share our enthusiasm, joy and faith with others. Our membership in Missionary Association “Wschód” is just a natural extension of that fact. What can I tell about my feelings connected with evangelization the most poor and abandoned? I’m not a great missionary, of course; our task is totally different. However, taking part in such mission trips you can experience the same what, I suppose, experience priests who are working in the East among the most abandoned people. We encountered there totally different reality. In Poland, we often complain about our economic status. Maybe is better today but still you can hear complaining that we don’t have everything. But you have to pass Polish-Ukrainian border to find yourself in different reality. Our mission trips have shown us that there are still people who need, or better, who are craving for other reality, I mean – religious regard at their life. I remember that during my second mission trip, we went to Ukraine, to very small village called Miżyniec: old church, very polite parish priest and children who came from surrounding villages. Very, very poor children. It was material poverty: they were meagrely worn, badly equipped, and what is more, they didn’t now even basic prayers. What is interesting, those children were from Roman-catholic Church, orthodox Church and Greek-catholic Church. I remember that we organised a prayer service connected with an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with candles. I won’t forget that deep silence which was there. The children were kneeling. I don’t know what was happening in their hearts, but they weren’t frisky, they weren’t noisy but focused. You could feel how strong experience they felt. You could feel that they saw something more. I have no idea, if they had such a prayer before in their parishes, but that was so authentic that I will never forget it. I was so strongly impressed by piety of those children who now are still seeking, still going forward. They were very young that time – from six, seven years to fourteen, fifteen. It was very moving.
Monica: I won’t forget my first mission trip. It was my first contact with the East, with former Soviet republics, I’ve never been beyond the eastern border. I felt resistance to crossing the border. In Strzelczyska, where we conducted the retreats, children knew more than in Miżyniec. It was polish village. So that, they knew polish prayers, had information about polish culture and about the Church. Very important event, which has shown how it was before and how people was longing for faith was meeting with one old lady, telling her story to children. Years ago, when there was no church in Strzelczyska people were going to hear the Mass in Mościce, where redemptorists were working. Unfortunately, they haven’t any monastery which was taken by government. Father Ziober was the last redemptorist serving in that church after war. He wasn’t allowed to celebrate the Holy Mass with people, but they wanted to participate so much, that they were gathering from surrounding villages in Mościska and praying at closed door of the church, when he was celebrating the Mass inside. Telling this story that lady was touched. Children’s faces showed up astonishment. This story was for them unbelievable – how couldn’t you go to church and pray?
Monica: In my opinion the best evidence that we – as the Association, as people talking about Christ – are needed in eastern part of Europe is that parish priests working in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia are calling to our moderator 6 months before holiday to ask for retreats. To ask for us, to talk about Christ, to lead them the way of faith as we are doing according to redemptorists’ preferences. To the most poor and abandoned.
George: From the perspective of years of our participating in Association and in general from the perspective of the Association’s years of existence I can say, that there is still huge need to preach the word of God, the Gospel, the Plentiful Redemption to the most abandoned, as st. Alphonsus would say. They are really abandoned. It has changed nowadays, but those people lived many, many years in darkness. We go to them, they can meet us. But in fact, it’s not about things we say or do there. Very often our presence, being with them, going out to them is the most important. It’s not about doing marvellous deeds or admirable actions. I think that’s not the point. Our simple presence there, among those people is the most important.
Authors: George and Monica Karpińscy
Translation: br. Dariusz Dudek CSsR