In the News: England
Marians in England launch massive effort to spread Divine Mercy.
by Patrick Novecosky
If you thought the United Kingdom was largely Christian, think again.
"There is a crisis of faith and morals in the UK right now. Only 30 percent of the people here even believe that God exists," says Fr. Walter Duda, MIC -- Director of the Divine Mercy Apostolate in that country.
Yet, this is also an ideal time to spread the Divine Mercy message and devotion in his country, says Fr. Duda. Saint Faustina's canonization in 2000 and the first worldwide celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001 have sparked great interest in the message, even among unbelievers. He reports that a flood of inquiries has hit the Marians of the Immaculate Conception's Divine Mercy Apostolate in England.
"Of course, our goal is to bring people this message of mercy, but we've been overwhelmed trying to keep up with the requests for Divine Mercy information," says Fr. Duda. "There is such a hunger for Divine Mercy right now. People have questions about the message and devotion. They want prayers and materials -- leaflets, prayercards, and whatever we can give them. Besides our materials, people also come to us for various retreats and conferences on Divine Mercy."
Feeding the need
The Marians have a long history of feeding the needs of the faithful in the UK. Following World War II, the Marians sent missionary priests from the United States to care for the waves of Polish refugees coming to England. The number of Marians there grew.
In 1950, they purchased property in Hereford and opened a hostel for boys. It was here that the Marians established the first Divine Mercy Apostolate in the UK. Fr. Walter Pelczynski, MIC, was instrumental in helping to organize the Apostolate and launch the Association of Marian Helpers in the UK.
Then, in 1953, the Marians purchased an estate, Fawley Court, and opened a boarding school for boys -- The Divine Mercy College.
Today, both the Apostolate and the Association work side by side at the Marians' provincial headquarters at Fawley Court. The grounds also feature a conference and retreat center, a museum, and a Divine Mercy shrine.
Father Duda, who also serves as Provincial Superior and Director of the Association, recently announced plans to move the ministries to less cramped quarters. Right now, both apostolates are housed on the third floor of the 17th-century home that serves as the Marian Helpers Center.
"It is so difficult for us to work efficiently in our current offices," Fr. Duda explains. "There is no elevator in our building, so we have to climb stairs and haul all of our supplies to the third floor. We compose our letters to the members there, and then we have to take them down the stairs again. It makes our work very difficult."
Building with 'Living Stones'
The move will bring the ministries to a single-story 18th-century building less than 50 yards from the main house. The stone and brick building has been used as a storage shed since the boys' school closed in 1986. The historic building needs new plumbing, heating and electrical systems, a new roof, and rebuilt interior walls. The renovated facility will house offices, a meeting room, storage and mailing rooms, and a small reception area.
"We're excited about how this building will improve our efficiency and help us to share the message of Divine Mercy with more people in the UK," says Fr. Duda. "We've had such a generous response to our efforts already."
The "Living Stones" campaign, which was launched last year in the UK, has already raised 20 percent of the �300,000 ($430,000) needed to complete the renovations. It is inspired by St. Peter's call to the early Christian community to become like "living stones" in building the Church:
Come to Him, to that Living Stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2: 4-5, RSV).
"We're earnestly praying for a community of the faithful who can help us build this spiritual house of mercy," says Fr. Duda. "As the devotion continues to grow, we plan to offer even more Divine Mercy workshops and retreats."
Praying for vocations
Along with the declining numbers of church-going British, the number of men answering the call to the priesthood has also taken a nosedive. So, inspired by the Marians' work in spreading the Divine Mercy message and devotion, last year a group of lay people began a crusade of prayer for vocations.
Word of the movement spread quickly and today more than 1,000 men, women, and children in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland are praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily for an increase in vocations.
"It's amazing how this movement has spread," Fr. Duda explains. "We supply them with Divine Mercy materials, so they can continue to expand their ministry. The group is based in Cardiff, England, where some of our priests are stationed. But this movement still doesn't have a name!"
With a new facility, Fr. Duda says organizing a massive effort to spread mercy to the godless and foster new vocations would be possible.
"Many of the British are so hungry for God's mercy," he says. "Membership in the Association here grew by 10 percent last year because people are responding to this message. Now, with help from America, we plan to transform this 18th-century building into an efficient Marian Helpers Center, so even more of our fellow British can learn of God's mercy."
How you can help
To help the Marians in the UK build a new center to spread mercy, plese send your offering to us quoting code WC.
Association of Marian Helpers
Stockbridge MA 01263
To arrange a special gift, please call Ellen Volkman at 1-800-462-7426.
©2001 Marians of the Immaculate Conception. All rights reserved.