Saturday, September 30, 2023
"Establishing a simple heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus is the goal of my life".
Interview with the New Provincial Fr. Jacek Nosowicz OMI.
Father Jack, you have been appointed Provincial. Could you tell us something about yourself? Where are you from? How did you get to know the Oblates? What impressed you about them? Where have you ministered?
Thank you very much for this nice question. It's always good to realize where we come from, what are the roots of our life. My life started 60 years ago. I will celebrate it in October, so quite a few years have passed since then. There is much to be thankful for. There is much to apologize for. Although I don't know whether one ought to apologize for past sins already forgiven since our Heavenly Father doesn't remember them. I was born in the beautiful city of Toruń. I guess everyone is attached to their birthplace and speaks of it with admiration. Toruń has a special place in my heart not only because it is the birthplace of Copernicus, who is said to move the hearts of those who visit Toruń. It is not only special because of the delicious gingerbread for which the city is famous. It is close to me primarily because of all the moments experienced there with my family in this corner of the world. Although the city is a very familiar environment to me, I also had much contact with the rural environment. My family used to live in Bory Tucholskie. I used to go there every year and spend almost all my vacations in a charming tiny village, located on the Wda River, where no more than 10 families lived. So rural life is very close to me. All the work related with agriculture is very familiar to me, especially the harvest time. It is good to see the whole process of how bread is made, from sowing the seed until the bread is taken out of the oven.
What else about myself? I graduated from the school of telecommunications in Toruń. I worked three years in my profession. I can honestly say that telecommunications, electronics was my passion. This has remained to some extent until today, although today of course I would no longer be able to orient myself in this field. Today there is a completely different technology. When I was 21, God's light appeared in my life as never before till then. And it was really strong. When something like that happens to you, you have the feeling that you have really met that Someone special in your life. However, looking at my life even today, I see that I still have a lot to discover. It is fortunate that we have such an opportunity to constantly discover God's Love.
It's hard for me to say what enchanted me about the Oblates before I entered the novitiate. It was a completely different kind of enchantment. It was an enchantment with Jesus, one could say, with his wonderful love in that still young and immature period of my life. The Oblates showed up on my path out of nowhere, unexpectedly. From the moment I met them in Poznań to the decision to enter formation passed no more than an hour of time. I began to enter the Oblate world during the prenovitiate period in Markowice and, of course, even more in the novitiate and later formation. It was then that I got to know and learn more about the Congregation, what it does and what we are called to do as Oblates. However, I must admit that what captivated me in that first hour of knowing the Oblates was their missionary charism; unknown to me before. The Oblate missionary charism, of going out to the other person, to a completely different world and culture to which we are sent. I soon found myself in the missions almost immediately after my ordination.
I spent the first year in the Oblate and parish community in Łeba. Then there was the departure to Cameroon. Cameroon captivated me first of all with its simplicity, its poverty. I was particularly captivated by the people to whom I was to go. They were the Pygmies, who have remained in my heart in a special way to this day. They are referred to as a people of blessings. I don't know if they could be called that today, but when they were still unaffected by our civilization they certainly were. They are simple people with a wonderful heart. Quiet and humble people, paying attention primarily to the spiritual. They are a people who believe as much as possible in God whom they call in their language "Komba". Pygmies and people like them seemed to know what happiness is. In Cameroon, I also had the good fortune of ministering in our parish in Figuil. It is an amazing place. The image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, venerated there as the image of Our Lady of Figuil, found a special place there. The area around this town is mostly inhabited by the Guidar tribe. Amazing people with incredibly generous hearts.
Father Stanislaw Jankowicz told me his stories about the Guidars when I met with him this year at the Novitiate at Holy Cross. One of them was that of generous hearts. Fr. Stanislaw asked them: "why are you so good, why do you give everything to us, having nothing yourselves?" He heard the answer: "If you do not give, says our proverb, you will not have life". Nothing to add, nothing to take away - it is, after all, pure gospel. To give or lose, in order to have, in order to receive. Almost after 10 years of my stay in Cameroon, came the time for Canada. I also read it as a sign of my Oblate vocation, and that I am still called do something more in my Oblate life. The Church in Cameroon was and is going its own independent way in terms of vocations and the number of priests. I read the sign of abundant vocations that the time had come to leave for Canada to work among the Polish community. Here I had the experience of working in various parishes including St. Casimir's in Vancouver, St. Casimir's in Toronto, Holy Spirit Parish in Winnipeg and most recently St. Maximilian Kolbe in Mississauga.
It's been a while since you took office so I suppose you have had time to get used to it. Tell us, though, were you surprised by this nomination? Or rather, were you concerned about the responsibility that was entrusted to you?
