I resume my circulars with my arrival in Warsaw from Zürich on June 29. I was met by Maciej Wolski, leader of the Warsaw House of Prayer, and co-leader of the week’s summer camp in Wiatraki. This was a 150 – 180 minute drive to the north, in a wooded and lake-marked area of Poland I had never visited before. There were about 170 – 180 adults and about 80 – 90 children. The children’s ministry was a feature of the conference, being led by Lenny La Guardia, head of children’s ministry at IHOP (International House of Prayer, Kansas City) who clearly had a major impact on the younger children. One of the IHOP team, Amanda, had been one of the prophetic team that had given me prophetic words in Kansas City three years ago without knowing at all who I was. We had Mass at 6. 30 each morning, presided over by a priest I was very glad to meet, Fr Slawomir Pawlowski, SAC (Pallottines), who is a Professor at the Catholic University of Lublin and secretary of the Polish Bishop’s commission for ecumenism. Several from the Maranatha Family were there; Przemek Sekula gave a teaching on identity that was repeated the next day for the teenagers; Karolina Zwawa and Justyna Zajac gave excellent sharings to illustrate my teaching. Their husbands and children were also there, together with Magda and Slawek Wdowiak. The people were really ready for the teaching, sensing quickly that it provided a bigger and solid framework for what they already knew and experienced. I have been invited back for next year, and immediately said Yes, as this camp provides a base for reaching far more groups and communities in Poland. The camp ended towards noon on Saturday July 5. I was on a late afternoon flight to Vienna and arrived in Hainburg by 8 p.m.
The following week I was at home. I sent out the last circular letter, and worked on a special 6-page issue of the TJCII Communique on the Kiev gathering in May. On the Thursday I had a check-up with my urologist in Schwechat and all is clear in the bladder and in the kidneys. On Monday 14th, a local Baumeister (master-builder) came to examine the façade, the entrance and the roof area with a view to recommendations and a cost estimate for repairs and renewal.
On Tuesday 15th, I flew from Vienna to Gatwick, and spent a night at the home of Nick and Helen Wells in Brighton. On the Wednesday they took me to my sister Celia’s. On the Thursday – another warm and sunny day – we went over to Partridge Green for a pub lunch (my treat for Celia’s 80th in June) and visited the graveyard in West Grinstead parish church where some of our forebears are buried. On the Friday afternoon, I took a train to Southampton, a city I don’t know, for a day’s visit to Elina and Lukasz Dmowski, which was very enjoyable and blessed. I particularly enjoyed the walks on Southampton Common. On Saturday afternoon, I went by train via Waterloo and Stratford to Brentwood, where Peter Moran picked me up for my stay at SENT, the centre of Sion Community. Archbishop Kevin McDonald, whose 40th anniversary of ordination I had come to celebrate, was already there and we had a good chat. On the Sunday the celebration Mass was at Brentwood Cathedral with Cardinal Cormac and four other bishops, including Bishop Peter from Northampton and the new and recently retired bishops of Brentwood. It was an excellent setting for such a celebration, with the dinner following in an adjacent hall. I was able to speak with Mgr Sean Healy, the Northampton Vicar General. There were many priests I had not seen for years, including Fr Michael Griffin and two seminary rectors, Fr David Oakley (Oscott), and Fr Jeremy Garratt (Wonersh). There were also renewal stalwarts like Charles and Sue Whitehead, Peter and Michelle Moran, Kristina Cooper, and Eileen O’Kane. At the end, there were speeches from Kevin’s brother, from the Cardinal, and from Kevin himself, who mentioned briefly how he followed me as lecturer in moral theology at Oscott in 1976.
On the Sunday I flew with Johannes Fichtenbauer and Fritzi Turecek to Rome for the Catholic – Messianic Jewish dialogue. This year we met for the first time at the Pontifical Irish College near St John Lateran, with wonderful Irish hospitality and Italian cuisine. It was also very hot. I made a presentation of how I see ecumenism advancing in recent years, especially with Pope Francis. This meeting rounded off the second seven years of the dialogue. It was agreed that a report should be prepared on the last 14 years, and Cardinal Schönborn suggested I draft it, as “Peter is the living memory of the group”. On the evening after the close of our meeting, 6 of us remaining went out for a meal: I had never imagined having to walk the streets of Rome for half an hour before finding a functioning restaurant. But we were well satisfied with the one we found. On the last morning in Rome, I went to pray in St John Lateran, which is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome (not St Peter’s). I realized how the failure of the 5th Lateran Council in 1513 made the Reformation inevitable. Next day I wrote to Thomas Cogdell in Austin, Texas about the significance of this point for his Wittenberg 2017 initiative. I arrived back in Hainburg on Friday evening. On the Sunday, I decided at the last minute not to go to the open air parish Mass in the Castle grounds, as it began to rain. That evening Marcin and Agnieszka Gąsiorek plus two children arrived for a week’s stay, followed the next day by Michal and Magda Dyrda plus baby Timek. On the Monday we were joined by Juraj and Maria Franekova, now happily engaged. On Thursday 4th Sept. Sr Mary Paul left for a well-earned vacation. On Saturday 6th, we had a Bible teaching day when I taught on 1 Thessalonians. About 15 people came.
I spent the Sunday night at SENT. At breakfast on Monday I was pleasantly surprised to find Ania from Wroclaw, Poland, who had been at many Lanckorona events from 2004 but now lives in London. I then got a train to Southend, met by my cousin Elisabeth. We spent a few hours with her mother, Julie, my oldest surviving relative, now 94. I asked her questions about family history that Celia and I were puzzled about. Julie came with us for a walk overlooking the Thames estuary. Then I got a train about 4. 45, arriving in London at the start of rush hour, squeezed on the Underground with my case, and continued to Sidcup to be met by Tony Regan. I had three nights there and two very enjoyable days: on the first, Tony took me to Book Aid in Sydenham, where donated books are received, either to be sent to the missions or sold. I found several great bargains. My desire to have these books was greater than my reluctance to make my bags heavier. On the second day, Tony took me to Chartwell in Kent, the home of Sir Winston Churchill; I had never been there before. It was very interesting and the house has a fabulous setting. On Thursday 24th I got a train from Paddington to Truro in Cornwall, some 5 hours travel; the Devon section is one of the most beautiful stretches on the British rail network, now restored after the destruction in last winter’s storms. Val Kincaid met me at Truro. All through this time the weather was excellent with warm sunshine, also in Cornwall. It is hard to see Jim Kincaid so limited in his movements, but Jim has never lacked courage and determination. I spent 4 days there, celebrating one Sunday Mass for Fr Gilmour in Truro. On Monday 28th I got the train back to London and then on to Caterham, where I was welcomed by Mike and Maureen Goldsmith, the parents of Sarah (Sam). Next morning to Gatwick and the Easyjet flight to Vienna.
I had just 3 days in Hainburg before leaving for Herrnhut, Germany. This year for the first time, the Maranatha Family week started on the Friday evening, so we all joined the Jesus Haus people for their Shabbat celebration. This year our numbers were a little down (about 30), but it was one of the best weeks, very friendly and harmonious. We had only two new people: Nick Kirby from Ireland, who had married Ania Siekaniec during the last year; and Daniel from Northern Israel, the boy friend of Shachar Emunah Halamish. This year our shared sessions with Gateways Beyond people in Herrnhut took a different form, with a real encounter between the two groups with presentations and personal sharings.
