„The Family of Polish Diaspora in the face of the current pandemic/lockdown situation” is the topic of the Congress of Polish Families, which took place from the 20th to the 21st November online. About 300 people from 21 countries took part in the Congress. The organizers of the Congress were the Polish Family Council at the Delegate of the PBC for the Pastoral Care of Polish Emigration and the Family Help Foundation.

As Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz, PBC Delegate for the Pastoral Care of Polish Emigration, emphasized, the time of the pandemic revealed many difficulties in mutual relations, and triggered many fears. Therefore individual sessions and workshops of the Congress were devoted to relationships within marriage and family in this difficult time, the upbringing and education of children and youth, health conditions and counteracting the undesirable consequences of the pandemic. There was also time for testimonies of married couples and families, talks, discussions as well as communal prayer. „If we do not trust God with all the matters that are important to us, there is a risk that we will not be able to deal with our problems ourselves,” said Bishop Lechowicz.

The first day of the Congress was of a more theoretical nature and was made up of experts speeches, testimonies and discussions in which the condition of Polish diaspora families and the possibilities of overcoming the crisis were considered.

In the morning session, the participants listened to, amongst others, a lecture by prof. Maria Ryś (UKSW), who spoke about marital and family relations in the difficult time of the pandemic from the psychological point of view. She focused especially on the impact of the pandemic, especially the lockdown, on relationships in marriages. She emphasized that „many families began to experience very serious difficulties, not fully knowing their loved ones, with whom they had, in fact, very brief contact. However there are also those who re-evaluated their lives at that time. For example, in the case of husbands, fathers, there was a desire to be supportive. So this is a very great chance to wake the giant up! Giant – father, husband. A chance to jump out of the ruts in which families have functioned for many, many years. ”

Then, Rev. Fr. Dr hab. Robert Skrzypczak (prof. AKW) presented in his speech the impact of the pandemic on the condition of the family. He also showed that “the pandemic has become an opportunity to introduce some social change or acted as a catalyst for what could have been observed before. This means that the opportunity was used to introduce as many legislative changes as possible, as well as at the level of educational or therapeutic impact ”. In this context, he mentioned the dissemination and facilitation of abortion, the acceleration of the legalization of euthanasia, as well as the rapidly growing problem of mental disorders, especially among children and adolescents. In his opinion, it is primarily an effect of anxiety, which translates into a problem that specialists call „a pandemic of mental disorders”.

“ A difficult time – an extraordinary time. A Families chances in the face of unexpected challenges ”- this was the topic of Prof. Ryszard Zajączkowski (KUL), who tried to show the difficult time of the pandemic as an opportunity for the development of the family. “We live in exceptional times, the consequences of which are unknown. Strength and hope, however, come from adhering to truth, natural law, not giving in to negative thoughts or false paradigms applied to reality. It is also important to gradually tame fears and, above all, to cultivate the Good News that we are not dying; we will not fail in life if we stick to Christ. The family plays an irreplaceable role in cultivating essential values and proper thinking, as it is the area of tradition, that is, the transmission of what determines the duration of the next generations” the speaker emphasized in his speech.

During the afternoon session of the Congress, health conditions during the pandemic were discussed, as well as the issues of educational tasks during lockdown. Małgorzata Więczkowska, M.Sc. (Media Education) spoke about the problem of „smartphone childhood” in the pandemic. Dr. Andrzej Mazan (Holy Family College) explained the issue of the methods of supporting the family by the school in the process of home education. The spiritual support of families during the pandemic was presented in his speech by Fr. Dr hab. Andrzej Pryba, (prof. AMU).

In the evening there was an artistic performance prepared by families from Italy and Poland, which ended with entrusting the families to St. Joseph.

On Sunday – the second day of the Congress, in the afternoon, a practical part was planned, consisting of 12 workshops and discussions in thematic groups on counteracting the undesirable consequences of the pandemic. Among the topics there were, among others issues: how to deal with anxiety during a pandemic, pro-health behaviour and prevention, psychotherapeutic support, strengthening family ties during a pandemic, caring for families after an unfavourable prenatal diagnosis, psychological help for children with specific difficulties in home education, as well as training Polish diaspora leaders in the field of family counselling during a pandemic .

Summarizing the 4th Congress of Polish Families, Dr. Grażyna Koszałka (Germany), chairman of the Polish Family Council at the Delegate of the Polish Episcopate for the Pastoral Care of Polish Emigration, said: “We place fides et ratio, that is faith and reason – in the service of the family. Representatives of family sciences showed us how to positively solve problems in the family, how to nurture and care for good relationships, and how to use the crisis as an opportunity for development. The representatives of spirituality reminded us of the pillars of a family with a strong God, emphasizing the great importance of common prayer in the family and putting oneself under the protection of the Holy Family”.

Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz expressed his hopes that next year it will be possible to return to the form of a direct meeting during the next Congress of Polish Families.

The Congress was attended by representatives of Polish families from: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England & Wales, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, and Ukraine.

Videos with lectures from Congresses for Polish Families are posted on the Youtube channel – Rodzina na Emigracji. Recordings from the current Congress will be published shortly.

emigracja.episkopat.pl / BP KEP

Translation: AZ. Warchoł / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference