I’m writing my May reflection from the city of Katowice, Poland, where my mother is undergoing a medical procedure this week. I was blessed enough to have planned this overseas family visit months ago, and now it feels very providential to be here just when I’m needed. The city, some 250 miles away from my hometown, is one of the major university centers in Poland but until just 5 years ago had not had any presence of the Dominican Order, a strange thing given how much the friars in this country desire to be involved with campus ministry, young professionals outreach, and the dialogue between faith and culture that happens in the university environment. This lack was remedied in 2012 when the local bishop invited the friars to take over a downtown parish and create a network of Dominican ministries.
Tonight, since I had never visited this new Dominican site before, my dad and I decided to go to mass there. It was one of their seven Sunday masses, advertised as geared mostly toward young professionals. The church was packed with young singles, couples, young families with kids, and some older parishioners. Beautiful music, prayerful yet ringing with joy, was provided by a four part choir standing with the congregation and praying with their song towards the altar. The Dominican celebrant, a newly ordained friar, led us in the timeless celebration both solemn and laid back (not an oxymoron!), somehow both formal and charismatic. A few jokes followed deep words of wisdom, and after mass everyone joined in for tea and cake, some local variation on the theme of coffee and donuts.
Why I am sharing this story with you? Because in this recently created Dominican parish I felt at home, intuitively knowing that this community has embraced a true Dominican “personality”. What would that personality be? Well, you may read more in-depth about it here and here, but in brief I’d say it’s a certain mix of this-worldliness and other-worldliness, and of action and contemplation. It’s all flavored with a restless desire for authenticity, which is summed up with our simple one-word motto, Veritas (truth), the truth for which in our freedom we are responsible.
Dominican “personality” of parishes often owes to and depends on the Dominican personality of their leaders, and I must say we have been blessed for the last couple of years to have – among others – two very Dominican individuals whom I’d like to mention today since St.Catherine’s owes them and a lot and they will be leaving us this summer. It’s our associate pastor Fr. Peter Hannah and the lay campus minister Julie Bellefeuille. Their Dominican qualities have been an inspiration for me and for many.
I’m excited to introduce briefly Fr. Peter’s worthy successor, Fr. Marcin Szymanski, another very Dominican Dominican who will be joining us from Seattle. He’s been a priest for six years now, four of which he spent in a parish / young professional setting, and the last two years at a Newman Center. I’m confident that his personal passion for the spirit of St. Dominic will continue filling St. Catherine’s community with the new wine of the Gospel.
Thank you all for participating this last year in our community, and may we all be renewed with all the upcoming transitions in our commitment to Jesus and his Church.