Fr. Tom Cassidy, now on sabbatical after completing his second term as provincial superior of the US Province, is writing a journal during his trip to Poland in October. During his sabbatical Fr. Tom is spending time in many of the locations for which he had responsibility when he was on General Council. Next spring he will spend extended time in Asia, helping in the missions of India and the Philippines. Here, writes from Warsaw:
A number of SCJs from the Warsaw area and beyond came to the provincial house to celebrate Fr. Artur Sanecki’s name day. [Fr. Arthur is the Polish provincial superior and in Poland, “name days” or saint days upon which a person shares the same name, are celebrated much like birthdays are celebrated in the United States.] We had Mass at 11:30 AM followed by a short gathering to toast Artur and wish him well. After the presentation of the toast each person would clink his glass with Arthur’s, shake his hands and in the style common in this part of the world, brush their cheeks three times.
We then had our meal consisting of soup, about four different kinds of salads and vegetables, potatoes and rice and a selection of meats (chicken, beef and pork). Following the meal we returned to the hall to have coffee and dessert — a very delicious four-layer cake.
Since Mass was not until 11:30 I took the opportunity to take a walk before. Not far from here is a Jesuit church it was impressive to see the number of people arriving on foot for Mass and, I might add, it was young and old. During the afternoon I passed by several other Churches that were filled to capacity for the evening Mass. That’s not to say there are no problems facing the Church here in Poland.
Our own SCJ community has experienced a decline in Polish vocations. Now many of the students come from the missions in Eastern Europe, such as the Ukraine, Croatia and Moldavia, to name just a few. The sex abuse scandals that we have become familiar with back in the States has finally been felt here as well. In addition, if you look around the globe as a country becomes more prosperous, interest and participation in religion tends to decline. That, to some degree at least, is felt here as well.
In the afternoon Artur took me via the subway to Old Warsaw. The style of architecture is certainly old but you have to remind yourself that much of it was reconstructed following World War II. Much of Warsaw was destroyed first in 1939 at the beginning of the war and then the Polish uprising and the final liberation of the city added to its destruction.
I should note that as in any major city in Europe the public transportation system is excellent. We could have gotten to the central city by bus, tram (street car) or subway. This being Sunday the subway was crowded with folks out for a Sunday stroll. The old city was packed with people, again young and old, enjoying the sunny crisp weather (the temperature was around 60° F). Our tour of the old city ended with the stop at a famous deli and bakery where, according to Artur, one could enjoy the best doughnuts (Paczki) in the city. Naturally we had to try.
I’ll close today with a few photos taken on our walk around the old city. Tomorrow we are headed to Stadniki, the theologate of the Polish Province that, by the way, has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.