- January 11, 2013
The parishes in Vilnius— the Queen of Peace Church in Naujoji Vilnia
Naujoji Vilnia used to be a separate town called Rakanciszki, situated along the left bank of the Vilnia River, with a few villages in the vicinity.
For some time now, Rakanciszki is a district of Vilnius that has a population of around 40 000 people, 34 per cent of which are Poles. However, people from other countries, such as Lithuania and Russia, also live in this district. The area boasts 1 200 km of roads and is stretched over 40 square kilometers. The greatest monuments include: St. Casmir Church; St. Queen of Peace Church; St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church. The biggest mental hospital in Vilnius is also of great significance for Rakanciszki.
Fr. Wacław Wołodkowicz was the first priest who started acting after the decision on rebuilding the church and adjacent buildings was made. “He has been here for only a year, but he has done a great amount of work. You could see only derelict walls and debris before. It was Fr. Wacław who cleared everything out. What a grueling easily dismissed, and at the same time, valuable work”, Fr. Wojciech Górlicki says, a current administrator of the parish. Prior to my trip toNaujoji Vilnia, I asked Fr. Wacław to tell me something about what he did, about his contribution. As always, he said he didn’t remember it exactly since it was a long time ago. His answer to the question about a person who might remember something was: “God, for sure does”.
On the one hand, I was struck speechless. On the other hand, I envied this man (in a good way) his modesty, humbleness and willingness to remain in the shadows. Fr. Wojciech Górlicki, a current administrator of the parish, commenced working in Lithuania over 20 years ago, as a young priest. He used to work in Eišiškės, Shumsk, Kalvelių seniūnija, where for instance he build a church. Around 10 years ago, he was sent to Naujoji Vilnia and engaged himself in another building and organizational projects. There is a proverb: “Man shoots, God carries the bullets” which is true, I guess. In this case, the shot was on target and the bullet was carried to the right place. God, with people’s help, arranged things perfectly and displayed the sophisticated taste for architecture and sculpture. The results are indeed pleasant to behold. They encourage one’s heart to pray. It was not a piece of cake. Not only had Fr. Wojciech Górlicki to put the church and surrounding buildings in order, but also to gather the scattered members of the parish and to create a genuine Christian community.
To be honest, the organizational, construction and priestly skills of Fr. Wojciech Górlicki are verily impressive. He managed to build from scratch one of the most beautiful churches in Vilnius and to create a close spiritual community. The fact that he came to Lithuania having no knowledge of a language, connections and savings needs to be underlined. Apparently, such was God’s plan aided by the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Because one cannot simply grasp what happened in a purely rational way. How is the parish right now? Definitely, it is supported by the strength of the Holy Spirit that, like nothing else in the world, can unite people and inspire them to do something. Do what exactly?
A number of associations of a living rosary operate in the parish whose members are—contrary to the popular belief—not only elderly ladies, but also men and youngsters. The association of Lady of a Good Death also exists. The Christ Blood’s Association is exceptionally active. Its members send prayers to the Blood of Christ and use the practice of Eucharistic adoration. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal consisting of both elderly and young people is very popular. They believe that it is the Holy Spirit that guides us through life. Therefore, you should ask it for the gift of wisdom and sense to accompany you in every minute of your life.
The Biblical Association is also interesting. During its meetings, people read the Bible, discuss a given passage, share their opinions, their interpretation and its possible application in real life.
Moreover, the parish has a large band and a group of altar boys. They take part in meetings devoted to some concrete subject, the rehearsals, and discussions. The AA‘s (Alcoholics Anonymous) work and importance are also huge. Not always do people drink because they want to. Sometimes alcoholics wish they could overcome their addiction, but are not strong enough to do so. Thus, they need someone to reach to them and help. “Unfortunately, neither a priest, nor a doctor can help them properly. Such groups and meetings are organized by the alcoholics themselves who are no longer addicted. They are the ones who can really understand their problems and furnish them with solutions. Usually, these groups are self-contained, which means they do not let an outsider in. Strangers make them feel uncomfortable, hinder an honest conversation, confessions, make it impossible to concentrate on their own problems”, Fr. Wojciech says.
The AA does not only give an opportunity for discussion. The spiritual element is also present since the prayer and taking the communion play a vital role in the group. Additionally, the tradition of pilgrimages to the Sanctuaries is strongly rooted in the parish.
Most often, the pilgrimages take place during summer vacations. People are divided into groups depending on their age (children, youth, elderly people) due to the fact that each group requires a different programme, has different speed and spiritual needs. According to Fr. Wojciech, pilgrimages unite people in an unique way. The collective prayer, intentions, overcoming difficulties of various kinds provide a chance to get to know others and oneself better. The strengths and weaknesses become evident in such circumstances. It is natural that the strangers become friends during pilgrimages; people form little groups with common interests etc. Every pilgrimage makes it easier to work with the church members who become more honest and ready to face challenges.
Another uniting element is the charity work around Christmas done for the families in destitute. The community cooperates with the local government in order to specify the material status of the families. Wealthy people collect the products for the packages or make donations themselves. They do not discard unnecessary things that clutter their storage rooms. The packages contain a number of good-quality practical and appealing products.
The biggest mental hospital is situated right next to the parish. People in different stages of diseases are treated there. Some stay in an institution to alleviate their anxiousness, while others do not even realize where they are and what is happening around them. These persons are most difficult to deal with. Still, Fr. Wojciech does not give up easily. He celebrates one mass per month, during his visits in a hospital he talks with them, hears their confessions and administers the sacraments. However, you never know whether the sins are real, or not; whether the sins committed are not buried under the made-up stories. In such circumstances, the priest is entitled to impart only a conditional absolution and the rest is up to the Divine Mercy.
We look around the garden in the parish. Twenty Stations of the Rosary built from stone attract our attention. No, they do not stand here just for decorative purposes. “Every year, on every Saturday at 9 p.m. from May, 13th (The Apparition of Lady of Fátima ) to October, 1st , we move around these stations. Everybody—men, elderly people, children and teenagers—come here and pray the rosary. At times, even over hounded people gather on this occasion to pray. Another wonderful detail needs to be stressed, namely that every year the weather clears when we meet to pray the rosary, even if it had been raining heavily all day long”, Fr. Wojciech says. No doubt he perceives this event as particularly important for God and Holy Mary.
We enter inside the church and notice a lovely crib, decorated Christmas trees; simply a neat and tidy church.
One more thing. The hymnbook entitled “The Pilgrimage of Mercy” cannot be left unmentioned. Fr. Wojciech was a first to realize that there is a need for a hymnbook. So he begun working on it. It was no picnic either. Over 600 songs had to be collected in total, including both the traditional ones sung by previous generations and the modern ones aimed at the youngsters and accompanied on guitar. The feat was achieved and hit the mark. The book is divided into sections corresponding to the liturgical seasons. It also comprises many unofficial songs, few litanies, prayers gathered throughout 20 years of living in Lithuania.
Fr. Wojciech Górlicki gives an optimistic assessment of this and the previous parishes. “I feel uplifted and positively surprised at the religiousness of Lithuanians. Although they are familiar with little theory of faith, they are still a great source of inspiration. One can learn a lot from the sheer simple faith they (just like the first fishermen’s disciples) represent.”, Fr. Wojciech says at the end of our conversation.
We left the parish largely satisfied and maybe as slightly better people: more hopeful and strong. God bless you. Thank you for being here!
Tłumaczenie Karolina Jasińska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Jasińska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.