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My name is Jarosław Wiśniewski, I was born in Rypin near Toruń. I grew up in Zieluń and in Skrwilno on the borderline between Kujawy and Mazovia. I wound up in the Seminary of Białystok in 1985.
I was ordained in 1991.
I am a diocesan priest with 25 years of experience. I went on missions in 1992 and I go on them to this day, although I`ve changed addresses several times.
My metropolitan from Białystok Edward Ozorowski once wrote about me:”Jarosław is so strange that there are no words to express it. I accepted him to seminary conditionally and I created favourable conditions for him because he didn`t seem very mature yet. However, he has grown up and developed his talents which he has quite a lot . Knows many languages, he writes and draws a lot and when he sits on the stone a bunch of kids will be sitting around him to listen to the fairy tale.
He often changed addresses but he doesn`t stop working in the Church, because our church has enough a place for everyone, for those who are good and for those sinners.”
I was asked for give an interview for “Our Diary”. Mission Sunday 23 October became a pretext when I established online contact with a journalist from this Catholic newspaper.
I felt honored with the offer and maybe a little tense. So my story will be longer than previous interviews which I gave for other newspapers. I don`t know when the opportunity will come again to address a few words to my countrymen in such a reputable magazine. Also as an elderly man aged 50+, I want to take this opportunity to move the hearts of some young people that they have courage to take similar risk in case something happens to me. If I could live 100 years, successors must be brought up not only anonymous work at the end of world but also through written testimony and the preached word also to compatriots.
Missions must go on because it`s the nature of the church. At least, that`s what Jesus taught the Apostles and the Second Vatican Council confirmed that, of course, the church is missionary by nature and every catholic in one way or another supports missions. One of the ways of support is to deepen your knowledge about other countries. Missionaries` reports of their work are irreplaceable cognitive material. They can also become an inspiration for one or another form of commitment. So please make me excused and read what I am telling you, carefully.

1. How did it happen that Father went on missions?

I really liked geography and the alphabet I learned from the large atlas that was at home before I went to school. Mum and dad took me on their trip to my God mother to Łódź as a child and to another aunt in Warsaw when I was a preschooler. I got to know Krakow, Sandomierz and Łowicz when I was 8 years old. When I saw Wrocław and Jelenia Góra at the age 12 years and stood on Śnieżka on the Czech side, it was a great experience for me but I still didn`t have enough. When I was 18 I had the possibility to see Lithuania but mortal law delayed this trip by 10 years. During the Polish People`s Republic mainly party members traveled abroad, rich people. Whereas, those like myself remained travels in the imagination which I organized thanks to the reading. The book Henryk Sienkiewicz “In the Desert and in the Wilderness” and Teresa Weyssenhoff`s story about the “Servant of the lepers” about Józef Beyzym greatly influenced my imagination. As an altar boy I met Redemptorist missionary from my parish Jan Skowroński several times who had an amazing sense of humor, spoke with a strong Latin accent. He was short, good – humoured. He once said that a missionary does not have to take a bath because how many times he goes to the bathroom there is an alligator in the bathtub, so it is not bothering him.

The choice of mission was determined by the time of change.
When I was at the seminar people always talked about the fall of communism in Russia. There was a thaw, the borders opened and there was a possibility of opening and returning the churches and mosques taken to the faithful. There was also a great need for priests because there was no seminary in Russia alone and only 10 priests for such a huge country with a Catholic minority which is estimated at 2 to 4 million people. So I applied quickly as a deacon for such a trip.
There was a visit to Lithuania and Belarus which I loved at first sight, because I recognized in this borderland all that I knew from the descriptions of Adam Mickiewicz and Eliza Orzeszkowa. I was in Grodno on the Niemen and in the Gate of Dawn and Nowogródek. I also met Bieniakonie where Maryla lived, Adam Mickiewicz`s first love.
I thought I should work in this area because at that time despite the national borders, the diocese in which I studied in Bialystok, was still undivided and included the territory of Lithuania, Belarus and the Bialystok province. But it happened differently. 10 days after my priestly ordination, John Paul II visited Bialystok and announced a new diocese of Bialystok and after some time also the diocese of Grodno and this way instead of one diocese there were three and in three different countries. The Diocese of Mother remained in Vilnius and the daughter`s two dioceses in Poland and Belarus.

