Only for true believers

Why is that in such Dębki eight priests concelebrate one mass? Why aren’t there eight masses instead which would be beneficial for the faithful who, after all, don’t go off the beach at one time?

– Well then, at six by the beach? – as much as unexpected, the sight is impressive: instead of sitting by a pint of beer they move down a sandy road in heat, heading for a makeshift forest chapel to attend their Sunday mass. During summer holiday the Polish coast reveals an image of Catholics and their Church far different the one known from the media.

I am warning the reader beforehand: there won’t be any statistics, percentage, tables and any other marvels form Microsoft Excel. There won’t be even name, even if he most renowned - as, e.g., Dębki – may come out. No one can harm Dębki in any way – regulars repeat with a sneer. True, the beach can hold everybody, though the crowd is unbelievable. But less known parts of the Baltic beaches? Holidaymakers are begging not to advertise the last places where one can spend time in a pine-forested wilderness, without promenades and discos, without market stalls and fish bars. And without any other infrastructure in the coastal strip.

Which includes churches although there is no shortage of them in our beautiful country. But they don’t occur in the very forested wilderness, they can be found in towns a good few kilometers away from the beach or the beach forest. And people want Sunday service – contrary to what we can read in everyday reports about the Church’s PR failures and unkind commentaries. And they also need a beach and a Sunday uninterrupted by a several miles’ trip to a “city”. One has to choose – say the principled . – One has to organize it – say the optimists.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE And they actually do! Along the whole coast: from Kąty Rybackie, Jurata, Białogóra, Lubiatowo, Poddąbie or Jarosławiec we shall find forest “chapels”. And I mean “chapels” – although I put this word in quotation marks as very often it’s only about a cross and a minimalist table, not rarely without any roof – in which, during the holiday season, people gather every Sunday.

– Direct access to pinecones, conifers and sticks provides parents of small children with peace of mind” – laughs a 40-year-old lawyer from Warsaw, whose three children treat forest masses as an integral part of their vacation, and whose eldest son zealously develops as an altar boy. – But seriously, I would add that only true believers come there, because who else would want to push a baby carriage and bicycles on a sandy road? – he points out.

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And because of these people, these are such great masses, because the atmosphere of faith really prevails. Before I say a good word about the parish priests of tiny unknown seaside parishes, I will focus on ordinary lay people. Although probably rather extraordinary because how else to call people of good will, who without any encouragement, without any expectation of praise or approval, prepare such a place, take care of flowers – yes, forest ones: heathers and goldenrods create a beautiful decoration, but you need to think about it and prepare – they bring candles, prepare readings and singing, often find people playing musical instruments among those willing to pray, finally they serve as altar boys.

Of course, everything is much easier when there are various groups and associations on their summer camps in the area: oases, pastoral ministries, not only academic ones, scouts, family communities and various others. But truly phenomenal are people who help in organizing a forest mass of themselves because they are simply driven by a sense of duty or ordinary decency. Some people may not even know that the precursor of such activities was – well over half a century ago – a young Kraków priest Karol Wojtyła and the academic and post-academic chaplaincy he led, which chose places all over Poland for its holiday routes.

Well, the most important is the priest anyway, because everything can be organized, but without a priest, the mass cannot be celebrated. – Great respect for these parish priests from the seaside, because they agree to various unforeseen situations – says a lawyer from Warsaw. - Sometimes scouts, sometimes an artist wants to perform. They have two hundred parishioners on a daily basis, and during the summer holidays they have to deal with hundreds of people from different sides, with different church habits, with different expectations. No routine, and somehow everything is going well – he emphasizes.
Caritas has been organizing holidays for children, not only Polish ones, for years. Pictured: 2014 summer holiday for children from Ukraine in Zboiska, in the Caritas center of the Przemyśl Archdiocese. Photo: PAP / Darek Delmanowicz
Not everything however, because one bad apple was added to my barrel by the annual regular of the famous Dębki, where “toute Varsovie” arrives, including clergy from the capital, often also famous.

– There may be no shortage of churches and forest “chapels”, but the availability of mass is a different story, says the regular, a person associated with the Church by vows and very devoted to it, which does not mean that she is uncritical. – Maybe we will finally start writing about it and saying: why is that in such Dębki eight priests concelebrate one mass? Why aren’t there eight masses instead which would be beneficial for the faithful who, after all, don’t go off the beach at one time? What would happen to one or another other priest if he celebrated Mass at noon or at 4:00 PM? After all, he will have time to sunbathe anyway – she complains not unfoundedly, because she deals with people with disabilities and has time for mass at different times.

– But I will cut my story at this one apple, because I want to share the knowledge that I have been promoting for years with persistence worthy of this particular case. And for years I have disagreed with left-wing activists and journalists complaining that crowds of children will never go anywhere, they do not have holidays. Nothing but sorrel and mirabelle plums.

Meanwhile, under the aegis of the Church – both in a strictly enumerated way, in the Caritas colonies and camps, as well as in a more relaxed form in various parish groups – there are holidays for children, youth and families. The Catholic Information Agency inform that his year, after two years of a pandemic break, nearly 15,000 children, including two thousand from Ukraine, will take advantage of the summer holidays organized by Caritas. Caritas Polska co-finances the organization of this year’s holidays with the amount of nearly PLN 2.8 million: these are summer camps, play centres, and excursions. For example: Caritas of the Kielce Diocese (one of forty with the all-Poland structure) organizes four 12-day camps in Chłapowo for children from orphanages, foster families, one-parent families or those in a difficult financial situation. About 90 participants take part in each of the camps. Among the attractions there are, inter alia, a boat trip from Władysławowo, trips to Westerplatte, Gdańsk and Gdynia, sightseeing of Dar Młodzieży [“Gif of the Youth” – training ship] and “Błyskawica” [“Lightning” – warship], ZOO, organ in Oliwa, lighthouse in Rozewie and, of course, the beach.

Is this knowledge really so inaccessible that one has to rewrite the untruth every year, saying that church structures do nothing for poor children?

–Barbara Sułek-Kowalska
-translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: Nuns on the beach in Dębki. Photo: Piotr Rybarczyk / Forum
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