|Fr. Jarek Boruçki, M.S.|
My name is Fr. Jarek Borucki, La Salette Missionary and native of Poland. We as La Salettes have been called to serve in the nearby Czech Republic which is recovering slowly from several centuries of turbulent history. Since 1996, we have established four La Salette houses in parishes near the north central border area of the Czech Republic.
Committed to parish pastoral ministry, we operate in this country in small groups of La Salettes. Surprisingly and fortunately the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette is well known in the Czech Republic. We have no doubt that we have an important role to play in promoting the spirituality of reconciliation. Yet, in all honesty, it must be said that in 1968, our home country of Poland assumed a shameful role in the suppression of the Prague Spring! But now, even as Polish religious, we seem to be a little better accepted.
In the Czech Republic, because of the long history of persecution of the Catholic Church, the number of Czech practicing Catholics are few. The communities are therefore in great need of priests to renew their faith and lead them. In fact, many Catholic parishes had remained underground for several decades due to the Communist government.
Only eighty priests serve some four hundred parishes in the Diocese of Litomerice (near Prague) where we work. The native clergy are still affected by the tensions that remain between the “underground” priests of the Communist era and those priests who worked “officially” and publicly under that communist regime.
A Need for Evangelization
Our community of La Salette Missionaries is deeply committed to pastoral service, in five parishes on the outskirts of the town of Zelezny Brod with its 6,000 people. We ensure the continuation of Eucharistic celebrations, fostering religious catechesis and the ongoing meetings of groups of believers. In many cases, we are involved in the ministry of initial evangelization in a largely dechristianized society.
|Parish of Zelezny Brod|
Many were believers in the past but the Communist propaganda and proselytizing were successful in undermining the image of the Catholic Church. Catholics in particular had been selected for persecution. And families who did not hide their membership in the Catholic Church consequently lost access to graduate schools or the State University or perhaps a valued job. They were often relegated to the margins of society.
A Church in a Difficult Position
Catholic communities have survived through their efforts in solidarity and mutual assistance. Truly these people were content to live a simple life and did not seek power or great wealth. Even though the Czech Republic is currently experiencing a brilliant economic upturn, the Czech people are also experiencing a time of moral and religious crisis.
It has seriously affected families. Divorce is running rampant in society. But for Catholics expressing their faith within their society still remains difficult. Although there is no longer any official persecution, very few children and young people are prepared to declare their identity as Christians in the secular school environment.
|Interior of Church of Saint-Joseph-Krasna|
Although bordering countries, Poland and the Czech Republic have vastly different stories to tell with regard to the Catholic Church. While the Catholic Church was the soul of Poland in safeguarding its national identity, in the Czech Republic, the Catholic Church was considered a foreign entity.
Even Protestant Churches were more or less persecuted during three centuries of Austrian occupation. Since its inception in 1918, Czechoslovakia maintained its less than cordial stance against the Catholic Church. In 1945, Communism found fertile ground here for its fight against the Church.
But since the 1980s—the Velvet Revolution began in December 1989 — Czechoslovakia has been seeking its freedom from the communist regime and has found in the Catholic Church a solid ally who worked with other players, especially the Protestant Churches. This interaction and support has changed the attitude of the Czechs toward the Catholic Church although challenges still remain.
Ecumenism, Reconciliation and Our Hopes for Tomorrow
Today many Catholics are involved in secular and urban life and willingly cooperate with their neighbors.
|Rectory of Church of
But the fact remains that we still have a lot of work to do in the area of evangelization and ensuring that Catholics become even more involved in society and are recognized as true partners. Already in the parishes we serve, we have achieved a great deal in the area of Ecumenism with regard to our Orthodox and Protestant brothers and sisters.
The good news is that today we have our first Czech vocations for our La Salette community. We have a student for brotherhood who has completed his third year of training. A lot of work remains to be done in establishing ourselves in this country but we are very hopeful. Of course, there are still many challenges for the Church in this country but, like Jesus, should we expect anything less?
(first published in Les Annales, Sept.-Oct. 2008, pgs. 18-19, a publication of the La Salette Shrine in France)