On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, the Day of prayer and material help for the Church in the East, is celebrated in the Church in Poland. The aim of this day is the spiritual and material support of the Catholic Church in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, i.e. in Armenia Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
The Polish Bishops’ Conference chose the Second Sunday of Advent as the day on which we are invited to call to mind our memories and show kindness to all our brothers and sisters living in the East. They are especially close to us because of our historical and many other shared experiences. Many of us have left our families there. There are even more of us who remember their deceased relatives and their graves scattered in the Vilnius region, Polesie, Volhynia and Podolia, endless Siberia or the steppes of Kazakhstan. At the same time, we do well to remember the what difficulties all our brothers and sisters were exposed to and how much they had to suffer for being Polish and for their faith throughout the decades.
In this extraordinary testimony of the rebirth of the Catholic Church across the Eastern border, the Team for Aid to the Church in the East with whom the Polish Bishops’ Conference has been in partnership with for over 30 years and indeed everyone who supports this great work spiritually or materially have played an important role.
Currently, the Church across the Eastern border is served by 198 diocesan priests, 387 religious priests, 320 religious sisters and 40 religious brothers from Poland as well as lay volunteers. The office of the Team often receives written monetary requests from the diocese, parish and religious congregations working in the East. In 2021, 221 requests for the amount of 2,147,299.20 PLN have already been processed, most of which was sent to Ukraine and Belarus.
The afore mentioned amount includes, among others: subsidies for the construction of new churches, reconstruction and renovation of churches, presbyteries and catechetical rooms. We also managed to support the organization of summer recreation camps combined with formation for children and youth, and even for the elderly or the homeless. This aid was provided to 43 groups from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, as the Sisters and Priests who organize these holidays tell us – for many participants it is a unique time not only for recreation, social meetings, and prayers, but also for regular meals.
Support is also given to day-care centres, kindergartens, orphanages, homes for elderly and single mothers, shelters for the homeless, as well as canteens and kitchens run by the religious sisters and brothers for feeding children, the elderly and the poorest in the communities.
Last year, in cooperation with the Upper Silesian Branch of the Polish Community Association, we managed to open four „Good Heart” Charity Stations in Ukraine, thanks to which those in need have access to rehabilitation equipment, crutches, prams, walkers, dressings, etc. this also included those who came from the East to Poland, such as students who gained scholarships. The team also constantly provides liturgical assistance to the Catholic Church in the East by purchasing liturgical necessities for specific parishes, chapels and churches, such as sound systems, liturgical books, as well as prayer books, hymn books, and all kinds of catechetical aids. Still an large part of the expenses are subsidies for the construction of new churches, reconstruction and renovation of churches, presbyteries and catechetical rooms.
In addition, the team finances the shipment of Catholic press, including Catholic Information Agecy news and the magazine „Love One Another”, and supports publishing houses and media operating within the Church in the East, as well as many other projects. On the initiative of the Team, the Siberian Voluntary Service was also established, gathering lay people who help priests and nuns in the East during their holidays or vacations. In 2021, 15 people left for voluntary service, despite the restrictions of the pandemic, to Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Romania or Ukraine, and another, i.e. the fifth group, started formation in October of this year.
The team also financed the publication of the book „Necrologium Episcoporum Poloniae”. The lexicon is being developed, along with memories of the participation of Polish clergy in the revival of the Catholic Church in the East. It is a work that will save from oblivion that what priests and nuns from Poland did for the Church beyond the eastern border, especially after the so-called „Perestroika”. In addition, the Team Director goes to the East to find out about the needs and check project implementation. Recently, he has visited Armenia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
The team encourages spiritual and material support for the pastoral, evangelistic and charitable works of the Catholic Church in the East. The donations collected on the second Sunday of Advent, as well as donations coming from regular individual donors throughout the year, are of priceless help to Catholics in all local dioceses.
On this day, the faithful join the Church in Poland and abroad with many parishes across the eastern border, thanking God for prayers and donations. The „day of prayer and material help for the Church in the East” there, across the eastern border, is a day of gratitude for those who help spiritually and materially.
Aid to the Church in the East Team / BP PBC
Translation: AZ. Warchoł / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference