Photo: Felix Carroll

From the left, Frs. Walerian Pozniak, Jan Migacz, and Mariusz Jarzabek, head off to the Philippines on June 3. Father Klaudius Rokicki will go later in the year.

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Father Walerian Pozniak, MIC

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Father Jan Migacz, MIC

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Father Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC

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Father Klaudius Rokicki, MIC

By Dan Valenti (Jun 2, 2008)

On June 3, three Marians of the Immaculate Conception leave Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., to embark on the trip of a lifetime half a world way, all half measures left behind. They depart ready to give everything they have for people who have little or nothing.

They are Marians. They are missionaries.

They will spend 22 hours on planes on their circuitous way to the Philippines to establish the first Marian mission there. For this privilege, the trio will endure 22 hours in airplanes, munch on fast food of the skies, and take the "scenic route" — a marathon odyssey from Eden Hill east to Boston by van, west to Detroit by plane, then on to Japan before landing in Manila about a day later. Their internal clocks will just have been cleaned, clear across the globe.

That will be the easy part.

'Something new'
Stiff challenges demand strong people to meet them, and the Marians have just that: Father Walerian Pozniaik, MIC; Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC; and Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC.

They know what they've taken on, if not what they're getting into (something that will come only after they arrive and learn the specific local needs). Each man spent much time in prayer and discernment to fathom God's will in this opportunity, to which they all could have said "no."

Living up to their reputations as Marians by going where the need is greatest, they responded with "yes." They gave an affirmation the Blessed Mother herself would easily recognize and no doubt blesses with a maternal kiss.

"I wanted to experience something new," says Fr. Walerian. We caught up with the three priests, plus a fourth (Fr. Klaudiusz Rokicki, MIC) and fifth (Br. Leonard Kunda, MIC) who will be joining the mission later this year, in the welcoming pastels of the community room at the monastery. Father Walerian looks like a folksinger, a cross between Paul Stookey of "Peter, Paul, and Mary," and James Taylor, fittingly, since Taylor lives near Stockbridge.

"I had extensive experience in my home country of Poland and felt the need for change," Fr. Walerian says. "I knew the Polish language and culture. I was 45 going on 46. A man needs new challenges in order to grow and not stagnate. I knew that if I didn't decide in the moment I could lose the moment, so I said yes when Father General [Fr. Jan Rozosz, MIC] gave me the opportunity to serve as a missionary. I needed a more difficult situation in order to give more of myself."

'Peace in My Heart'
Father Jan Migacz, whose voice has the softness of eiderdown, says responding to the call of the Congregation meant much time in prayer. "Every one of us tried to discern the will of God in this situation. I asked, 'What is God doing with me in a spiritual sense?' The answer to that question would provide me with the answer of accepting [or not] the opportunity to go to the Philippines. It had to be God's decision, not mine. I spent time in prayer, reflection, and discernment. The answer came. I feel peace in my heart because I believe God is behind this."

For the Marians, June 3 marks the actual start of a great adventure into Asia and the Pacific Rim that's been in the planning stages for more than a year. The Marians have a missionary presence in both Kazakhstan and Australia, but the Philippines marks a full-blown, multi-location missionary thrust that, if it goes according to plans, will serve as the base for an even more ambitious effort down the road in India and perhaps China.

In the Philippines, the Marians are focusing on two particular missions.

First, Marians will be assigned as chaplains and faculty of the Divine Mercy Center of Formation and Spirituality for Asia and Oceania currently under development on the Island of Guimaras, under the direction of Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Manila. Until the facilities are ready, the assigned Marians will be stationed in Manila, working under Msgr. Ramirez at the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, where Msgr. Ramirez is rector.

Second, the Marians will play a key role in the building and administration of the proposed interdiocesan Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador, Cagayan de Oro Province in Mindanao. There are charismatic and evangelistic prayer groups there now, along with a magnificent 50-foot statue of The Divine Mercy that is beginning to draw crowds who want to know what it is and why is it there. There is no time frame for the work, because, as Fr. Mariusz puts it, "We are on God's schedule, and only He knows when and how it will unfold."

One Day, on a Fateful Pentecost Sunday ...
Putting himself in God's hands comes naturally to Fr. Mariusz, who has the intensity of a chess grandmaster and the approachability of a favorite uncle. "I see God's hands in this new direction for my life. I wouldn't have sought this out for myself. I was serving [at the Marian mission] in England when Father General came to me on Pentecost Sunday and asked if I would be interested in this assignment. Then he did a wise thing. He said, 'Don't give me your answer right away. Think about it, pray about it, and then let me know.' I did that, and discussed it with my spiritual director, trying to decide. After that process, I had no doubt that I should go."