2. Before Father arrived in Papua New Guinea where did work before and what did it look like?

Well, that was Russia, where I spent 10 years. Bishop of Grodno with whom I spent my vacation as a deacon and with whom I wanted to working, was directed to Moscow and I followed him to Russia, exactly to Rostov-on Don in the Caucasus, next door to Georgia. I have to admit that I imagined this country quite differently. We were taught in the Polish People`s Republic that it is one of the richest and most developed countries in the world. Since sends rockets into space and organizes the Olympics, must be a big and strong country. However, I watched Russia from the yard, in places where poverty squeaking. I was surprised by the large number of Asians, especially the Koreans. Stalin deported 60,000 citizens of Korean descent, to Rostov around. A large Muslim diaspora lives in the south of Russia. We used to call these people Circassians but now we talk more often about Chechens, Dagestans, Ballers and Ossetians. Many of them at that time dreamed of independence and these skirmishes were taking place before my eyes and then the war in neighboring Abkhazia and Chechnya. Many times, when I traveling by bus I saw the so-called “blok-posty” with armored cars and soldiers in bulletproof vests. Entrance to every major city was protected by the army and is still the case in this country to this day. There is no comparison with Europe, where there are no army or tanks even on the border, whereas in Russia they are everywhere and not from today but from wherever I can remember. In addition in the city of Rostow which belonges to the 5 largest Russian cities I encountered a huge number of students from Africa and Latin America on which Soviet Russia hoped that they would build communism in Africa and Latin countries. However, the opposite happened. In many cases they were my allies and the most eager Catholics in the city. At the every Holy Mass which I celebrated, in the absence of a church, in the theater, half of the faithful were black students and the other half were mainly Armenians with a gypsy-like beauty i.e. a dark complexion. There were a lot of Poles in the city but they had a great complex from 1937, when Stalin shot not for crimes but for belonging to some nationality which was on his blacklist. Poles throughout the USSR were treated like “black sheep” because of the “Miracle on the Vistula” which they could not forgive or forget. So I spent seven years around Rostov. For three years I came to Siberia where I also made many observations and I had a lot of adventures…Then I came to Ukraine, in this area, where is now the separatists war with the Ukrainian army. I spent 5 years there and 5 years at the foot of the Himalayas in the capitol of Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
The surroundings of Middle Asia are a melting pot of nations. There, a strong state formed the relatives of Genghis-Khan with Tamerlan at the forefront and left behind numerous souvenirs reminiscent of Iranian Baghdad architecture or Hindu Delhi. In Tamerlan`s time both India and Iraq belonged to one great Mughal empire which we also sometimes call Timurids. Each of these three countries in which I worked before I came to Papua, left a strong mark on me and touched me so much that when I was going to Papua, I was not afraid of anything. I said to myself:”Worse than in Russia , Catholics are nowhere to be found so I can handle it”

