Interview with 'La Porte Latine' , by Father Jenkins, Prior of Warsaw
Father John Jenkins
March 31, 2006 : Translated from the original french by the interviewee.
Family Photo: Bishop Tissier de Mallerais with the priests of the SSPX and the Society
of Saint Josaphat on the occasion of the ordination of two deacons for the Ukraine.
La Porte Latine : Father, could you please introduce yourself and describe what function you have in the Society?
Most willingly. I received my priesthood from the hands of Bishop Fellay on the 26th of June 1999, at Winona where I had made all my seminary studies. My first nomination was in Geneva, where I exercised an apostolate in the cantons of Genève and Vaud for five years. In the year 2004 Bishop Fellay nominated me to be assistant to Father Karl Stehlin for the Autonomous house of Eastern Europe, and I am presently the prior of Warsaw.
Could you describe to us your apostolate in Poland and Eastern Europe?
As prior I am especially responsible for our house in Warsaw, a good community of five priests, two brothers, and two oblate sisters. We have also with us three young men who are interested in a vocation, as well as a Polish seminarian who has recently joined us. In all, this is a nice mix of all these nationalities: five Polish, three Germans, two Russians, one Ukrainian, one Latvian and finally an American who does his best to make himself understood....
Personally, in addition to the ordinary tasks of a prior, I voyage often to the different Mass centers. I preach the recollections of Advent and Lent in Wroclaw and Cracovie, and in addition to celebrating the Mass regularly in all our chapels in Poland, I go to Estonia every other month for the faithful in Tallinn, and in the near future, also in Tartu.
How many priories are there in your Autonomous House? When will you become a District?
Photo: The Consecration of the Church in Warsaw
The apostolate of the Society in Eastern Europe is as immense as the countries where we are present.
The focal points of our apostolate are the two priories in Warsaw and in Kaunas, Lithuania.
These two priories are the spiritual centers of an enormous amount of activity.
In Poland alone we have eleven chapels where we say the Mass every Sunday. The priests of the priory also go to Estonia twice a month.
We are in the midst of finishing a beautiful construction at Gdansk, in the North of Poland, which could serve as a priory in the near future. The priory at Kaunas will soon move to a larger building as soon as the renovation is complete.
Father Werner Bösiger has established
a good foundation in Minsk which only lacks priests in order for it to become a priory. We would also like to buy a house in the South of Poland for the apostolate in those chapels which have already given us several vocations, but lack the regular presence of a priest. We have also dreamt of a house in Tallinn... so we lack neither zeal nor faithful who profit from it, but only priests and money. Perhaps when these wants weigh less heavily upon us, we will be elevated to the status of a District.
Construction of the future priory in Gdansk, in the North of Poland
Could you say something about your fellow priests and their responsibilities?
Amongst the other priests here at Warsaw, I must firstly make mention of Father Karl Stehlin, who is certainly known to your readers. He is my immediate superior with whom I have the privilege to collaborate. As founder of the mission in Eastern Europe, he is the prime mover of the apostolate. Photo: The priests of the priory of Warsaw in company of the conf貥s from the Ukraine with Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.
Father Anselm Ettelt, from Bavaria, his collaborator since a longtime, takes care of the chapels in the North of Poland. He is very gifted for languages, and goes also to Minsk and to Moscow once a month.
Our priest from Latvia, Father Raivo Kokis, is responsable for the chapels at Chorzów and Wroclaw. He also keeps contact with Father Valerijs, a friend of ours from Riga, and assists Father Laroche for the courses at Lvov.
Father Edward Wesolek, who has celebrated his 30th year of priesthood, takes care of our house in Bajerze (soon to be our house for Retreats), as well as the chapels in Torun and Sopot.
We also have with us another Polish priest, Father Zygmunt, who has left his diocese after the Polish episcopate introduced Communion in the hand. He takes care of our chapels in Lublin and Lódz, as well as our good humor by his jovial
In passing I should make mention of other priests here in Poland who are very friendly to us, with whom we have contact, but who still hesitate to join us. The liberalization of the Church, and the post-Conciliar reforms in general, were imposed here much later than in the rest of Europe. The entry of Poland into the European Union has accelerated the decomposition of the fruits of this accursed Council, and thus many begin to reflect. As of now there is a group of priests not far from Wroclaw who are in the process of discovering Tradition.
One of these priests now says the Traditional Mass exclusively, and has said it also in our chapel of this city in spite of the menaces of his bishop. Let us pray that his example might be an encouragement for the other priests who are interested in the Traditional Mass! Let us add also that recently a seminarian, thrown out of the seminary of Krakow for having refused to abandon the cassock, is now here at our priory in order to learn German and follow his vocation with us.