The challenges will be formidable. Although there is an avid devotion to Divine Mercy in the Philippines, the five men, all originally from Poland, will face challenges with the tropical climate, a foreign culture, a new language (English), and a diverse Southeast Asian nation consisting of 90 million people and 7,107 islands, with Manila as its capital city.

The island republic lies near Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, and Taiwan, but it is the only Southeast Asian country to share no land borders with its neighbors.

Although Catholicism is the country's predominant religion, pre-Hispanic indigenous religious practices still exist, as well as a growing Islamic presence. Challenges will abound.

Opportunity Disguised as Illness
The fourth priest who will be part of the mission is Fr. Klaudiusz. He is presently stationed in Washington, D.C., where he is studying English. In a word, he is ready. A boyish looking 37, Fr. Klaudiusz shared that he was in favor of the idea of becoming a missionary "from the very beginning," when his superiors asked him about it. From his telling, you could see he practically jumped at the chance.

In a sense, Father Klaudiusz had a built-in time for discernment that came disguised as a serious illness. In Poland, he became severely ill with tuberculosis (incidentally, the disease St. Faustina had). He was in the hospital, pretty much bed bound, for three months. He had much time for prayer and meditation, time he otherwise would not have had. He is now fully recovered.

Asked how he will prepare for his new assignment, Fr. Klaudisz responds without hesitation: "I want to pray a lot!" The others laugh in that invisible language guys share who have close bonds and have shared innocent horseplay. More seriously, though, it is the laughter of courage, of strong men who recognize the task won't be easy but who are determined to give their all for God and man. This is not a "laughing to keep from crying." It is joviality that stems from the confidence and assurance that comes with investing in "Jesus, I trust in You."

The Worst Curse, the Greatest Blessing
Father Walerian puts this mission in perspective when he notes the similarities between Poland and the Philippines, two countries that on the face of it would seem to have little in common. Both, he says, link East and West. Poland serves as that crossroads for Europe, and the Philippines similarly serving Asia. Both are also "very Catholic." In addition, both countries have built their culture around family, relationships, and closeness.

"The message of Divine Mercy is important because the world is experiencing a difficult time today," says Fr. Walerian. "It is like being lost. Family life is disintegrating. Young people often search aimlessly down the wrong avenues. There is so much despair and, everywhere, it seems, war, war, and more war. People need hope. Divine Mercy says to them, 'I am with you. You are not alone.' Through this message, people can experience reconciliation and forgiveness and begin to live better, more fulfilled lives. We are all happy to be the small instruments through which this can happen. The worst curse you can give someone in the Philippines is to say, 'Be alone.'"

By implication, the greatest blessing one can give is to lay your life down for someone in love, care, concern, and compassion. That is what these men will share.

One June 3, the jetliner skies half a world away, carrying three Marians carrying God.

Learn more about the Marians' mission to the Philippines.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Pat - Jun 3, 2008

I don't understand when there is such a terrible Priest shortage here in the United States we are still sending Priest else where. I know many people from the Philipines and there are more Catholic Priest there per population than we have here in the US. We have soldiers dying in war without a Priest because we don't have enough military chaplains that are Catholic. Why are we always told Charity begins at home. Well in my opinion missions begin at home. The Catholic Church is growing not shrinking and it is growing more in the US than anywhere else yet we don't have enough Priest's to supply our own parishes let alone our Military Diocese. We are being told how Europe is loosing their faith yet America even with all that is going on our churches are growing. Protestants are converting in record numbers and becoming teachers and lectors but even if they were ministers in their own churches they can't become Priest's in the Catholic Church (unless you are Anglican or Lutheran). I just have a hard time supporting a community that doesn't think of home first. Yes we are a wealthy country but we are poor in spirit and need nourshiment despirately yet we don't have enough Priest to fill our needs. Africa is blooming with spirituality and ordinations and they go everywhere but to the US for missions. Let the Priest's from other countrys do the missions elsewhere and leave our Priest to tend to the flock left without. My sister lives in Alaska and it is hard pressed to get Mass at almost 2/3 of the parishes so they hear Mass once everyother month in some of the parishes. Here in South Carolina most of our Priest are aging and can't retire because there is no one to take their place. We have one priest in each of the parishes in the Capital of Columbia, SC that is at least 8 parishes. Most of those are greater than 60 years old (several are in their 70's)and they are all by themselves with greater than 15000 families per parish and we don't even have a Bishop in Charleston because he was sent to Birmingham because they had been without a Bishop for over 2 years. I believe in helping everyone and the lay people of our Church do a terrific job all over the World I just don't believe we need to send the few priests we have. Come South if you need to go on a mission we need you despirately.