Well, yes, some time has already passed, barely three months. So far it's been a quiet time. I am calmly entering a completely new task for me. Also, please have a dose of patience and forbearance if anyone is expecting some kind of revolution. Was I concerned or surprised by this appointment? Hmm, I think there is always a certain amount of surprise at such an appointment, even if there are some signals somewhere that you might be chosen. I felt at that moment, and I think I still feel to this day something like David when he was chosen by Samuel to be anointed king. Humanly speaking, his brothers were more ready. I do not want to compare myself here to King David. But there is something in common between his story and mine today. I trust very much in God's providence, that it is God who ultimately directs everything on this earth, using human voices, human choices. And yes, I am anxious all the time about being in a new role. However, it is a kind of divine anxiety. It is a creative anxiety, for love, above all, to reign in my heart and in our entire family of Assumption Province.
You have been ministering in Canada for many years. You probably know the Assumption Province well. Tell me, what do you value most in it? Of course, in the context of Oblate life and pastoral ministry?
Yes. This year it's been 20 years since I came to Canada. It's a completely different world like Cameroon or Poland. It's a completely different life. Especially the fact that we live here mostly among Poles and at the same time not living in our homeland - Poland. Our closest homeland is the parish. 20 years in Canada is a significant time to see something, to learn, to get to know the local world, culture, but most of all to get to know the people who make up our Oblate family. There are 56 of us, so it is not that big a family. We live scattered all over Canada.
What do I appreciate most about our province? One of the pluses of our province is precisely this small family size, that we are not some kind of mega-province. This allows us to get to know each other well (sometimes too well). It is also relatively easy for us to meet together twice a year. In our Oblate life I have always appreciated the fraternal atmosphere, I would say a family atmosphere. Which is not to say that it is a perfect family. We have our advantages and disadvantages. We have our joys and problems. Sometimes we are even ashamed of our actions. Just life itself, as in any family. We don't always know how to live with each other, for example, because of our different characters, different personalities. Each of us is different. But I think there is something in us, or rather Someone, who is ultimately wonderfully able to unite us rather than divide us. There are many more things that we are able to see in a positive way, and this constantly builds us up, connects us, unites us, and makes us able to approach one another with a positive heart. When it comes to Polish pastoral ministry in Canada, it's a bit like that in Cameroon, where you're really a little closer to the people, where our parishioners want to be closer to the church, closer to their parish, and they also want to feel a sense of community. And even though sometimes our parish communities are large, I think there's still that element of feeling like a family. Certainly being away from Poland makes us want to be closer together as a Polish Oblate family.
As a Provincial, you probably already have your vision of what you would like to do for the Province, in what direction to lead it. Could you share with us your plans for the near future?
Thanks for this question about our future. My plans for the Assumption Province? Hmmm. Being a provincial is being a father in the broad sense of the word. It's about being a good father, of course. In our case, it's being a father to fathers and brothers; at least for the time of being provincial. This is a difficult task. A good father is someone who listens, is able to come from afar or from nearby, someone who has the door of the house open, who worries, prays and cares, so that we can happily arrive at our common home. I would like yet more to deepen the Happiness I found in Jesus in my own life, and to help others discover this happiness in what they do. In this I too ask for help. I realize that being a provincial is not being the head of a smaller or larger corporation. Here I would like to point out again what I said at the beginning of taking office, during my homily. There are three things lying on my heart that seem very important if we are to fulfill the future of our lives, our vocations, our Oblate charism, to build together an even more beautiful province. A province, of course, as a living organism made of loving hearts. I think we will not do this except through Jesus. He is our future, our goal. Establishing a simple heart-to-heart relationship with Him is the goal of my life. If I can do this with you and all our other confreres, this would be great. I know that I am not perfect myself. I find the cure for being better in adoration. I am helped by the one who is our Mother: Mary. She is the present and at the same time the future of our Oblate life. I would like to constantly entrust our lives to Her. She will make it possible that we are able and can really do something good for our province through Her. And also the mission from which we cannot turn away. Eucharist, adoration, and Mary lead us to evangelization, new evangelization. Without Her, the Church and in the Church the Oblates have no life.
And finally, I'll ask you to say a few words from your heart to your confreres.
I think that everything I said above is from the depths of my heart, from the depths of my desire to create a really good family. I think it is not only my desire, but that of all my predecessors and everyone who feels part of Assumption Province. It is good to say something from the heart. Only from the heart the words that flow can influence another person. Thank you to you for taking on the task of updating our new website. It is worth saying that there is an incredible amount of good in us, an incredible potential. For this goodness a big thank you. There is a tremendous amount of good happening almost every day in our communities, parishes, which is worth talking about, letting it be known that we are, that we are alive, that our Polish community is really embraced by the concern of all of us and that we have one common goal. It is to be closer to Jesus. I sincerely thank each of you for your good heart, for being present.
Thank you for the interview.
fr. T.Jarosz OMI