Sr Mary Paul and I were in Herrnhut for 15 days, as the MF week was followed by the German Maranatha group, led by Oswin and Barbara Lösel. About the middle week-end I became sick with the bug that several others had and had two days in my room. However, the second week was lighter for me; I was able to give my teachings, and also lead a session for the Gateways school of 4 students. I was asked to share with the intercessors at Jesus Haus what I see the Holy Spirit doing today. We returned to Hainburg on Saturday 16th August. I had the parish Mass on the 17th, but then had a quiet week. Between the 18th and the 21st we had a visit from Eva and Andras Fodor from Hungary for a quiet break before Eva begins radiation therapy. On Friday 22nd, the younger people in TJCII (the Now Generation) had a cook-out grill outside with over 20 present (Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary). It was great to see Eyal Friedman from Israel, who came over especially for this meeting. Many stayed until Saturday or Sunday.
At the end Pavol drove us about 150 km back towards Bratislava for a conference on deliverance ministry at a Franciscan monastery at Beckov placed right beneath the impressive ruins of an ancient castle we have often admired from the motorway. I gave two talks on the Monday morning – first on the ministry of priests and of lay people in deliverance, and second on the developing understanding in the Catholic Church of the dignity, role, and mission of lay people in the Church. There were several questions about what lay people can or can’t do. I said that apart from what is clearly stated in official church documents, we have to stop wanting to have authority tell us what to do or what we can do, and use our common sense, to be wise and bold, and to trust in the Holy Spirit. After early lunch, Sr Mary Paul drove Asia and myself back up to Zilina, and then on the Cadca and Zywiec route through to Krakόw, where we arrived at the Franciscans at 6 p.m.
On Wednesday September 10, I got the train from Bratislava to Budapest, where I was met by Attila Banhidi. On the way to his home on the Pilis hills west of the city, we met up with Gizella Vegh and Eva Fodor. Eva is staying with Gizi during her radiation therapy in Budapest. The next morning Attila drove me to Andi Simonyi’s new apartment in the city. Edit Lang, who is blind, was there; she always feels my face when we meet as though to reassure herself that she is not deceived by the voice. Later Andi drove me out to Gödöllö 30 miles east north east of Budapest for an ICCRS conference for Eastern Europe on reconciliation. The organizers accepted my suggestion that they invite Pavol Strezo from Slovakia to come and share about experience of reconciliation in his area, especially between Christians and Jews, and he brought Fr Jan Buc, who shared about reconciliation between Christians. Their sharings were a highlight of the conference. Johannes Fichtenbauer represented the European Network of Communities (ENC); also from Austria were Hans-Peter and Verena Lang. Michelle Moran was there as president of ICCRS, as also Msgr Wojciech Nowacki from Plock in Poland, with whom I serve on the ICCRS doctrinal committee. Some nations were represented by new people, for whom the teaching was unfamiliar. This meant that the times for reconciliation on the programme could not happen, but I had never thought that was realistic. However, the conference was a very positive experience, and important seeds were sown.
After my return to Hainburg by Sunday evening, I had four days to prepare several teachings for my next trip. Asia showed me how to prepare Power Point presentations on my laptop (I was surprised how easy it is) so all these were prepared as Power Point. Sr Mary Paul returned on the Friday morning, and within a few hours we were on our way with Asia to Dolny Kubin for an HBI session hosted by Pavol Strezo. There were about 10 present; it was a session devoted to Christian unity and the new directions opening up with Pope Francis. First thing on Sunday I concelebrated a parish Mass with the Dean of Dolny Kubin and spoke with him. As well as the HBI group, about 30 young Slovak Christians, not all Catholics, but all involved in politics in different political parties were meeting in the same centre. At breakfast it was suggested we might combine the two groups for the last session when I was speaking on “Reaping what the Holy Spirit has sown in the others” (Evangelii Gaudium, 246). After an early lunch at a restaurant, we all went to an exhibition about Jewish history in Dolny Kubin, with photos of many people sent from the city to Auschwitz. At 1 p.m. I gave a public talk on reconciliation in the presence of a rabbi newly arrived in Bratislava from the Crimea and the leader of the Jewish community in Zilina. At 3 p.m. we gathered in the ancient synagogue building, which had been used since as a cinema, where the rabbi prayed as two new wooden plates of the Decalogue in Hebrew were unveiled. An elderly lady described how during the second world war she had witnessed the tearing down and the breaking of the original plates in the old synagogue. There were words from the rabbi, the Lutheran pastor, from myself, and from the mayor of the city. Afterwards we all walked up the hill to the Jewish cemetery and laid stones on a memorial stone for the Holocaust victims from Dolny Kubin who never had a proper grave of their own. The Jews lay stones, not flowers, as flowers perish.
