Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Tarnobrzeg is proud of having the relics of Blessed Father Beyzym. It was not only Father Prelate Michał Józefczyk’s cherished dream, but also the dream of our parishioners to possess the relics of the Blessed. The character of this unusual man and a priest, a great missionary from Madagascar was known and liked by the people of our parish.
“We are so happy that Father Beyzym is here with us. We have been waiting for him for a long time. Last year on the 23rd of December we installed his relics in our church. Now we can meet him everyday and ask him to be not only our intercessor with God, but to teach us love that Our Lord teaches us”, - says Father Prelate Józefczyk
The relics were brought to Tarnobrzeg by Father Czesław Tomaszewski SJ. The relics installation ceremony took place during the Holy Mass on the last week of Advent. In his homily Father Tomaszewski spoke about the life of Blessed Father Beyzym and his service to lepers on Madagascar.
The island of Madagascar is not an exotic, unknown place for our parishioners. Father Henryk Sawarski MSF, who was born in Machów (a village near Tarnobrzeg), has been a missionary on Madagascar for more than 34 years. People from his parish in Antananarivo have visited our parish for a number of times.
The history of the parish and the city
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Tarnobrzeg has been existing for thirty three years only. But in the city history it is exceptional.
During the 70ies of the XXth century, Tarnobrzeg was not only the centre of the district (viovodeship), but also the centre of the sulfur basin. After the rich sulfur deposits were discovered in 1953, the new possibilities of development were opened for the district and the city as well. Thousands of people from the whole country came to Tarnobrzeg like to Eldorado. They came in the hope to find the job, home and future. The city grew like a weed. The number of inhabitants reached 50 000.
It was the city golden age. The rapid construction of new public and sport facilities, schools and kindergartens, blocks of flats was started. But the city development plans had nothing to satisfy spiritual needs of the inhabitants. New cities, like Nowa Huta, Tarnobrzeg, etc., were planned to be industrial, modern cities, cities without God. The only church in the city was a 400-year old church in the convent of Dominican Fathers. It was too small to house all the faithful. As the church was so overcrowded, it often happened that people fainted during the mass.
In spring 1979 Father Ignacy Tokarczuk, the Bishop of Przemyśl Diocese, decided to establish a new parish and to build a new church in Tarnobrzeg. One could only dream to build a church those days. But one May night a temporary wooden church was set up in the middle of the biggest Tarnobrzeg housing estate. The church builder and a parish priest of a new parish was Father Michał Józefczyk. He had a lot of trouble, but the church was saved.
A month later there was the first Parish Feast and Father Stanisław Mól SJ, who visited us on the occasion, presented us the Lourdes Rosary. Giving the present he said: “Let this Rosary be David’s pebbles for you. Pray on it and you will have no fear of any Goliath”. We remind ourselves about “David’s pebbles” in our parish every day. Owing to them we solved the problems that seemed unsolvable. Thanks to them a new two-level church was erected near the wooden one some years later. Due to them a lot of wonderful things happen everyday in our parish.
The praying parish
The number of parishioners nowadays is 14 thousand people. They call it “praying parish” in diocese, as our prayer is uninterrupted. Since 1979, every Saturday of the month we celebrate Fatima devotions. From spring to late autumn we have the procession with the figure of Our Lady on our streets. People pray the Rosary and sing Marian songs. Since 1985 we pray the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Patroness of our parish.
In 1994 we started praying the Hour of Mercy. The Chapel of Perpetual Adoration was established. The praying at the Blessed Sacrament lasts uninterruptedly day and night. At 8.30 pm. the Rosary, finished by Our Lady of Jasna Gora prayer, is prayed here every day.
There are shrines on the territory of the housing estate where May devotions take place. The June devotions are at the figure of Christ the King, the parish and the city Patron. The Way of the Cross during the Lent takes place at the streets of our housing estate too.
Jesus builds and joins
The parish in Serbinów does not only pray, it is also involved in charity activities. There is a nursery for children here and a family foster home, a community centre and a dormitory for the homeless, a kitchen for the poor, Father Pio’s House of the Relief from Suffering (three departments of hospice) and a home hospice. There is also a Caritas station, a rehabilitation centre, a parish pharmacy and the Club of Honorable Blood Donors. The window of life has been functioning for a number of years.
The parish also has its choir, a brass band, a folk group “Lasowiacy”. There is a football team “Wspólnota” (community), a parish newspaper and newsletters about the life of the parish. At 10.00 p.m. everyday the parish helpline starts working.
Several dozens of different communities, groups for children, young people, parents, younger and older parish generations, people of different professions and interests are active in our parish. They build up their spiritual life here, serve the neighbors with their time, knowledge and experience.
How such great bulk of work, such diversity of activities to be managed? The answer is - the team effort. The good spirit of this community of love is our parish priest, assisted by vicars, sisters from the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, catechists (clergy and laics), younger and older generations of parish members. The work in the hospice is supported by volunteers. They help to look after the sick. Volunteers pray the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy with patients and read the book or catholic press for them.
People who visit the parish emphasize that they experience the spirit of fraternity and unity here. When asked how that could be achieved, our parish priest answered: “ Our parish is led by Jesus - the best Shepherd. A good result can be achieved only by fulfilling His will. Jesus builds and unites. We only give ourselves to Him to make use of us”.
In such a parish Father Beyzym will not be a stranger. He will find here lots of his soul mates. “I am glad that he decided to live with us. His example is very important and necessary nowadays. He will wake up love, kindness in our hearts. He will teach us to find the face of Jesus in the neighbour’s face”,- sums up the Father.
APOSTLE OF MADAGASCAR IN TARNOBRZEG
“Polish Samaritan” and “The Lepers’ Brother” are the titles of two books published by the WAM Publishing House and dedicated to Blessed Father Beyzym. They were published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Father’s death and the 10th anniversary of his beatification. The first book was targeted at young people and adults, the second, the book of poetry - at small children. Dorota Kozioł, the author of the books is a journalist, a poet, a writer and a painter. She is the author of more than thirty books. Among them are legends, fairy tales for children, books about the history and traditions of the region, where she comes from. Religious content prevails in the topics of her paintings. A great number of her pictures can be found in different countries. They are her presents to the Polish missionaries working in different countries on different continents (E.g. Chad, Ecuador, Madagascar).
In Tarnobrzeg, Ms. Dorota’s native city, her books about Father Beyzym were promoted last year. The chamber hall in Tarnobrzeg Culture Centre was overcrowded with people. The public was fascinated by her story about her trip to Madagascar in the trail of Father Beyzym. A short film about the contemporary Madagascar and traces of Father Beyzym in the country complemented the author’s story. A big surprise for the public was the travel in time and meeting with Father Beyzym, his assistant s. Anne Marie Clerget and a sick child, Marana leprosarium patient. The roles of those people were played by Ms. Dorota’s friends. The heroes spoke about the leprosarium construction, the joys and sorrows of the patients, the hardships they had to overcome on daily basis.
“The 100th anniversary of Father Beyzym’s death is a perfect occasion to remind the world about a great Polish Samaritan, who devoted himself serving the shunned. We need such examples, such people nowadays. As from a book of wisdom we can learn a lot from Father Beyzym’s life. The knowledge we get there will bring us closer to God and the neighbor”, - concluded Ms. Dorota Kozioł at the end of the meeting with her readers.