Does the Society have any new projects in the future in this large area of which you are responsible? Do you have schools? What are your hopes in this apostolate so important for the formation of our youth?
Photo: Our Primary School in Warsaw
Other than the projects which I have already made mention of above, all our anxieties are especially for the future, that is to say for the children.
We have built a Primary School with enough places for 60 students, and we have just received the authorization to open the school this coming academic year. Sister Maksymiliana, our Polish oblate sister, has given the best of herself for this work.
The Immaculata has also worked amongst us a miracle that was completely unexpected - the donation of an entire Secondary School into our hands! This school, which has now some 100 students, is unique: it was one of the first private schools that was founded after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was founded in 1991, the date when such foundations became for the first time possible and very rare are the schools that have survived the drastic changes that have taken place up till our days.
The director of the school, conscious of the increasingly lower standards of education, especially amongst the clergy, came to us for help. Resolved to keep her school intact, especially with regards to its Catholic character amidst this current crisis, she gave to us the entire school, along with its juridical foundation. The school is accredited by the state and by an international standards board, something which is difficult if not impossible for us to obtain.
Amongst the graduates of the school the son of the ambassador for Polish affairs in Estonia.
The only thing that gives us some worry is that a large part of the school is using the buildings of the adjacent parish, due to the construction of new buildings that still needs to be completed. We truly have need of your prayers and your generosity in order to finish these buildings before the parish priest finds out that his parish hall is being used by the 'Lefebvrists' and throws us out! In the near future we will probably also need professors that will withstand the thunderclouds that appear on the horizon.
Also concerning this preoccupation for the formation of the youth, I should make mention of the intervention of Fr. Stehlin at the Catholic University of Warsaw this last February. He was invited to give a conference during a colloquium about the Second Vatican Council. Amongst the twelve speakers, all of them liberals, there was also a modernist Cardinal. The conference of Father Stehlin, on Ecumenism, fell upon the audience like an atomic bomb.
The modernists were furious by the fact that they had no arguments to withstand him, and the crowd had applauded generously his electrifying discourse. The period for questions and answers gave an occasion for many to learn about the work of the Society and the answers were received with interest and even enthusiasm. During the discussion the rector of the University was red with rage, and one of the other speakers made a violent attack on Fr. Stehlin, to which the audience responded with vocal disapprobation.
Apparently the day after the whole student body had only one topic of discussion for the day: the apparition of a 'Lefebvrist' at the University! and a proof that the students really only desire one thing from the clergy of today: to hear the voice of the Church, the voice of Tradition.
One of the professors who had assisted at the colloquium even said to his students that the only intervention that was coherent and logical was the intervention of the Lefebvrist.... which is not too surprising since Father had simply repeated the doctrine of the Church, a doctrine which is as coherent and unified and holy as God Himself.
But our combat is not simply doctrinal. We must work to restore Christian civilisation! Certainly, a civilization must begin with teaching the truth, a doctrine, but this doctrine must penetrate into the very hearts of the people for it to become a civilization or a culture. Thus the importance of the sacred arts.
We have started a polyphonic choir here in Warsaw, which will soon rival that of Minsk by its work on the Mass for Three Voices of William Byrd to be sung for the feast of Easter. Also just recently a theater company from Tarnów came to our chapel for the Lenten recollection - the first contact with the Traditional Mass for these seven actors.
The result on their souls was dramatic, one may say, and now they wish to use their talents to give good ideas to this modern youth which has such difficulty nowadays to find true culture in this modern world.
We will see the first fruits of their efforts in the month of May, which promises to be the beginning of a campaign to take back the cinematic arts from the devil who has usurped them for far too long.
Could you say a word about the communities allied with the Society, in particular the Society of St. Josaphat?
Photo: The ordination of two seminarians of the Society of Saint Josaphat to the diaconate by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais
We have had the great pleasure to have our friends from the Ukraine here in Warsaw for several days - five priests, seven seminarians, five sisters and some twenty faithful made the trip by bus.
They came for the ordination of two of their seminarians, who were ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.
Truly they will have need of this Spiritus Domini ad robor in the future fight which awaits them. The excommunication pronounced against Father Vasyl was declared null for the reasons of a lack of canonical form, but the process has been restarted. The Cardinal of Kiev had already threatened him with all sorts of punishments if the ordinations were to take place, and the new bishop of Lviv has openly declared that his main task for this coming year will be to eradicate the 'Lefebvrists' from his territory.