3. What does the missionary`s work look like on a daily basis?

You need to be spontaneous and creative on missions. Every day you need to have several alternative scenarios for people from those countries, where the church has no iron structures or funds to conduct planned actions, you have to be a “man of rubber” and even “orchestra man” which means that in a figurative sense it plays many instruments. You have to know a little about everything. Even no one taught you anything in Poland, it is here that life will force you to act. For example, in missions you need to know languages we were not taught at the seminary and you have to spend a lot of time studying the languages and cultures in which you operate…In the missionary graphic of the priest, the sense of time and distance are different than in Europe. Apparently, a missionary must have three virtues and they are: 1. Patience, 2. Patience, 3. Patience. You have to get used, to the fact that something you planned for Monday, will have to be done on Wednesday, Friday or Monday of the following week. You have to get use, that Sunday Mass does not necessarily have to be on Sunday because many large villages are waiting for the priest and he can`t get everyone on that day, so already in Russia I learned to say Sunday Mass for three days, that is for the whole weekend. This is especially true for Easter and Christmas. The interesting thing is that people like it and nobody is offended. There is high unemployment in many countries and cultures there is not much difference because even in the middle of the week you can gather half the villagers in prayer in the evening.
In practice my work of a parish of 60 villagers along the shoreline and distant from each other at 2 extreme points by over 100 km, is about relies on “permanent caroling” from village to village. My schedule is like this that the first week of each month I spend with the Bishop in the diocese in so-called “transition home” in which I gather strength, I shop, I meet the Bishop who partly covers my expenses and lends the car to make purchases, mainly fuel, candles, communicators, wine and sparkles for children bring to my parish. In the second week I move west to the last village and day by day I`m slowly riding a motorboat to the central parish visiting 2-3 islets a day, depending on the weather, strength and attitude of parishioners. I visit Catholic schools, celebrate services, check how catechists work, sometimes I argue with them because everyone is lazy. They do not want all marriages to be sacramental in the village and young children were christened in time. I often hear that we will do it for Easter and when Easter is coming they tell me that it will be better if we do it Christmas. I spend the third week of the month in the rectory but again every day I visit a nearby village, especially those who have schools. Fourth week I sit on a motorboat and go east where there are fewer Catholics. Adventists, who dominate, there are not very friendly to us. Nevertheless, they are also waiting for me because sometimes apart from candies and balloons. I bring them malaria medicines, ointments from rotting wounds and painkillers, for free. When I am surprised by the lack of fuel in this area, I have an alternative way of traveling on foot across the bush and mountains which is much harder physically but less stressing the psyche because fuel is a scarce commodity and I never know if I`ll have enough it for the next village. When this carol ends I go or on foot to the diocese which can sometimes take 3 days and I rest all week otherwise you can`t function in areas, where the beauty of untouched nature is mixed with the cruelty of human misery and the lack of elementary facilities such as asphalt, car, bathroom with shower, telephone etc. Imagine that in many places I sleep on the floor in the chapel and the parishioners in the middle of the temple light a bon fire, not to let me freeze but to scare away mosquitoes. The natives are very nice in this respect. They never leave me alone. When I sleep so much, volunteers are on duty next to me, mainly young people who in many cases accompany me in my travels. My motorboat is never empty. In addition to the skipper, there are always 5 to 20 volunteers from the Mary Legion or with the so-called “Rosa Mistica” who help organize the liturgy. I will add that the style of these trips is like the life of Papuans. I try to listen to their advice when making decisions, how much time will be in the village and what to do there specifically. The strategy changes from hour to hour. This moral support which give me my parishioners in my wanderings became the reason that I feel like Robinson Cruzoe among many Piętaszkowie and even though it`s hard here it`s in such a team, loneliness, Spartan living conditions or a real danger to health and life and remoteness from my homeland are not so annoying.