Kathleen - Jun 3, 2008

God's blessing to Fr. Walerian, Fr. Jan, Br. Leonard, and Fr. Mariusz. Our loss is the Phillipines' gain. We will keep you and your mission in prayer.

Fr. Donald - Jun 3, 2008

My prayers will be with you. May Our Lady bless your work and make it abundantly fruitful for souls.

Robert Allard, Director, Apostles of Divine Mercy - Jun 3, 2008

The Marians are called to be Apostles of Divine Mercy. Let us all pray that more men would be led to the Marians. Perhaps these priests will inspire more to join the congregation to the benefit of all. Lord send us holy priests.

editor - Jun 4, 2008

Dear Pat,
A couple points in response to your comments:

The priests being sent to the Philippines by the Marians are from Poland - priests taken from other assignments to fulfill a pledge of gratitude for the Beatification of the Marian Founder, Bl. Stanislaus Papczynski, last fall.

The Church has always lived by the truth that God is in charge, that the Holy Spirit guides as God knows best. The Marians in the Philippines will not only administer the shrines of the Divine Mercy there, to assure the proper declaration of the Message of Divine Mercy, but will also hopefully encourage vocations to augment religious and priestly vocations for other parts of our community serving around the world.

A key for receiving God's blessing in any way of life - secular, religious and priestly - is to go with generosity and listen to the voice of God.

The word of numerous priests in the Philippines is not totally a fact. Many young men enter seminaries there but fail to continue on to ordination. The greatest number of men being ordained priests in the Philippines at this time are Vietnamese and from other nations.

Along with this is that vocations will be lacking here in the U.S. and in Europe and in other parts of the world as long as persons live by a "contraceptive mentality." That means that when people keep wanting to control their own lives in all its facets, especially in determining "population control" and limiting the gift of children by stopping conception for banal reasons. Also, when people do not acknowledge that God alone is the Lord of Life and Death. Too few children limit the vocations God can offer. What all this says is that there is a lack of true and pure Faith.

Finally, God is blessing the Marians with seven novices this year. Let us get on our knees, pray for conversions and then also pray for God in His Mercy to give vocations to consecrated life despite our unworthiness of having such blessings. Pray for perseverance and holiness for those who are called.

HPH - Jun 6, 2008

In response to Pat, who is making an essential point. The situation of too few priests for too many assignments allows no mistakes in the utilization of priestly talent. By leaving the disposition of that talent to "The Holy Spirit" borders and crosses the border of wishful thinking. God/Holy Spirit work through the willful (though guided) actions of people. I've no doubt the assignment of these good men to the Philippines meets God's plan for them. However, here in the US, the priest shortage is worsening. Could this, too, be God working? Is He telling His Church that the priesthood, to which we are all called, must include all people. Look at the gold mine of resources we are throwing away: married men, and especially, WOMEN. I have listened carefull to the explanations offered about why women "can't" become priests, but no satisfactory argument has ever been made, that I have seen. Open the priesthood to ALL PEOPLE OF GOD.

Fr. Donald - Jun 6, 2008

Dear HPH:

No, God is not telling His Church that it is okay to ordain women. God speaks through the office of St. Peter, the Pope, and He has never said that and He never will; and that doesn't mean that men are better than women. By no means. The greatest creature that ever lived was a woman (Mary), and we all know that she is far better than any of us; yet, she was not called to be a priest. We either accept our faith as it has been given to us by God, or we show our lack of trust by seeking to do things our own way.
God is in charge of His vineyard and field. Do not panic that He has put manure on it. Trust. It is the way of Divine Wisdom that such things are done. In time, the field will be abundantly fruitful.
We, for our part, must trust God.

The Marians - Jun 6, 2008

You write, HPH : "Too few priests to too many assignments" is attempting to address a human and pragmatic issue, but it needs to be looked at in light of the full nature of the Church as a Divine and Human institution. Part of the answer to this kind of a question about the ordination of only men as priests goes to the heart of Pope John Paul II's teaching on the Theology of the Body. In a nutshell, the teaching is that the body is nuptial, meant to be shared in the intimate union of love that is the marriage bond. That is why God made us male and female, to achieve this union of love and bring forth the gift of new life. The genders complement each other in God's marvelous plan. It isn't just a question of interchangeable parts. These particular gender roles are expressed in everyday language when we talk of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

You further state that it is important how priests are assigned because the shortage "allows no mistakes in the utilization of priestly talent." Now, the human reality mentioned above points also to the deeper mystical reality of the fact that Jesus is the Bridegroom of our souls, and we are all, in a sense, His bride, the Church. As a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, this deeper mystical reality is presented to us at every Mass. The priest configures Christ as the Bridegroom of our souls, and we corporately, as His people, image His bride. This deeper meaning is lost if it doesn't matter if the priest is a man or a woman.

