Witness of joy of the Gospel by ANA PENIĆ
On the way from Sinay to Jerusalem, on the bus, for the first time I heard for the Congregation of the Holy Spirit from a priest, Tomislav Mesić. He said that he was a member of the misiionary Congregation which works on all continents taking care of „the poorest of the poor“ (as Mother Teresa usedd to say, has scools, and goes there where is the most needed. I was delighted and asked him if could work ther; let’s say somewhere in Africa where is English language used, because I spent more then 35 years as school as an English teacher. He aswered that it would be possible, and, if I want to hear more, I should come to Slavonski Brod where their members live and run the parish in Podvinje.
But, when we came back home, I didn’t think so mauch about missionary vocation, because I had to take care about an old lady who was in her late 8oth, so that all my personal plans had to be delayed.“One day, may be, but now – it’s impossible.“ „Besides, there is so much to do to wake up the Church in Osijek“ I thought..But the Holy Spirit did it his way, very charming, full of humour and with a lot of joy and and blessings. He brought to Osijek some foreign priests. Among them – two priests from Africa, and put them on my way so that I couldn’ help meeting them, although I didn’t know who they really are. They are the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit: fr.Arek, fr.Marek, fr.Paul and fr.Kingsley.
It happened that I was at the Mass in in the parish church of st.Peter and Paul’s in Osijek, on a warm, sunny autumn day in September 2006 (a year before I met fr.Tomislav Mesić)when two young priests concelebrated the Mass with the parish priest.As it was an ordinary day – it was strange that even three priests celebrate the Mass.These two priests were reading the Mass texts with a foreign accent. After the Mass, the parish priest introduced them to the believers as the priests from Poland who would be in charge for students’ apostolate, fr.Arek, and Osijek’s hospital, fr.Marek.He didn’t mention anything more; just that they are new in town and asked us. Believers to embrace them as brothers, especially because they were coming from the homeland of our beloved pope John Paul II. On the first sight I liked them because they were from the homeland of our beloved Pope, then – because their names were easy to remember: Arek and Marek – as Lolek and Bolek, „little men“ from the children’s cartoon. Besides, I felt a lot of simpathy for bothe of them, knowing how many challenges they would have to face.As two foreigners they had to face and work with the young people and their war memories, now students, and sick, wounded people with a lot os scarves from war, now in hospital. On top of all, – how would they cope with for them a foreign language in so many individual versions, talked in everday life. Much more later, when I cooperate with fr.Arek, as a students’ chaplain I learned that they are the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Wow! Here they are! I ahve found a friend, a young priest, he is a foreigner, he lives in Osijek and – he belongs to the Congregation pf the Holy Spirit!Later on. Of course, I could see in town fr.Marek, although I didn’ t talk to him, for, I am thankful God, I didn’t have to look for his help – in hospital. Then- I met fr.Paul, from Sierra Leone! It was so charming, indeed! I have never gone to any missionary country to work, but the missionary spirit I have found inmy town, and the Missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit came to me – to my town – literally at my home, where fr.Arek had the first spiritual exercises for students.
To be true, I have to say that at that time there were some people in Osijek who didn’t support the bishop’s decision to entrust the students, the most brilliant young people, the heart and seed of the Croatina future to the Polish priest, because Osijek has so many wonderful young priests who could do it very well. Besides, they surely could understand the emotional and social circumantstances students live in, much better, because they had passed through all long and hard days and years of the war which was (uzrokovan) by aggression of Yugoslav Army and Serbia.The children who spent their childhood in fear at their homes, and as refugees in other parts or in foreign European countries, had just started their academic education at the Osijek University.
So, from the academic year 2007/2008 I have been, I dare say, a cooworker to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in Osijek. As fr. Marek, who was in charge in KBC (Clinical Hospital Centre) in Osijek – I, fortunately, I didn’t need to contact him at all, but from that time on, I follow fr. Arek’s pastoral work till today in all fields and forms he and „his students“ as he, as a real spiritual father „flatters“ them, have been involved in. And that is impressive a lot, indeed!