4. What fruits can Father already boast about?

Fruits, is an interesting topic. The missionary usually doesn`t boast of them because they usually come when you don`t expect them anymore and signs in heaven and earth indicate that this or that fruit is not yours but is a gift of God`s Providence. The missionary is to saw and whether something will collect or not it doesn`t depend on his talents or expectations.
I`m glad that in very places where I worked there is a souvenir in the form of chapels and churches that there are some people who did not know God at all and now that they not only know Him but love with all heart. I am proud that thanks to my work in a some sense the German community of the city Wołgodońsk consolidated and many of them experienced repatriation, though they had never dreamed of this. When I visit Germany I know that I have about 20 families there, who respect me very much and they will receive me as guest at any time of day or night. I am proud of the few vocations that have grown up under my eye. The Curator of Russian Franciscans comes from Rostov Father Mikołaj Dubunin and in Siberia there is my pupil in the Carmelite convent Korean Sister Ida. In Ukraine my adventure with the publication of books began. I was already 40 years old when it has been public quietly and without any pump, my only so far a volume of poetry “Man from nowhere” The promotion was held in a small room in the Polish community in the city of Donetsk.
There were about 20 people. A Bishop from Kharkov came for this meeting Stanisław Padewski who wrote the introduction to this volume. He is a Polish philologist by education and He encouraged me that I would not be afraid to publish my writing. He said I had a “sharp claw”.
Another achievement in the Donbass was the idea of the Paulines from Jasna Góra, more specifically Father`s Simplicjusz who created a Pauline community in Donbas. By God`s will and conviction I became together with Father Marcin Wirkowski and Father Mikołaj Pilecki a co-author of a walking pilgrimage who traveled from Donetsk to Mariupol for several years in a row, where a facsimile of Our Lady of Częstochowa is worshipped, which was consecrated by John Paul II in 2003. I am also proud that I accepted an Orthodox priest under my roof which own Bishop suspended and the wife drove out of the house. This priest had painting talent and living in the presbytery he painted 5 sets of The Way of The Cross for all my churches. He was homeless. When he knocked on my door his face was bloody because even the homeless drove him out of the attic the surrounding house, where they nest like rats. The secular fall is painful but when the priest falls any religious denomination the view is pathetic. I knew him before. He asked me if he could become a Catholic. I explained to him what steps to take in this direction but he did not take them. The cause of all his troubles was alcohol. I loathe this addiction but I have broken myself. I accepted him on condition that he was sober. He promised me that and as soon as he lived in the presbytery he became a different man. He restored his dignity and exactly after a year he went away. He found a job and a home. I don`t know what happened next because I went to a new facility to Tashkent. There also in Ukraine except this priest I was taken care of I looked after about 50 homeless people, for which I cooked meals every day. I have no talent for cooking but some parishioners helped me. Protestants also joined the campaign whose were on duty a few days a week. Then when I left the Neocatechumenat took over it. In Uzbekistan I did a similar job as in the Dobass. This time, together with the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Several people were christened because apart from meals I had regular catechists for them. Also 30 of my pupils left Uzbekistan in different cities in Poland where they went to high school and now they are students. One of my pupils from a small town in the Tien Shan mountains also joined
to the Major Seminary I Krakow. His name is Maksym. These are small achievements paid for with great work but each of them was a surprise, which could not have been foreseen or calculated. Everything was happening according to the principle:”Spirit blows whenever He wants”. My merit is that sometimes I was able to recognize the direction of this “Divine Blast”.

