Meet A La Salette
Fr. Leslaw Panczak, M.S.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Rzeszow, in southern Poland, about 100 miles east of Krakow. My mother, Helen, and my farther, John, both came from there. I am the oldest of three children: my brother, Peter, and my sister, Barbara and myself. We attended our diocesan parish but I remember, as a child, going regularly to the La Salette novena in the neighboring Parish of Our Lady of La Salette. I loved the prayers and the La Salette message. We later moved to an apartment very close to the La Salette church. At the age of nine I became an altar boy and Eucharist was my regular nourishment. 
When the parish priest came to visit our house each year, he asked my parents to pray for my vocation to the priesthood. I visited the rectory and saw their happiness, their lifestyle and their community spirit. It was a natural journey to eventually join the La Salette community, continuing to appreciate the familiar values of prayer, community and Marian devotion. In our La Salette parish, we went each year to the Shrine at Debowiec as a group of altar servers. I grew up in the shadow and spirit of La Salette. 

Where did you receive your La Salette training?

I entered novitiate in 1978 in Debowiec, the year Pope John Paul II was elected. I studied in Krakow and was ordained in 1985.
Sanctuary of the La Salette Parish
Church in Krakow, Poland

What experiences of La Salette ministry have you had as a priest?

In my first years I served in Trzcianka as a Parochial Vicar and I enjoyed it immensely. I worked with the youth of the parish for two years. I then went to our seminary at Krakow and served as Vocation Director as well for four years. This is a very important ministry. I accompanied young people in their journey of discernment. I also preached on vocations in our parishes and led days of prayer and a special vocational retreat. I also took seminarians along with me on my parish visits, having them sing and witness to the La Salette lifestyle and mission. It was a wonderful opportunity to witness to the fact that God is calling others to follow him in a special way as priests or religious. 
I also served as Provincial Treasurer, Superior and parish priest in Krakow (finishing the new church), three years as Provincial Vicar and three years as Provincial. Then I came to Rome as a General Councilor.
Last General Council: (L to R) Frs. Norman Butler,
Jeannot Pierre Rakotonindrainy, Dennis Loomis,
Silvano Marisa (new General) and Leslaw Panczak

Since you have just completed six years in service as a La Salette General Councilor, what have you enjoyed most?

In the Philippines during the 2006 General Chapter, I was elected to be a General Councilor. I didn’t ever think that I would be elected in that position and live in Rome. The election was a grace for me to go to Rome, to serve on the General Council level and to live in the shadow of the Vatican, near the tombs of the martyrs, with the Peter of our time, Pope Benedict, close at hand.
I never before lived in an international community and it was a challenge for me. We all came from different countries, languages and cultures but we all lived together very well indeed. I am forever grateful for this opportunity. There is something in our hearts as La Salettes which perhaps helps us to live in this situation with its many accompanying difficulties. I was superior of our Rome house and helped the students live and study and also assisted the Sisters of the Presentation, who cook and clean for us, to keep our house livable and thriving. I did the best I could each day and offered myself to this very special house community.
My work on the General Council was also a good lesson. I am an optimist by nature and tried to help everyone keep a positive attitude for the sake of our fellow community members.
Basilica of Our Lady of La Salette,
Debowiec, Poland
I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know personally our brothers and the reality of LS in the different countries. I especially enjoyed our fraternal international meetings as well as our canonical visits (once every 6 years in each country where we work). I am constantly impressed with the talents and dedication of our membership. Thankfully many of our provinces and regions are experiencing a rise in vocations. From our foundation at LS in France, we have expanded to five continents. I was happy that so many people know so much about the LS message and were ready to spread her message to all her people. I saw this happening with so many people assisting us to spread her message very well.
I was pleased to be able to see the places where we serve: some are quite beautiful residences and shrines, spiritual centers. I felt like a true brother visiting my La Salette international family with its many skin colors yet united in one spirit of reconciliation. We were always welcomed warmly. They were genuinely happy to see us and let us join them in prayer and celebrations.
I thank God for my experiences and opportunities to see and meet so many wonderful La Salette brothers and sisters who feel equally committed to Mary’s message and mission. I hope we can continue to be present in these many countries for many years to come – especially at our La Salette birthplace, the Holy Mountain of La Salette in France.
I saw the presence of God in our ministries, groups and works in various counties around the world. All this encourages and helps me continue to happily serve Mary and the Church as a La Salette missionary.

Where will you serve next as a La Salette?

In July, I returned to my Province in Poland and now live in Krakow. I have been appointed the Director of the Ministry of Pilgrimages. I will organize many pilgrimages to various Marian Shrines, including to La Salette in France, Lourdes, Fatima and the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey, tracing the steps of St. Paul in his journeys and to other interesting places in the world. I also will organize pilgrimages and tours from other countries to our native Poland. I am continuing my service as a La Salette Missionary to “make her message known.”

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”