Quarter of a century serving Tasmania’s Polish community

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Home > Media > News > Quarter of a century serving Tasmania’s Polish community
Quarter of a century serving Tasmania’s Polish community

A Polish congregation which was formed secretly under Communism and is dedicated to serving Polish migrants abroad has celebrated 25 years in Tasmania.

The Missionary Sisters of Christ the King, who teach Polish School on Saturdays, organise prayer at St Therese of Lisieux Church in Moonah and care for the social and spiritual welfare of Poles who have made Tasmania their home, marked their anniversary on November 17.

Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz, the bishop responsible for Polish Catholics abroad, was in Australia at the time, and was invited by the sisters to attend their celebrations.

“He’d never been to Tasmania. He’d never had the opportunity to meet the Polish community [here],” said Sr Elżbieta Czernicka MChR, who, along with Sr Anna Syguła MChR, is one of the two Missionary Sisters of Christ the King currently serving in Tasmania.

Four more sisters of the congregation serve on mainland Australia. All six were in Hobart for the celebrations.

In a flurry of important anniversaries for the congregation, November 21 marked the 60th anniversary of the congregation’s founding, and next year will be 30 years since the community first began ministering in Australia.

Sr Elżbieta has only been in Tasmania since the beginning of the year and says that the island state is ‘beautiful’.

“The views are amazing. The hills and water – beautif
ul. Only the weather…!”

Serving Polish migrants is something else she describes as ‘beautiful’.

“It’s a privilege to accompany them on the way of their faith,” Sr Elżbieta said.

“One of the sayings in our congregations [is]: ‘Everything for God and for Polish migrants!”

The sisters have roles within the Polish Welfare Office, which allows them to be financially supported, as well as to promote the Polish culture and meet the needs of all Polish migrants, regardless of faith background.

“Whatever is connected with Polish culture, we do that,” Sr Elżbieta said.

“Very often it is connected with the Church because Polish people are very religious, but if somebody is not religious we are also for them. We are not narrowing our service only for religious people but for everyone who needs our help.”

Mission work in suburban Hobart is a far cry from the beginnings of the community, which was founded in 1959 while Poland was under Communist rule.

“It was a very difficult moment in Poland; it was prohibited to establish a congregation,” Sr Elżbieta said.

She says their founder, Fr Ignacy Posadzy, a priest now also recognised as a co-founder of the Society of Christ, had to do “a few tricks” to establish the congregation.

Initially, they were established under the name of an existing congregation, and wore the habits of that community while they were receiving formation from those sisters.

A few years later (when  Communism was a little less strict, says Sr Elżbieta) the sisters differentiated themselves by changing their habits and the name of their community.

There are more than 200 Missionary Sisters of Christ the King worldwide, including some who have never left Poland, due to the difficulties in travelling under Communism.

“Some of them have spent their whole life teaching Polish people how to be Polish people. It sounds funny, but if you don’t care for your traditions, for your culture, for your faith in our country, you wouldn’t care for it somewhere outside, in a different country.

“And actually you have to be a good Polish person to be a good Polish migrant outside of Poland,” she said.

“In our congregation, it doesn’t matter what we do: do we cook, or do we clean, or do we teach … everything is with the intention of saving the souls of Polish migrants.”