Further you write, that: "God/Holy Spirit work through the willful (though guided) actions of people." But you fail to acknowledge that Jesus gave the teaching authority of the Church to Peter in union with the other Apostles. The successors of Peter and the Apostles — the College of Bishops in union with Peter — are the rightful "guides" for the living out of the revealed word and its teaching. The hardest virtue to live and follow is OBEDIENCE — this has been so since Adam and Eve, through the many dissidents to Church Teaching over the ages. It is precisely disobedience that is the key to the confusion wars and ills of the world today. Where is the answer? It is well stated in Scripture, such as in [Micah 6:8] "You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."

You again state the following: "Look at the gold mine of resources we are throwing away: married men, and especially, WOMEN. I have listened carefully to the explanations offered about why women 'can't' become priests, but no satisfactory argument has ever been made, that I have seen. Open the priesthood to ALL PEOPLE OF GOD." This very statement indicates a mindset as a secular humanist, thinking only as humans — it reminds me of the passage in the Gospel of Matthew "He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.' Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'" [Mat 16: 23-28]

The seeking of priesthood by those who see it as a "power position" or a "doing my own thing" opportunity, even if sanctimoniously sought forfeits the Providential Role of God and the truth that the Church is a Divine gift to mankind, not a simple human institution run as a democratic society poised in politics — even though we know what politics have done to her over the ages.

What is all this saying in response to you, HPH? Faith in God, Faith in Him whom He has sent is key, only when Jesus is Lord and Savior with all that this means, will He reign with Peace. We are called upon to Trust in His mercy. Jesus tried to teach in His time on earth even showing His power over nature, as the calming of the sea, walking on water, cursing the barren fig tree. So when Peter showed astonishment at the withered fig tree the next day, we read in Mark 11:22 "Jesus said to them in reply, 'Have faith in God.'" So, too, we have to know it is God who desires the proper "one world order" not that which is trying to be designed by fallible man. The consequences of human attempts too often end negatively — one wonders why God has such patience with us, but more importantly why do we fail to really learn from our mistakes.

Pointing of fingers at each other is not the solution — it is so reminiscent of Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the snake as each forgets that one finger points out and three point back in at self. Living in faith and by faith — as long as this faith is in accord with God Who is Love — brings united peace; "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." [John 17:20 - 26]

Living by God's plan is why Jesus said "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me." [John 14:1]

Angelo - Jun 9, 2008

I am Angelo from Manila. I wrote to Fr.Donald about three months ago to inquire about the Marians, this is because I am searching for enlightenment if Our Lord is calling me for a religious vocation. After telling him many things about my life he advised that I should look for a spiritual director and promised that he would pray for me. I also prayed a great deal because I know discerning a vocation is not a matter of joke. It is through EWTN that I came to know about the Marian Fathers, but since they do not have a mission here in Manila that all I do is to read the posts here in their homepage. Since 2005 I kept looking for the Diary of St.Faustina, I searched for so many bookstores locally but to no avail. Last month when I am in a procession with my friend Mildred on the occassion of the feast of St'Joseph, she told me that the Philippine Apostolate of The Divine Mercy sells the book in cheap price, and so the next day, I got a copy of the diary. The diary encouraged me so much that I told myself I have to do something to be able to have a spiritual director. I do not know whom to approach because although I have many friend priests they are inviting me to try their congregation, of course I do not have something against them but I really want to try it with the Marians primarily because of my devotion to the Divine Mercy. While browsing the website I found out that they are planning to start a mission here and I saw there that Msgr.Ramirez knew them. I tried to visit the shrine where the Monsignor is residing but it seems like something is preventing me to go there.
It was first saturday of the month (June 07),I accompanied my friend Mildred to the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites (she entered the monastery earlier today - June 09), she told the Mother Prioress about my situation and I was priviledged to talk to her, she encouraged me to see the Monsignor that very day and promised that she would pray for me. It was already past 3 o'clock when I arrived at the Shrine of The Divine Mercy only to be told that the Monsignor has been away for the whole day. While waiting, I stayed in the adoration chapel and offered many chaplets until 6 pm. After the mass at 7 pm, I was able to meet the Monsignor, it seems like he was very happy to see me and he told me to go back the next day because the Marian Fathers will arrive at the shrine to say a mass at midday before they will be leaving for a city far from Manila. He told me that he would introduce me to the Marian Fathers. I felt so happy that I forgot that I was away from home already since 5:30am on that day. The next day (Sunday) I went back as I have promised the Monsignor. I took some photos during the mass. The Monsignor was the main celebrant so he was the last to leave the altar. He lost the chance to introduce me because I introduced myself to Fr. Joseph Roesch even before he could say a word right after the mass. The Monsignor just laughed, Fr.Joseph said that he would pray for me. We were able to talk for some time, Fr.Mariusz asked me to take some pictures of the group and the good Monsignor even told me to join them eat their lunch. After our lunch, I joined them in the car that carried them to ParaƱaque. I felt so happy being with them. Fr. Joseph told me that they will be back at the shrine on the 20th. It seems to me that they are enjoying their stay here.
It is true that devotion to the Divine Mercy has spread far and wide here in the Philippines but it seems that we need priests who are dedicated in overseeing that the devotion is being carried alive and with continuity, such a thing that I think would be one of the significance of the Marian Fathers here. Thank you and please pray for me.

