A charitable centre established in the diocese of Leeds to offer support to eastern European migrants has welcomed the appointment of a Slovakian priest to minister to the local community.
Thirty-one-year-old Fr Marek Sitar has been sent from Slovakia after a meeting earlier this year between the Bishop of Leeds, Marcus Stock, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Bratislava, Jozef Hal’ko.
The Good Shepherd Centre in Keighley was set up in 2015 and the chair of trustees, Sean Gilligan, described the creation of the first Slovak Catholic Mission in the north of England as an important development.
“The purpose of the Good Shepherd Centre is to welcome and support our newly arrived families,” he said. “A range of services is offered such as English lessons and help with navigating the health, housing and education systems. The presence of Fr Marek enhances this work in sustaining the Catholic identity of the Slovakian community and respecting their culture while supporting their integration.”
Bishop Stock commented: “There are considerable numbers of families and individuals of Slovakian origin who are living and working in parts of our diocese; it is important that we do all we can to be sensitive to their spiritual needs and particular traditions. Like other Catholic migrant communities amongst us, their presence enhances the richness of life and faith within our diocese.”
Fr Marek was ordained in 2003 and two of his brothers are also priests. He will also be resident at Leeds Cathedral to help with weekday Mass and confessions.
Marking his arrival, Fr Marek celebrated Mass in the parish of Our Lady of Victories and St Anne in Keighley.
After the service, people gathered for a social celebration to welcome their new priest. Lukas Pompa, a builder who has been in the UK for five years, said: “The community is very happy to be able to attend the Mass and Sacraments with a Slovakian priest. People feel more able to join in: they feel more a part of what is happening and are more confident talking to a priest in their own language.”