From the time I was a student in Osijek, when there were just one Faculty and two higher degree schoolas in 1968, when a young priest, Ivan Šešo, born in Osijek, was a chaplain in the parish church, called a cathedral, we could say, started the pastoral care for the students, although there were only some hundreds of students altogether. At that time was established the „students’ Mass“ every Sunday at 11,30 and the first students’ campus was opened. But the Catholic priest who who would be able to contact with the students in their Campus as a representative of the Catholic Church, was impossible even in the most immaginative dreams. But, the students really liked a young chaiplain, rev.Šešo, because they could discuss a lot of topics which were actual at that time…And, now it is obvious how important was 1968 in the history of Europe and Western world as a whole. From that time a lot of things in Osijek and in the world have been changed, but love of students – Catholics for their chaplain is always the same from generation to generation.I dare say – it is a burning love of the Holy Spirit! The students who were entrusted to fr. Arek were the children of the previous generation, now middle-aged men and women who remembered their students’ age with love.
But, the most remembered concathedral’s chaplain, who was very close to students was Rev. Ivan Jurić, who was here during the war , ready to give his life as a young priest as a testimony of hi faith and (vjernosti) to his people and the Catholic Church. To illustrate how dangerous how dangerous time it was during 1991-1994. War, I’ ll mention one Sunday Mass. It was a third Sunday after Easter, a beautiful spring day, and a lot of people were in the streets, to breath a little of the sun and its warmth.Rev.Jurić had the Mass at 11.30. After the Holy Communion he asked the believers to sit calmly and pray in silence to say their thanks for the gift of the Holy Eucharistic .At that time the attack from occupied villages around Osijek started, and teh cathedrala and some shops were bombed with the most destructive bombs. Of course, everybody who was in the cathedral stayed there by the end of the shelling. On that Sunday 15 people in Osijek were killed. Staying inside the the church for some minutes longer, – so many young people saved their lives.The bombing started just at the tme when the Mass supposed to be finished, and they who attended – were supposed to in front of teh church, talking, as tehy always used to do.
Today Rev.Ivan Jurić is a parish priest in Osijek. Donji grad and he is one of theose priests who supports everything what the University chaplain with students does.
But there is something what differs fr.Arek approach and work with teh students from all other priests who were suposed to take care for the students’ spiritual needs. It is his kneeling before the Holy Sacrament in adoration and meditation, which haas been the same from the very beginning in 2006 untill now, in 2015. During these years he had to change the churches, the locations in the town, the time, the days, but the weekly adoration in front of the Holy Sacrament persists, as well as his kneeling on the floor duing adoration. Can we count hours and hours on the knees in every time of the year and evry type of the floor he has been kneeling on?
Maybe this is a key to understandings the fact that during all these years the number of young people who are following him in the adoration is growing from year to year.Today we can talk about about the some kindof „students’ spiritual movement“ DUHOS (The spirituality of Osijek’s students) which started in Osijek and today is well known in all parts of Croatia. And even outside Croatia. Besides, fr.Arek and „his students“ coperate very succesfully with students’ chaplains and students Catholics of all Croatian universities, who are involved in all social, religious and civil activities.
Fr. Arek started his apostolic work by „adoration on Thursday“ from the neginning the academic year 2006/2007 on the stone floor in the concathedral in Osijek until 2010 when he had to move to a little and sweet, but in winter pretty cold chapel of Our Lady of Snow in Donji Grad (2010/2011) and only one year spending there (owing to the generosity of Rev.Ivan Jurić) to a large parish church in Divaltova ulica (Divald’s Street) which is now known to all, not only students in Osijek, because of fr.Arek and students’ adoration there. For last some years adoration has been broadcatsing by Slavonic Television to all parts of Osijek, Slavonia and Baranja, witnesses the beauty and richness of Our Lord Jesus Christ and so many young people whpo are every Tuesday in the church of St.Cyril and Method, kneeling, praying, singing, praying. Meditating and celebrating Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit with all their young faces, hearts, belief and love. The „weekly adoration“ of DUHOS and fr Arek has become somehow the beginning of everything positive what happens among young Catholics and lay people, believers in Osijek. Fr Arek and the students started many humanitarian and social activities, and the other monks of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit are involved in spiritual help in all social institutions in Osijek, so that they are really welcome in any social place where the people in need live. I was in the local bus from Osijek to Brijest, when the parishers from Brijest „were gossiping“ their priests.They were atlking about spontanously, making their remarks. I was proud of fr Marek, fr Arek and fr Paul who lived with them, because their perishers were talking about them so nicely, warmly, with so much love and accepting. I have never told anything about these little scene on the bus to the farthers before.