IGNATIAN SPIRIT OF MARANA FOUNDER
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me. (Ignatius Loyola, “Spiritual Exercises” #234)
These are the words of St Ignatius Loyola’s prayer. Fighting the hardships and difficulties in his everyday life, in order to achieve his goal, Father Beyzym would pray it. And his goal was Marana. It was there, where he planned to build the leprosarium. He wanted to build the hospital for the lepers, people, for whom he forsook and devoted everything – his strength, his health, but, above all, his heart. He had to overcome such amount of obstacles that a man of little face would simply break down and give up all his dreams and plans. Father Jan never doubted his dream. The more difficulties he had, the stronger was his belief in the execution of all his plans.
He did not build the leprosarium for his personal benefit and glory. He constructed it for those, who were abandoned by the society, were left to struggle alone. For those, whose families did not want them alive or dead. Every single day while working in Ambahiworaka, Father saw their wounds, their suffering and their helplessness. He felt their desolation, abandonment, their human dignity deprivation. He saw that the majority of the sick would not die of the illness, but of hunger. This was the reason why he struggled persistently to build the leprosarium for them. There, their sufferings would be eased and they would have the living conditions improved. They would die decently.
THANKS TO THE ENDURANCE AND SUPPORT OF FATHER’S COMPATRIOTS
The leprosarium construction had lasted for 10 long years. There was need in everything – in money, workers and supplies. In this situation Father Beyzym could count only on his compatriots and Polish people all over the world. Their donations made the construction of the leprosarium possible and made it functioning till this very day.
It was very difficult to find the construction materials those days. On Madagascar one could only buy bricks at that time. All the rest was to be shipped from Europe. This was the case with the sheet metal as well. Father Beyzym bought it in his native country. The sheet metal was then shipped to Manakara port and after that – on the shoulders of porters – it was carried to Marana. The distance from Manakara to Marana is 250 km.
The leprosarium construction was finished in August 1911. On the 16th of August the leprosarium was consecrated and all the patients were entrusted to Our Holy Mother of Czestochowa, whose image was placed in the leprosarium church. Thus, the 16th of August is considered to be the leprosarium inauguration date.
TIME TO CELEBRATE
Hence, 110 years passed. We were to celebrate the jubilee in August, but because of the pandemic, the 150th anniversary of our archdiocese, etc., the celebration was postponed. Fianarantsoa Archbishop decided that the 1st of November was to be the day of Marana jubilee celebration. And so it was.
The patients were looking forward to the holiday and preparing to it thoroughly. We started with the spiritual preparation. Everyday at 4 p.m. we prayed Rosary and then a novena to Blessed Father Beyzym. After that, we could start all the rest. There was a lot of work to be done, as we expected a large number of guests.
On the early morning of the 1st of November our sisters started the cleaning and cooking. They also decorated the podium with flowers. It was built at the leprosarium square to celebrate the Holy Mass.
The guests started to arrive at 6 o’clock in the morning and the leprosarium became full of people. At 9 o’clock the Service started. It was celebrated by Archbishop Fulgence Rabemahafaly from Fianarantsoa. The Mass was concelebrated by thirty priests. Among them were two Poles. They were from the OMI congregation and worked in our diocese. There were also nuns and laymen from Fianarantsoa. Dominik Wloch, a secular missionary, who has been working on Madagascar for many years, was our guest of honor. He mentioned that the example of Father Beyzym evoke the missionary vocation in him. Dominik arrived in Marana to kneel and pray at the relics of Father Beyzym in his intentions and also in the intentions of people, who entrusted him to pray on their behalf.
COMMEMORATIVE MURAL CONSECRATION
Our patients were very happy that they lived to see such a wonderful day. They wore T-shirts with the logo “Marana-110” that were prepared for the occasion. They were honored to carry the unique (they included a lamb from our flock) Mass offerings. However, the lamb played a trick on us. It freed himself of the ropes and started to run away. Everybody began to laugh. But, the lamb was caught and given to the Archbishop as a gift.
After the three-hour Eucharist, we went to the house of Father Beysym. The house is located outside Marana. The Archbishop consecrated the mural on the house wall. It was painted by a local painter and portrayed Father Beyzym among the leper children. The mural was really beautiful and everybody applauded. The Archbishop also consecrated a stone stele, made to commemorate 110th anniversary of Marana. Next, we planted an oak tree by the house of Father Beyzym. If the tree took and propagated, it would be the second oak tree in Madagascar. There is one oak tree in Madagascar so far that took root and propagates. It is said that it was Father Beyzym, who brought the acorns to Madagascar. He managed to grow only one sapling, which he planted in Fianarantsoa.
GRANDIOSE AND SUMPTUOUS HOLIDAY CAKE
The next point of our celebration was agape. There were tables set and laid around Father Beyzym’s house for our patients and guests. The rice was served. Plenty of rice…There was also zebu meat, pork and poultry. Not many inhabitants (and only for holidays) can afford such “luxuries”. There was a lot of joy. (When your stomach is full, your face is always smiling.)
After the dinner there was a performance prepared by our patients. The older generation sang the songs. The youth danced and performed the sketch. There was also a cake, baked for the unique occasion. It was not baked by the sisters, but by the baker from Fianarantsoa. The celebration was special and the cake was special too. Its decoration was a house of Father Beyzym. The house was made of dough and painted with multicolored icing. According to the tradition, on special occasions, the cakes are cut by the guests of honor and hosts. So, the Archbishop, the Mother Superior and me were honored to cut it. I did not taste it, though. I gave my piece of cake to the children, who were impatiently waiting for their piece of treat. The cake disappeared in a blink of an eye. Only “Father’s house” was left. (It was inedible).
The celebration will be remembered for a long time. It will stay in the memory of our patients not only because they could eat some luxury food, dance and sing. The most important thing for them is that the leprosarium exists. 110 years passed, but it still functions. The patients are aware that the leprosarium functions on donations. The majority of them come from over the seas. Those donations are the proof that there are many good-hearted people in the world and that Our Lord is Our Good Father, who cares for each of us.
Father Jozef Pawlowski TI