The faithful in the Ukraine will have a combat to the death in these coming months.
We were all very edified by their piety, and I myself was astonished by the resemblance of the atmosphere amongst the seminarians with that which I knew in the seminary - this in spite of the difference of language, nationality and even rite.
The clergy of the Society of St. Josaphat had also treated us to a Solemn Divine Liturgy.
How are your relations with the local bishops?
Fairly difficult. The bishops begin to fear the work of the Society in Poland now, as it begins to take on an importance which can no longer be ignored, especially with the opening of a school in a few months.
The bishop of Tarnów, for example, has made a name for himself by his declarations against us in the newspapers. Certainly a tactic calculated to create fear, but which finally only excites the curiosity of the people.
Our chapels in the South of Poland these last months have been so full as to be standing-room only - this in spite of the threats that many of our faithful have received from the dioceses.
After only ten years in this region, the results seem absolutely incredible!
All this is thanks to the Immaculata, and She still has surprises in store for us, of that I am sure!
Any religious vocations?
Photo: Seminarians during the pilgrimage to Czestochowa in 2005
Each year we welcome some 3 or 4 young men to the priory who are interested in a vocation.
There are now 4 Polish seminarians in our seminaries, and there are also two novices with the Dominicans of Avrillé.
We have also two Polish brothers and another postulant who will enter the novitiate this coming September, Deo volente. In a Catholic country the young men naturally consider the prospect of a vocation, which is certainly an advantage.
Nonetheless learning another language and persevering in one's vocation in a far away country requires a supplementary grace.
We have also been blessed with a vocation to theSisters of Velletri (The Disciples of the Cenacle) this last year.
Could you say some words on the Third Order of Saint Pius X, the confraternities or the other associations which enrich Tradition?
The Third Order, begun here only a few years ago, experiences a regular growth. There are now twenty members who are professed. What perhaps is of note is that the oldest member of the Third Order is only 45 years old.
We also have in Poland the Militia Immaculata, a work found by St. Maximilian Kolbe which Fr. Stehlin, with the approval of Bishop Fellay, has restored to its original pre-conciliar observance. Father Stehlin has written several books on this work which are remarkable, the fruits of which are proof that this work is truly providential in the actual crisis in the Church.
Do the faithful participate in the Retreats of St. Ignatius or other retreats?
In principle we preach the Exercises of St. Ignatius six times a year, during the periods of vacation. The average attendance is about 15 or 20, but during the summer months there can be as many as 30. The Retreats are very much appreciated by our faithful.
We also preach recollections during Advent and Lent in all our chapels, which entails a half-dozen conferences and confessions. The participation in proportion of the faithful is quite good.
But perhaps the most edifying devotion which we have in Poland, which you have only rarely in France, is the 'Czuwania' or vigil of prayer. It takes place every first Saturday of the month. Many families come with their children to join us in this vigil of prayers to Our Lady, Queen of Poland. The chapel walls resound all night with the prayers, the hymns, the litanies and rosaries which follow one after another in relay until the Sunday Mass. The strength of the piety of this people is enormously edifying and I have myself observed several who have never left the chapel throughout the entire night.
This all takes place in a family atmosphere which is incomparable, gives a small glimpse of heaven and a small idea of how a Catholic society ought to have functioned.
The internet readers of La Porte Latine come from all over - do you have an activity, a congress, or a pilgrimage in which they can participate?
Photo: The procession to enter the basilica in Czestochowa
I am sure that your readers have heard of our pilgrimage to Czestochowa! Last year we had over 200 people who made the 300 km march from Warsaw to Czestochowa.
Some ten different countries were represented this last year in this multinational pilgrimage.
Nonetheless we did notice the relatively small number of French pilgrims... if you have need of grace to keep your Pentecost Monday, perhaps you could merit it here in Poland!
Do you have a project which is particularly dear to you?
Become a holy priest. Everything else is just accidental.
Do you have a message to give to our readers?
Continue the combat! With all this noise that is being circulated around us, especially since Rome is now paying attention to us, we ought to keep our eyes fixed upon the essential of our apostolate: the salvation of souls! Even if tomorrow the Pope would like to do everything for Tradition - which is far from being the case - we have an enormous work before us.
So many souls who are drowning in heresy and ignorance! Russia still needs to be converted, as well as the entire continent of Asia! All these countries that were once Catholic, now become apostate, must return to the faith of their baptism.
I am absolutely convinced that the only way to keep the faith in our times is to want to give it to others.
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