To Save Their Identity

Posted on May 31, 2024 in: General News

To Save Their Identity

McGivney House in Poland begins hosting Greek Catholic catechism classes for Ukrainian refugees

By: Karolina Świder

Blue for the Mother of God, purple for Lent, green for the Holy Spirit. Gathered in a room of McGivney House in Radom, Poland, a dozen Ukrainian children learn to recognize the colors of the liturgical vestments worn by the priest during the Greek Catholic Mass — which differ in certain ways from the colors used in the Latin rite. Father Ihor Malysh from the Greek Catholic Parish of the Ascension in Radom leads the lesson, part of a weekly catechism class for Ukrainian refugees he holds at McGivney House every Saturday.

Byzantine-Ukrainian Catholics make up less than 0.2% of the population in Poland, and the country’s few Greek Catholic parishes have had to adapt to welcome the huge influx of refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Father Malysh has been conducting catechesis for Greek Catholics in his parish for some time, but there was no suitable place for classes and other formation meetings. So when Father Wiesław Lenartowicz, pastor of Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in Radom, offered him a room in McGivney House for regular meetings, he eagerly accepted.

McGivney House was created two years ago by Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish and the Knights from Our Lady of Częstochowa Queen of Poland Council 14004, with the support of the Supreme Council. Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly joined Bishop Marek Solarczyk of Radom and other K of C leaders in cutting the ribbon on the new facility Dec. 3, 2022. Since then, it has served as a headquarters for local Knights preparing humanitarian aid to be sent to Ukraine and a resource center for refugees.

“The McGivney House is a meeting place of two nations. It is a place where integration takes place,” explained Marek Tyka, district deputy and member of Council 14004. “Getting to know each other and each other’s customs and rituals is a good way to bring people of different backgrounds, languages and cultures closer together.”

Among other activities, refugees can attend Polish language lessons, take art classes and receive material help and psychological support. There are also different activities for children while their parents are at work. Now they also have the possibility of deepening their faith, without omitting any of the richness and specificities of the Greek Catholic rite.

“Some of the children go to Roman Catholic catechesis at school, and they do not understand it, because it is distant from their experience in the Greek Catholic or Orthodox Church,” explained Father Malysh. “We want our children to take part in our traditions and in our community.”

The idea for hosting weekly Greek Catholic catechesis at McGivney House arose during Lent, when Father Lenartowicz invited Father Malysh to preach to his parishioners. It is customary in Poland to invite an outside priest to hold a parish retreat for a few days during Lent or Advent, during which he delivers a series of homilies and conferences to prepare parishioners for Easter or Christmas. This year, Father Lenartowicz invited a priest of the Byzantine rite to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

“When you show openness to welcome Catholics from around the world, you can experience the universality of the Church,” said Father Lenartowicz, who is associate state chaplain of the Knights in Poland.

After the retreat, Ukrainian parishioners showed great interest in continuing spiritual formation with a Greek Catholic priest, especially in order to help their children hold on to their national and religious identity.

“What we can do to help those people feeling converted to another religion, converted to another way of life, what we can do to make them feel like they are home, is precisely to help them save their identity,” said Father Lenartowicz.

During the meetings, Father Malysh also teaches the children traditional Greek Catholic liturgical singing and reflects on the Sunday readings with them to prepare them for a fruitful Sunday Divine Liturgy.

Supreme Warden Andrzej Anasiak emphasized that the initiative shows that McGivney House opens its doors to everyone, regardless of his confession.

“We want the McGivney House to be a home where everyone in need will find support, care, comfort, but also a place where one can deepen their faith,” Anasiak said. “We are very happy because in this way we are fulfilling the mission of Father McGivney to reach out to those in need regardless of what makes us different — in this case, nationality or religion.”

 “We are all very grateful to the Knights,” said Father Malysh. “For their financial support, but also for their time, for their hands, for wanting to do this, and for seeing the great need for this help — because it really is a great need.”

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