The next morning (Tuesday 23rd), seven of us left at 4. 30 a.m. in two cars for the four hour drive to Lublin, for the doctoral defence of Fr Mariusz Orczykowski at 9 a.m. Even then we arrived a few minutes late. This was an unusual experience for me, because Fr Mariusz has studied the ecclesiology and eschatology in my teaching and writings. The director of his dissertation, Bishop Andrzej Czaja of Opole told me that while I have not written any systematic work my writings are full of important insights that need to be incorporated into a more systematic theology. After the examining committee had recommended the granting of the degree, we all (professors, Franciscans, the Orczykowski family, and friends) went for a celebration lunch after which there were several speeches. All of the others praised Fr Mariusz’ work and then honoured me! I was amazed as the examining theologians affirmed the importance of my work for the renewal of Catholic ecclesiology. I had to say something, so I shared how Fr Mariusz studying my writings and teachings had helped me to see their coherence and development. Then I rested!
On the Wednesday morning Fr Slawek Pawlowski (see above) showed me round the old city (very interesting, different from the Austrian influence in southern Poland) and took me to a Jewish restaurant for lunch where they had a special menu for Rosh Hoshanah. I had a wonderful cabbage soup. By now I felt that I had picked up a bug. Fr Slawek arranged for a lady doctor from his prayer community to come; she gave me some medication and said I should rest. Then she prayed for me in a powerful way. On the Thursday I rested all day, and in the evening went to the prayer meeting of the Army of Kids (I don’t think the name sounds so offputting in Polish), where there was very vigorous praise and I gave a short teaching.
On the Friday morning I got a train to Warsaw. Jacek Weigl took me to lunch and then to a meeting in the Curial offices for me to give a teaching to a small group of priests and lay leaders. A young Jesuit priest and other leaders from a community called DOM were there and took me after for a supper in one of their homes, where I was surprised to find Ania Franaszek and Kasia Mas’lanka (Ania has joined DOM this year). On the Saturday, there was a teaching day at a parish in the suburbs where I was the speaker. But it was well spaced out with two panels that I was not part of. Hala Kordjak and her colleague Agnieszka whom I had not seen since 2001 or so were pleased to reconnect. On the Sunday morning, Jacek took me to a meeting of Chefsiba community where I changed topics and spoke on why Israel is key for understanding Christian faith. After lunch at a restaurant, Fr Adam Strojny of Chenin Neuf came to pick me up for a short visit to their centre and the parish they run east of the city. I had a good rest, before preaching at the evening Mass and sharing thoughts on ecumenism to about 20 people after Mass. On the Monday a long 8 hour train journey from Warsaw to Bratislava, and so home to Hainburg.
I was due to leave for Germany on the Thursday morning (October 2) for a teaching week-end. I knew I did not have the energy for that, and so I decided to cancel. I quickly had a disturbed Oswin Lösel on the phone, who asked if Sr Mary Paul could take my place. So that happened, she did a great job as I later heard, and I had 4 days of quiet on my own in Hainburg. I am still not feeling right, so I saw the doctor. He recommended I advance my carotis check-up by a month. I did this, and the results were good, virtually nothing changed since May. But I still have to decide whether I am fit to go to Israel on the 14th. If you don’t know the answer, wait until the next letter!
We are hoping at some point not too far distant to have more work done on the house, both the repair of the façade and the creation of some extra bed rooms at the roof level. For all this we need funds.
If any reader would like to receive our twice-yearly Hainburg Report about what is happening in the Hainburg house, please let me know.
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With warm greetings,