By Francis Bourdon
As a sign of its commitment to its new mission in the Philippines, the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception made history on May 21, by commissioning two lay missionaries to help spearhead the effort.
Elzbieta "Ela" and Zygmunt "Ziggy" Chodzko-Zajko were formally accepted as the first lay missionaries in the Congregation's 336-year history. The ceremony took place during Holy Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen, in Poland.
The couple will assist with the many logistical and ministerial duties in the Philippines. The Marians' mission in that island nation first began in spring 2008.
During the ceremony in Lichen, presided by Fr. Vicar General Marek Szczepaniak, MIC, Ela and Ziggy were given a missionary cross as a housewarming gift for their new residence in the Philippines. They were also given individual crosses to wear as a sign of their commitment to Christian evangelization.
Ziggy had previously worked for the Marians at the Congregation's house in England before he and his wife returned to their native Poland a few years ago. In Poland, his ties to the Marians remained strong. Among his many efforts to support the Marians and their charism, Ziggy served as the Polish-to-English translator for the annual conference of the worldwide Associations of Marian Helpers.
A year ago, while Ela and Ziggy were both working as teachers in Warsaw, the Marians' Superior General, Fr. Jan Rokosz, MIC, asked them to consider the possibility of assisting the Marians full-time in the Philippines. Though Fr. Rokosz didn't know it at the time, the couple had been discussing the possibility of overseas missionary work. They had even made tentative plans to disembark from their careers in two to three years.
The Marians' new mission came about through the invitation of Church officials in the Philippines, a nation on fire for Divine Mercy. Official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message since 1941, the Marians are focusing on two particular initiatives in the Philippines.
The first will be working as chaplains and faculty of the Divine Mercy Center of Formation and Spirituality for Asia and Oceania. The center is currently under development In San Mateo, a town to the east of Manila. The plans are to eventually move the Center to the Island of Guimaras. The creation of the curriculum is under the direction of Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Manila and an adjunct member of the Marians. Second, the Marians have a key role in the building and administration of the proposed interdiocesan Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador, Cagayan de Oro Province in Mindanao.
Ela and Ziggy will first reside in Mindanao. There they will assist the two resident Marians in administering the shrine. The shrine, now famous for its 50-foot Divine Mercy statue, receives several thousand pilgrims each week and an estimated 20,000 pilgrims on special feast days like Divine Mercy Sunday.
Ela will assist with pastoral work, especially with street children, and educational programs sponsored by the shrine. With his several years worth of experience in facilities management, Ziggy will assist the Marians with the construction of their permanent residence as funds become available. He will also assist with pastoral duties.
The couple is then expected to move to San Mateo, a town on the outskirts of Manila, to assist the Marians in the startup and construction of the Divine Mercy Center of Formation and Spirituality for Asia and Oceania. Alongside this facility will be a Marian House, which will include space for religious formation of Marian candidates for the priesthood. Another building is also planned at the site for the headquarters of the Association of Marian Helpers of the Philippines.
Please consider assisting the Marians in this mission to bring Divine Mercy to Asia and Oceana. You can:
• Visit our web page that explains how you may help; or
• Call toll-free 1-800-462-7426 in the U.S. and Canada; or
• Call internationally at 01-413-298-3691.
Also, the Marians at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., invite you to attend our annual Filipino Day on Saturday, June 27.