Summer Experiences of a CR Seminarian
Our new website has been active and available for a while now; it’s time to introduce myself and share with you some of my experiences. My name is Michal, I was born in Gdansk, Poland, in 1983. I’m a seminarian with the Ontario-Kentucky Province of the Congregation of the Resurrection, studying in Rome and preparing for the perpetual profession of vows and ordination. In this article I would like to describe briefly my last two summer apostolates, and in a future article I will share my experience of studying in Rome.
In August and September of 2009 I was stationed in St. Louis Parish in Waterloo, ON, and helping at the Working Centre in Kitchener, ON. Most of my time I spent at St. John’s Kitchen, and with the Outreach Program assisting professional social workers in their mission among the homeless of the K-W area. Twice a week I also helped at the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support trying to support and welcome to Canada people fleeing their own countries for various reasons. I met many wonderful people, volunteers and workers as well as many of our clients. I heard many breathtaking life stories and discovered how easily so many of us tend to forget what Christianity is really about.
Only because we are in some way more fortunate than others, we often put them aside and even treat them as if they were animals. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” – I often thought of these words of St. Paul (1 Cor 4:7) when listening to some store owners who boasted that they earned everything with their own hands, whereas the homeless wasted their lives. During this particular summer apostolate I reinforced my belief that when God gives us some talents, our first reaction should be gratitude, followed by the willingness and the hard work necessary to develop these talents and to use them in the service of our human family.
This past summer I had the opportunity to serve the poor and the homeless once again. This time I lived at St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph parishes in Hamilton, ON, and spent two months volunteering at the Good Shepherd Centre in the same city. I worked at a warehouse, in a food bank and in a food line. Here, too, I met many wonderful volunteers and employees, as well as many great poor and homeless people whose life stories could serve as screenplays for many uplifting films. I discovered a vast amount of goodness, faith, hope and love, so often hidden under a dirty face or worn-out clothes. And once again I realized how often we, how often I, reject my brothers and sisters, and thus Christ himself, only because they look differently, act weirdly, or smell…
I believe that these last two summers I learned a lot about the homeless, the poor and the addicted, and now understand much better the situation in which they find themselves. I also learned that many of their lives could have been totally different (or as many would say “normal”) if only we didn’t turn our backs on them at one point in their lives. If we are to be real Christians, genuine followers of Christ, going to church on Sunday is not enough if we don’t praise the Lord with our daily lives, too. Attending Mass, singing joyous hymns and reading the Bible is not enough in itself; faith is not something we proclaim in the Church and then go home, faith is something we need to confirm with every decision we make. St. James in his letter states it very boldly: “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” I don’t believe that Christians are Christians simply because they call themselves so, but rather they become Christians when other people call them so when watching what they do and how they live. I hope and pray that I never forget this important truth, and always not only preach the Gospel (which will be my primary task as a priest), but also live it out, preach it with my life.
As I mentioned, during my apostolates I stayed at our Resurrectionist parishes in Kitchener and in Hamilton. Although the parish life was not my primary focus, I helped a little bit with some of the liturgical and pastoral activities at each of these parishes, too. I also participated in two pilgrimages (to shrines in Midland, ON, and Gietrzwald, Poland), and was involved to some degree in pastoral care of the pilgrims. These experiences strengthened my vocation to the priesthood, and made me realize how much the faithful need priests; priests who are not only good leaders, but are first and foremost holy and dedicated. It is also experiences like the ones I mentioned, that God calls me over and over again to follow Him in religious life, and to serve the Church and His people as a priest of Jesus Christ.
During September of this year, I was in my hometown in Poland with my family and friends. Our family also hosted my fellow Resurrectionist seminarian from Brazil for the last two weeks, and we spent all this time visiting northern and some parts of central Poland. Unfortunately, even two weeks were not enough. Right now I am getting ready for the very last semester of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where I will start classes in early October.
In my next short article I will say a little bit more about the Gregorian University, and share with you my experiences of studying there. May God bless you all! Please keep me in your prayers as I finish my theological studies, approach final vows and the ordination to the transitional diaconate. Also, please pray for Frank, our novice as he discerns his vocation to religious priesthood in our community, and for all whom God calls in the depth of their hearts: “Come, follow me”.
Michal Kruszewski, C.R.