Nowy Sącz
Stara Wieś


Fr Mykhailo Stanchyshyn SJ is ministering in Kharkiv, one of the cities on the front line. In this short interview given on 7th June, he shares his experience of working in this war situation.   Kharkiv is one of those cities, which experience the horrors of war the most. What is the situation in this city?  When I arrived in Kharkiv, the city was shelled from morning to night. There remains not a single building in the northern part of the city that is still suitable for reconstruction.  Most of these destroyed buildings are simply blocks of flats. They were shelled for no reason at all - there was no army there, nor were they strategic facilities.   I live in the central part of the city, about 7 kilometers from this destroyed district. Here the situation was and is better, although there were also explosions. One day my flat was also shelled. At that time I was lucky to have survived. On that day a minivan was standing in front of my window - if it had not been for it I would not be speaking with you today. The missile that came from behind that car exploded. All the windows in the tower were shattered by the explosion: only the windows on the ground floor and two floors survived - including the windows in the flat where I lived, thanks to that minivan which blocked them from the blast. The bus itself was torn apart by the explosion.  Since mid-May the situation has been much calmer. However, there are still explosions every day and people are dying. Recently, people who had spent the last three months in the metro have been evacuated. In addition, many people are now returning to Kharkiv. In the city itself, buses have also started running and street lighting has been put in place. Anyway, since the beginning of the war, it surprises me that the city is clean and well-kept. As soon as a bomb arrives and destroys an edifice, people gather and clean the streets, so that only the destroyed building remains. The flowerbeds are full of flowers, in the parks the trees are trimmed... This is all an expression of the struggle for life of the people of Kharkiv.  How does your ministry in Kharkiv look like? And how are you experiencing this difficult time?  I am involved in the humanitarian aid centre, which was opened at the beginning of the war by the Bishop of Kharkiv Vasyl Tuchapets. The centre operates at St. Nicholas Cathedral. It distributes food, medicines, chemicals, clothes, etc. The centre was open three days a week until the beginning of June. Up to 1,500 people came for help each day it was opened. During the Easter we managed to distribute two thousand aid packages. Currently, the centre is open once a week, as fewer product transports have been reaching us recently. For this reason, we have decided to facilitate transport and have opened a Humanitarian Aid Headquarters in the village of Chyshky near Lviv. In this way, aid from the west for Kharkiv can be distributed to Lviv, while we by ourselves organize transport within Ukraine. However, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to access fuel and transport costs a lot, we are now trying to focus on raising funds so that we can buy products locally.  In addition to humanitarian aid, I am also involved in pastoral work. It is important to note that in the last three months more people have started to attend the local parish. Many people are asking for their children to be baptised. In the last month, the parish has also been involved in organizing activities for children, since kindergartens and schools are closed. We run such classes twice a week. Conferences for adults are also held at the same time. We also celebrate mass regularly, and surprisingly, new people come every day.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve in Kharkiv. I am grateful that through my ministry I can meet the Lord in so many people, in their lives, in their tears of joy and often in great fear, pain and sorrow. I must say that looking at the recent time I see that the Lord God has greater possibilities and greater plans than my limited thinking.   Mykhailo Stanchyshyn SJ - Jesuit, doctor of theology. He studied at the Catholic University of Lublin, the University of Geneva and the University of Munich (PhD). He specializes in giving Ignatian retreats and in training spiritual directors. He founded communities for mothers with many children in western Ukraine. He currently works in Kharkiv.
The last weeks in Poland have been marked by the great mobilisation of local authorities, many organisations and huge numbers of ordinary people. All this has been done to confront the most serious humanitarian crisis we have experienced in our recent history. At the moment, more than 2.1 million people have arrived in Poland to escape the war. As Jesuits, we are making every effort to contribute to the relief effort in Ukraine. In the first days of the war, collections were organised in many institutions, also in our schools and parishes. On the one hand, products were collected that were later sent to Ukraine, on the other hand, funds were collected. On one Sunday at the Sanctuary of St Andrew Bobola in Warsaw, people donated over 50,000 zlotys (10,706 euros). This generosity stems from a desire to help the Ukrainians and was felt in all our works, especially in the parishes. Many of the collection points that were organised in the first days after the outbreak of war are still operating: this is the case in Gdynia, Warsaw and Krakow. Finding accomodation The real challenge is to find accommodation for all those who come to Poland. Most Jesuit parishes have taken in refugees. Some are hosted in community houses; others have been taken in by parishioners. It is difficult to estimate the total number of refugees accepted. In Gliwice, 20 people are currently living in a community house, including three children who are 1.5 years old. In Nowy Sącz, 5 people are living in a religious house and another 15 have found shelter among parishioners. In the house in Gdynia 16 refugees have been received, including four children and two people with disabilities. Many others were received among local parishioners. Refugees were also received in the following municipalities: Warsaw-Rakowiecka, Warsaw-Falenica, Toruń, Bytom, Łódź. The Jesuit Social Centre "In Action" has also made an effort to provide accommodation for refugees. It created a special form where people could express their willingness to host refugees. Thanks to their commitment, over 70 people found shelter. The centre maintains contact with hosts and refugees and provides them with further assistance. JCS "In Action" also runs a reception point at the border crossing in Zosin. the team "Jesuits for Ukraine" Help for Ukraine is coordinated by the team "Jesuits for Ukraine", set up by the Polish Provincials. At its head is