Excursions. Our three and a half months in Poland have been a very fruitful experience. Andrea and I arrived on May 2nd in Krakow and we were welcomed by Sr. Ania in the community. We have had a great time because in the first days and weeks we visited many different places around Krakow and especially the Old Town. We also joined the free city tour to the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Everything was about “our first time to see and taste” – to see the beautiful city that preserved the historical buildings from the Middle Ages and we’ve also enjoyed the taste of the Polish dishes. We had a chance to visit Wadowice, the town of Pope John Paul II where he was born.
Another excursion was to Warsaw where we visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum with the exhibition of the history and complexity of the Warsaw Uprising during WW II, with photographs, documents, and actual artifacts. We also visited the Paulin Museum which is a modern museum designed with interactive multimedia exhibitions taking you on a journey through a thousand years of Jewish life in Poland.
JCC and Montessori School. As part of our apostolic works, we started our involvement in the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in the third week of May. JCC is composed of different groups of Jewish background and also some visitors who are interested in Jewish culture, religion and traditions. They have regular exhibitions, shows, festivals, film screenings, book promotions and lectures on the topics of Judaism, Chassidism, Jewish law and religious principles. They have kosher Sabbath meals every week and also on Jewish holidays. We helped the community during the Sabbath meals on Friday evening. We also had the opportunity to attend some lectures on Judaism from the Rabbi. Andrea and I were fortunate to visit all the Synagogues in the Old City during the event called “7@nite Synagogue”. It was a very significant experience for us not only because we could be a help for the community but we also met many volunteers and other visitors who came from different countries especially during the Sabbath meals. The community was grateful for our help and also appreciated our involvement and presence as Christians among them.
Then in the fourth week of May we started our apostolate at the Montessori school. We gave some presentations mainly about our countries of Costa Rica and Indonesia in English and in Spanish. These presentations were part of the student’s English and Spanish subjects. We had this presentation for both the Kindergarten and High School students. We also helped the students on their free time study in between the regular classes.
Our visit to Auschwitz was the most significant and moving experience. We also had an opportunity to visit Auschwitz for a second time and we stayed at the Center of Dialogue and Prayer for five days with the accompaniment of Sr. Mary, a Sister of Mercy from Ireland who currently works at the Center. To see all the photos, places, buildings, and to hear the stories from our guide made us incredibly sad. This visit did not only tell us about the terrible history that happened to the Jewish people but also made us aware of other people who had died here from different countries or nationalities. Some related topics on the three days conference we attended right after our visits to Auschwitz continue to give us an affirmation that there are hopes and lights out of the darkness and suffering and that we should continue to be the messengers of hope and light to other people. This was the message of our visit to the Center of Dialogue and Prayer.
Celebrations and Recreation. We celebrated the feast of Pentecost with Sr. Michel from Brussels in the community. We took this chance to meet and invite the volunteers to join us for our prayer. Andrea and I prepared the prayer and simple finger food to enjoy after the prayer. Sr. Michel and Sr. Ania renewed their vows as it is the tradition of the Congregation to renew their vows on the feast of Pentecost. We were happy to meet some of our new volunteers who did voluntary work in our communities in France and to see again some of the volunteers whom we had met in Jerusalem.
The feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th and Maria’s birthday on June 25th. The two days of special feasts began and finished with delicious meals even though we were in the midst of attending a three day conference. We invited Fr. David Neuhaus who was in the conference to our house for a coffee on Maria’s birthday.
We did not lose the opportunity to do some adventures and to explore the beauty of Poland. On July 7-14, we went to Pieniny and Tatra Mountains. We did not only enjoy the local food from the mountain side but also the richness and beauty of the well preserved forest. We did rafting, biking, and hiking.
It’s a wonderful experience meeting people from all over the world and we are still looking forward to having the rest of our time and experience here in Poland!
International Novitiate – July 2017
Maria O. Malau NDS, Novice