Photo: Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC
Father Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, reads the Gospel during Mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila in the Philippines.
By Father Angelo Casimiro, MIC (Sep 10, 2009)
Author's Note: The following interview was conducted at the Archdiocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Mandaluyong City in the Philippines on July 25. Father Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, originally from Poland, has been serving there as a guest priest since June 2008. This summer, Br. James Cervantes, MIC, and I came to visit the Marians' Philippine mission as our ministry. The following is a reflection from Fr. Mariusz on his first year serving as a priest at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong City.
BR. ANGELO: What are your responsibilities?
FR. MARIUSZ: I am assigned at the Archdiocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila. I am working here as a guest priest participating in the pastoral work of the Shrine. The rector of the Shrine is Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, and at the present we work here together with another Filipino priest, Fr. Ernesto Panelo, who is the vice-rector of the Shrine and also Fr. Joseph, a Chinese priest. I celebrate Mass every day here. I also do pastoral work around the Shrine and other pastoral activities when I am asked.
BR. ANGELO: Describe what a typical day is like for you.
FR. MARIUSZ: Generally I have to wake up around 5 a.m. because we have the first Mass at 6 a.m., which I often celebrate. After Mass, when there are people for confessions, I hear confessions. I do my prayers, and after breakfast I go to school because three days a week I study Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) at the Christian Language Study Center. When I come back from school, I have lunch and then sometimes I have time for my personal activities. Sometimes I may go to the hospital to visit the sick or I may go to bless someone's house. It depends on the situation. We also have Mass at 6 p.m. Sometimes I'm also available for confessions. There's also a custom here in the Philippines where we have funerals in the evening and so people ask us to have a funeral service in the evening at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. or even later. So every day is different. Sometimes there are surprises in some of the activities.
BR. ANGELO: What is it like ministering to and working with the Filipino people?
FR. MARIUSZ: Filipinos are generally Catholics and so the Catholics around the world have something in common. We belong to the same Church, and we believe in the same God. We participate in the same sacraments. And so on the one hand, the pastoral work of ministering to the Filipinos is the same as in other countries. On the other hand, there are some specifics in the pastoral work here in the Philippines. I can say that the Filipinos really need priests, to have the presence of priests, especially for the sacraments, for prayers, and for blessings. Generally almost every day, we bless here, not only religious articles, but also cars, houses, offices, etc. So the custom of blessing is very popular in the Philippines. The people are very well prepared for doing blessings, lighting the candles, coming together with family and friends, and they find great peace in inviting priests to bless places, articles, and so on.
BR. ANGELO: Since you arrived a year ago, have your responsibilities and views changed?
FR. MARIUSZ: Generally, I have been doing the same job here, the same ministry. But probably my views have changed over these past few months, this last year, because I have learned more and more about the Philippines and about the culture and the people. What's more important are the spiritual needs of those who we are ministering to. I see the great need of being here and participating in the pastoral work, especially in the formation of consciences. People in the Philippines are very open and filled with the fear of God, but sometimes their knowledge of the faith is not deep enough. So I think there's a great need for deeper formation here ... to form consciences and also to teach people sometimes very simple things regarding the sacraments and daily Christian life.
BR. ANGELO: Is the mission what you expected? If so, please explain.
FR. MARIUSZ: Really, I had no expectations before I came. I was just ready to go to the Philippines and to learn about the mission here and about this country. So I was not disappointed because I had no expectations. But, of course, as I learned about this mission, being here already, sometimes I was surprised.
BR. ANGELO: In a brief statement, what has been accomplished so far in the Philippines?
FR. MARIUSZ: Two of our priests, Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC, and Fr. Walerian Pozniak, MIC, are in El Salvador, Mindanao, near Cagayan de Oro, which is our main house. Last year, we had the blessing of the 50-foot-high statue of the Merciful Jesus and the opening of the Archdiocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy entrusted to us for our pastoral work. So this is the main place in which we, as Marians of the Immaculate Conception, do our pastoral work. Our plan at the beginning was to open a retreat house on Guimarras Island. However, when Father General, Father Provincial from Poland, and other priests came here, the decision was made that Guimarras is too far and did not have easy access, especially for people who would come here from abroad. By Divine Providence, we have been invited to work in San Mateo, Rizal in the Antipolo Archdiocese. There's a plan to build a Shrine of The Divine Mercy by the Archdiocese of Antipolo, and we have been invited to build the Spiritual House of Formation for Divine Mercy for Asia and Oceania next to this Shrine on the top of this hill located in a beautiful place. In the future, the plan is to work and give retreats for people from the different Asian countries. Also in this place, we are planning to build [a center for] the Association of Marian Helpers, our religious house, and in the future also our seminary.
BR. ANGELO: And what do you hope to accomplish while in the Philippines? What are the short-term vision and the long-term vision?
FR. MARIUSZ: The first is that wherever we go, we participate in the life of the Church under the local bishops, cooperating with the hierarchy of the Church by being first of all, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and trying to spread to places where we work our charism — devotion to Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, and also the devotion to The Divine Mercy, which has been entrusted to us. Many Filipinos already know us as the Marians, as those who are responsible for spreading of the message of The Divine Mercy. Because this devotion is very strong in the Philippines, we are planning to participate in spreading this devotion and coordinating and cooperating with those who are already participating in many Divine Mercy groups.
BR. ANGELO: What can people do to support you and the Marian mission in the Philippines?
FR. MARIUSZ: I would like to give thanks to all those who are connected with our Congregation in a spiritual way by praying for us, because this is the most important. We need so much the grace of God, His Holy Spirit, that we may do God's Holy Will and that we may participate in the life of the Church here in the Philippines, while being at the same time open to the whole of Asia. The Philippines is the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, and we are aware that our mission here is wider. With our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Divine Mercy, we are also invited to reach people from many other Asian countries. I would like to continue to ask you for your prayers, and I would like to also give thanks for any kind of donations that will be used for the developing of our mission and for the building of the Center for Formation for Divine Mercy for Asia and Oceania. May Almighty God send upon you His Holy Spirit, and may He be with you and bless your families, your works, and be present in your daily life. May Almighty God bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Brother Angelo Casimiro, MIC, is a seminarian living in Washington, D.C.