Fr. Vitaliy Osmolovskyy SJ. The team is primarily involved in sending aid to Ukraine. A regular transport link with Lviv has been established. A van was purchased for this purpose. In addition to it, several more minibuses were sent with humanitarian aid. Funds have also been donated to some institutions in Ukraine, especially Jesuit works that help refugees. At the moment, the team is acting as an intermediary between refugees in Poland and organisations in the West willing to receive refugees. Transports have already taken place to Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal. In the first two cases, 80 people have been transported. Such assistance is very important, as many more refugees are expected to arrive in Poland. The team is also monitoring the situation in our provinces and passing on the necessary information to the parishes. The team has also helped other organisations that send aid to Ukraine. Sometimes this has consisted only of passing on relevant information as to where the aid can be delivered, and in other cases it is long-term cooperation. For example, we cooperate with the American team "Operation White Stork", which deals with the action of bringing refugees to Poland and providing medical supplies. The "Jesuits for Ukraine" team has also started collecting funds for scholarships for Ukrainian students. This goal is supported by Jesuit schools in the USA. Many projects have been started in our provinces to support refugees. The parish in Opole has opened a point for mothers and their children. In Warsaw, it has been decided to open a kindergarten for Ukrainians - the renovation of the necessary premises has already begun. In Gdynia, several rooms belonging to the parish are being renovated. Soon a new group of refugees will find shelter there. Also in Nowy Sacz the Jesuits have begun to prepare rooms for the organisation of a centre for Ukrainians. It is planned that this centre will be a place where their cultural events, groups will take place and where they can receive psychological help. Psychological help for Ukrainians has already been organised in Poznań. Jesuit schools are preparing to receive Ukrainian children: some have already done so. At the Jesuit university in Krakow, in addition to providing accommodation for refugees and collecting aid for Ukraine, Polish language courses are being held for new arrivals. There is a huge challenge before us to create good living conditions for millions of refugees. Some of them have already found accommodation in Jesuit parishes, homes and workplaces, and projects are underway in the Polish provinces to support them. We are beginning a long-term process in which refugees will be able to find work, their own accommodation and integrate. At the same time, we are expecting more arrivals and we will not cease in our efforts to send aid to Ukraine. Krzysztof Dudek SJ Support the Ukrainian refugees by clicking here
It has been over a month since Russia invaded Ukraine. Fr Andrii Syvak SJ told me that at the very beginning people did not know how to react to the crisis. In my opinion, however, they reacted very quickly. In the first days of the war, the retreat house in Khmelnitsky was transformed into a stopping place for refugees. It was one of the first such places in Ukraine and perfectly suited to the needs of the time. The house still continues its mission. It has 70 places and receives people fleeing from the east for one or two nights. Refugees are provided with a hot meal, separate rooms and access to bathrooms. For many of these people, this is the first place where they can feel safe. More than 900 people have already benefited from assistance at the Khmelnitsky staging point. Fortunately, the Jesuits in Lviv have been running the JRS refugee house since 2008, so they and their staff have experience in helping refugees. The house started stockpiling supplies two months before the war, as the situation was already tense. The JRS refugee house in Lviv provides accommodation for about 35 refugees. The living conditions are good: a bed is prepared for each person admitted, they have their own bathrooms and laundry facilities. The house employs cooks who prepare meals for the refugees. The staff at the centre support the refugees and help them cope with their trauma. Refugees can stay there as long as they need. JRS in Lviv also works with the Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Ukraine and provides temporary shelter in Lviv for Mongolian citizens who are fleeing Ukraine. Very changeable situation "Refugees often have several days spent in trains, buses and cold train stations. They come to eat, rest, wash, warm themselves, and then they move on," - Fr Andrii Syvak told me a few days ago. He also informed me that the situation is very changeable - in the first two weeks people in Lviv started to feel that they were in a safe place and many of them preferred to stay there.  However, this changed when Lviv was hit by missiles. Fr Syvak stressed that it is very important for the JRS staff in Lviv to create a supportive atmosphere in their home where people who have experienced loss and trauma can slowly recover. There are also joyful moments in the midst of this crisis: the weeding of refugee couples recently took place in Lviv. Similarly, the baptism of an infant took place in Khmelnitsky. Wartime conditions Jesuits in Ukraine are working in wartime conditions. There are rocket attacks around and in the cities where they stay. Since the beginning of the war there have been frequent bomb alerts, usually at night or in the morning. People have to spend up to five hours a day in shelters. There are more and more displaced people, and many of them do not know what to do next. The situation is very difficult. In these circumstances, the Jesuits in Ukraine are very grateful for any help they receive and appeal to us to do all we can to support them. Krzysztof Dudek SJ Support the Ukrainian refugees by clicking here
Recently, there has been a lot of disturbing information concerning Ukraine, related to a potential armed conflict with Russia in the near future. On the other hand, there are wonderful sparks of hope and joy, especially for young people. One such example is the Café organised and run by young people at the Jesuit parish in Khmelnitsky, Ukraine. There would be nothing special about it, there are millions of Cafés in the world, were it not for one detail. What makes this one unique and symbolic is its location - in a cemetery - a place where death is surrounded by life and the energy of youth. I encourage you to watch the video to see how young people transformed a small space next to the parish so that people of all ages could meet and talk over a sip of tasty coffee: You can watch also this one turning on English subtitles: Bartek Przepeluk S.J.