Amanda - Jun 9, 2008

Dear Angelo,
What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Count on my prayers for your vocation. I think your example shows exactly how the Holy Spirit truly is at work in the Church and that trusting in this divine promise is NOT wishful thinking. It makes me sad to see people using the MIC webpage to criticize their missionary work as well as to criticize Church teaching regarding women priests. These servants of God (from POLAND) came to the USA to help our church and now they must move on to continue spreading the message of mercy. They easily could have stayed in their homeland to help foster vocations in Poland. Our lack of vocations in the US is due to a lack of faith. Catholic families should be working hard to encourage their children to listen to God's call. Instead we have divorces galore and people who aren't truly living their faith; with adults like us how can our children learn to truly love God and His bride the Church? The modern day breakdown of families and values are why we lack vocations. We can't blame priests for what we Catholic lay people are doing, or rather, not doing. May God bless the Marians and may God send us more holy priests and true believers.

MARY SUMALINOG - Jun 11, 2008

Its a wonderful News I really appreciate what they are doing.I will pray for them and as Filipino leaving in the Philippines ,I am very happy and pray for their safety.God bless.

Br. Angelo - Jun 11, 2008

Dear Angelo,

I was very touched by your vocation story. My name is also "Angelo," I am Filipino-American, and I am a temporarily professed brother with the Marians who is currently studying for the priesthood. Please be assured of my prayers for you and your vocation. I also want to let you know that the three Marian missionaries who have been sent there are very humble and holy priests. May God bless you and may the Immaculate Conception intercede for you!

Under the Mercy,
Br. Angelo

angelo - Jun 11, 2008

Thank you very much Bro.Angelo. I hope I can be able to change email with you.

Pat - Jun 12, 2008

Thank you to the editor for writing your response. My father was a Marine during WWII and fought alongside the Phillipine Marines and his love and admiration for them carried over to me. As an RN I have had the priviledge to work along side many Phillipean Nurses and many attend my Parish. What bothers me is the ones I meet who have been converted to other religions because of something that is lacking there. I agree with you about our societies mind set. I have 4 sons and prayed for the longest time that one would turn to the Priesthood. My husband and I always opened up all possibilites for our sons but I guess it was in God's plans for them. My husband works diligently through the Knights of Columbus for the recruitment of Priest's and while over in Iraq recruited a soldier into the Knights and lo and behold before my husband left Iraq the man told him when his commitment was up he was going to enter the Priesthood. I am not for opening up the Priesthood to everyone. Our societies around the World are not ready for it. Jesus knew what he was doing when he called men to be his Apostles and even though there were many women desciples he did not call them into the inner circle not even his beloved Mother. What ever the reason it is God's reason and beyond us. As for married men well we are proving that the Episcopal Priest are doing a fine job and people are very excepting and I am sure the magisterium is watching this closely. I am proud of my Church for standing firm on moral teaching and the pressures from all sides to ordain anyone. Remember that people don't start to heal until they have hit rock bottom and maybe God is trying to let the Priesthood hit rock bottom so that he can begin to heal them. It is our job to continue to pray for this healing of the Priesthood. I know it will come and has already begun maybe more so in other places but reading a story from Good News about the resergence of the John Paul II generation in Ireland has made my heart sore and as Benedict has said it has given me HOPE. So again thank you to the editor and please ask the Polish Marians to continue to pray for our country. God Bless you and of course as always I will continue to support you and your cause. Thank God for all of you.

Br. Angelo - Jun 12, 2008


I can be reached at this email:

God bless,
Br. Angelo