The Polish Catholic Mission of England and Wales has welcomed a call by the Polish bishops for Poles abroad to integrate into their local parishes. In a letter to be read out this weekend at Polish Masses, the Warsaw-based bishops’ conference warns there are now insufficient Polish clergy to “reach all the places where Poles are found” and they say Catholics should make up for the shortage by attending local churches.
“Respect the country that has accepted you, given you work and a chance to develop. Mature patriotism has nothing to do with nationalism, or with closing oneself off from other cultures and traditions,” the letter says.
The London-based Polish Catholic Mission, or PMK, operates more than 220 parishes and pastoral centres in England and Wales. Its rector, Mgr Stefan Wylezek, told The Tablet the bishops’ message was positive: “We are not a ghetto. I am so glad the Polish bishops are saying please join in with local parishes. I am not jealous of anyone going to an English parish.”
His comments were echoed by the Polish chaplain in Nottingham, Fr Krzysztof Kawczynski, who says positive interaction with diocesan clergy at deanery meetings is a good example of greater integration. He acknowledges there is still separation when it comes to preparing children, in Polish, for the sacraments – currently a bishop will come from Poland for confirmation services – but he is hoping to have bilingual confirmation next year, with Bishop Patrick McKinney presiding. He has already used Polish and English at marriages and funerals.
But another Polish chaplain, who didn’t want to be named, gave the bishops’ letter a more guarded response and said he had no idea how it would be received by his parishioners.
He told The Tablet that Polish language chaplaincies offer people a sense of space: “People can grow in faith whilst living in a foreign country. Far from home, they can feel cut off from their family and can lose their values. Worshipping in Polish protects them from going on the wrong path.”