5. What are the greatest needs of the Mission today?

Mission geography is changing, also their profile. Today, European countries are becoming missionary countries such as France, Great Britain and Germany. It is good that our priests are there. The situation in Russia or Ukraine also in many areas is as difficult as it was 100 years ago in Africa. John Paul II asked Mother Teresa to send his sisters on missions to…the Vatican. It wasn`t joke at all. The Sisters proved to be just as necessary in Italy and the USA as at home in India.
From now on joke about black missionaries in white Europe are no longer funny. This is already the reality of many “post-Christian countries”.
Depending on the context of the country, to which the missionary goes, you can talk about these or other needs. It is often difficult to assess the greatest need. Each missionary acts in obedience to the Bishop, listens to what the Bishop considers most important and tries to consider what of these important things is in his power. In conversation with the Bishop of the Papua diocese of Kimbe when after 3 months of orientation was to decide what work to go to, I understood that the Bishop is embarrassed and he doesn`t know himself, what to do for me, which parish to send me to. He began to feel embarrassed: “I will not give you the best or the worst parish. I don`t want it to be far away but I can`t keep you on a leash, you must live and work independently”. At that moment, something inspired me, to tell the bishop, not to be afraid and give me the worst parish, which He has in the Diocese the most difficult one. I calculated that if I failed no one will rebuke me for that. But if I can handle God`s help I deserve a good memory in the eyes of God and people. It lasted a split second my thinking but the Bishop liked what I told Him. So I have the hardest poorest parish where everything is needed, starting with nails for the construction and renovation of chapels and ending with gasoline would be like traveling from island to island on my parish motorboat. The presence of a priest is the most important for parishioners. Because they had no priest`s parish for many years and now many of them are really happy that I`m here. It would also be good if nuns came to my parish because there is a Catholic school, a Catholic hospital and a large monastery building but there have been no nuns in it for 20 years because they left for various reasons. We lack good teachers because there are a lot anyhow of them, there are also no good nurses and there is no doctor in the hospital. However, I do not dream that it will commission me from heaven in one day. Please, make people pray for me for perseverance with good intentions that I would not break down and did not escape these missions as it sometimes happens.
Because in Papua there are 5 to 10 children in each family I focus my attention on them because I see that older parishioners are stubborn and they cannot be converted. I motivate them to participate in numerous services with small gifts and they are so happy about them that it is impossible not to notice. They just jump for joy when they get the candy. So my actions at the beginning are like that this is noticeable at times. So I appeal mainly to my letters to my countrymen to send toys, just toys because little Papuans do not know them and instead of having fun they are hooligans. They beat each other or bully animals like on birds, fish, frogs and cats. Many dogs in the villages have lame broken legs because children shoot at them with a slingshot.

6. If Father were to sum up what Father are doing today, what would He say? Mission or vocation? Gift? Grace?

For me, missions became my nature, not even second but first. I have no private life and no plans or expectations. I am ready for any scenario. Is it a long life on missions or a short episode, whether, health or disease whether this parish or other I leave it all to God`s fate and to God`s decision. In this sense then what I do of these few given concepts here matches the term Grace. By God`s grace from His Mercy this vocation was born in me and only with His help I remain in it. Talents if any if I did not follow the priesthood and missions they would probably be wasted and they could not be used for anything. When I`m on missions, this is useful my passion for writing columns, painting and singing, because I like all three classes. These are my strengths but they were given to me by Grace.
At the same time it is the Grace of calling the first gift I am happy about and I`m proud…of my vocation to the Priesthood and Missions because I have been fulfilling both this services for 25 years.

7. Last request

Recently, I wrote a letter to the Head of the village of Skrwilno with a request that he would not stop promoting our village and telling about two curiosities because of which the village is known in the area:”Treasure of Skrwilno” and “Horse market” that he doesn`t forget about the third property that it was a “mine of vocations” for over 100 years for several dioceses and religious congregations. There is something to boast about. Our countryman Józef Kraszewski was the rector of the Seminary in Płocl for several decades. My friend from elementary school was the director of the diocesan museum for many tears…now he is a priest in the cathedral. One of our countrymen died tragically near Szczecin was the Director of a Catholic museum in this big city.
There are also several missionaries besides me. I want to name them by name. After the death of Redemptorist Jan Skowroński who started the “missionary dynasty” we have Father Piotr Kalinowski SAC in Africa, in Scotland is Father Janusz Wilczyński SAC and Salesian Father Andrzej KLonowski seems in Mexico. We also have several Marians including lecturer at KUL as Father Tadeusz Górski.
I want to ask the inhabitans of this and many Polish villages where were priestly or monk vocations to “puff and blow” for them as for Małysz or for Lewandowski because our priests often ridiculed in their homeland, abroad they are very needed and respected. I`m not exaggerating if I say that like St. Wojciech, our patron , patron of Polish missionaries, as soon as he left the Polish border, the value of his mission increased. Pagans demanded a mountain of gold for his relics.
Here is, how much the value of each missionary increase, when he decides, to give away everything, he has, for Jesus.


Father Jarosław Wiśniewski