"Take o Lord and receive"  is a song composed by Dominik Dubiel SJ (PME) with lyrics known to every Jesuit, a fruit of the 8-day retreat. Below is the story behind the song as Dominik presented it in an interview with Piotr Jabłoński SJ Piotr: What are the circumstances of the Polish version [...]? Dominik: It is the story of my 8-day retreat in September of this year. You know how it usually is with our annual retreats. At 3pm you get off work and at 7pm you start 8 days in silence. The shock is usually so great that you learn to be silent for the first 3 days before going into the depths of your encounter with God. This time there was no such harsh braking in my case. My retreat fell at the end of my priestly month in Spain. Before being ordained a deacon, a Jesuit takes part in this kind of monthly program, which is an exploration of yourself, your motivations and desires, and why you want to be a priest in the Society of Jesus. After 3 weeks of lectures and workshops on the topic, my retreat began, so I was already very calmed down. I have to admit that I started with great comfort. My spiritual companion said to me: "Dominik, write a song. Spiritual consolation must be expressed in some way". So I turned on the computer during the retreat and started to compose. From the very beginning I was shy and respectful, because I tried many times in my Jesuit life to live the prayer "Take Lord and receive", and I know how it happens with this readiness - sometimes it's sweet, and sometimes bitter. In any case, I quickly finished writing, and then came the distress. Great distress. For the first time in my life I had such an experience that I was completely unable to pray. This may sound a little strange, or cheeky, but I see in this experience some parallels to Ignatius' spiritual state at Manresa. This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ignatius' conversion, and we often say that the cannonball was that key turning point in Inigo's conversion. And this is not entirely true. Yes, Ignatius went from being a knight in the royal court to a warrior for God. But he was still caught up in his own image and his own idea of life. It was only in Manresa that he experienced that one cannot earn God's love by one's own efforts. The only thing you can do is to receive it without any pretense of your own perfection. This is what I understood strongly during my retreat: that my prayer is so much walking with my own ideas and imaginations, but not with what God wants to show me. For so many years I thought that everything was fine (successful evangelizing events, accompanying others on retreats, etc.). I saw that in all this (including my personal prayer) there was always more of me than of God. And so the desolation began. Piotr: Sounds threatening! Dominik: That's how I felt, too. I wasn't able to pray. I know that sounds mega pretentious, but it just was. All the comfort from the beginning of the retreat melted away like the morning fog. The only thing that kept me going during the retreat was the conviction that God was inhabiting some part of my heart, even if I didn't feel Him myself. I clung to that and tried to hold on to that tiny hope, despite the total darkness. Piotr: "And the light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it"? Dominik: By all means! To my great surprise, a new prayer was born in this place that I had not known before. There was silence, darkness and a tenuous desire to seek God and not self. There was no renewed burst of spiritual fireworks, but a quiet going out into the world accompanied by simply sitting and holding on to the hope of God's presence in spite of everything. At one point I realized that the only prayer I was capable of uttering was singing "Take Lord and receive" written a few days earlier. That is, a humble request that God accepts what is mine - such a small, weak, non-ideal thing as it is in reality, and not my illusory idea of being a super-Jesuit doing impossible things for Him. If God accepts it, I want Him to use it. I left the retreat with a prayer that grew out of me, though it wasn't really my idea. The song started praying on its own.
The Ignatianum Academy in Cracow, run by Jesuits, hosted the 147th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Major Superiors of the Religious Orders in Poland on October 19-20, 2021. The Conference is a vital body organizing collaboration between religious orders in Poland, promoting news about religious life through publishing a weekly newsletter, collecting and sharing information about locations and different ministries offered by religious orders, managing a rich online library with texts about religious life. Besides they offer annual trainings for province treasurers and curia staff members. The meeting in Kraków gathered the major superiors of 77 jurisdictions belonging to the Conference, from 59 Institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life. The leading theme of the gathering was "The Participation of Religious in the Synodal Process." The discussion on the theme was introduced by two speeches: by Fr. Carlos Garcia Andrade CMF from Rome, who addressed the topic "Ecclesial Synodality. A New Look that Takes into Account the Past to Look Toward the Future" and Fr. Grzegorz Strzelczyk, who presented the talk "Between the Idea of Synodality and Synodal Practice. Observations on Opportunities and Threats". The afternoon session included a panel discussion on the involvement of male religious orders in Poland in the synodal process.