News from Eastern Europe

Source: FSSPX News


This past year was again full of crosses and sufferings, and therefore full of joy and light. This year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Catholic Tradition in ESTONIA, a small, 99 % protestant Baltic country in North-Eastern Europe. The very modest apostolate there brought up its first fruit: the priestly ordination on November 3rd of the Estonian Fr. Ivo Ounpuu, whom some of you know from his 6-month stay in Saint Mary’s. More than 60 faithful attended his first solemn High Mass, that is 1/3 of all practicing Catholics in the capital Tallinn. Formerly Estonia was called Terra Mariana, Land of Mary. She operated the miracle, that we run there two chapels. Our young priest resides now in Warsaw, and he travels once a month the 700 miles to his country. Together with an elder traditionalist independent priest, Father Einar Laigna, he will definitely establish the apostolate. As a Christmas present we want to open a permanent chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and during the next year continue to print Catholic books and newsletters, preach retreats and recollections. We particularly try to approach the conservative protestants, because many of them are very open and sympathetic to Catholic doctrine. A great hope are our young families, more and more, almost everybody converts. Please don’t forget this very difficult apostolic work in your prayers!

After many years of bitter efforts we are happy to see growing fruit also in LITUANIA. Thanks to the missionary zeal of Fr. Jacqmin, a Belgian Society priest, we are about to prepare the opening of the second priory in Eastern Europe (Warsaw is the first). Initially the inauguration was planned for this autumn, but there are many juridical, financial and administrative problems. At the moment we run 3 chapels, but the number of faithful is still small. However, more and more interested young people, but also some elder Lithuanian parish priests are in good contact with us. One young Lithuanian recently joined our pre-seminary here, the first vocation in 6 years. These modest successes were sufficient to excite the anger of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference, which initiated a campaign of attacks and calumnies against us. In the same time they try to update "backward" Lithuania to the exigency of Ecumenism with many "hand-shakings" with all kinds of religions and sects. This summer, Fr. Edmundas, the first Lithuanian Society priest was ordained in Zaitzkofen. Staying with us here in Warsaw, he works very hard to edit our bulletin in Lithuanian language and other important literature. With God’s help, the priory will be functional in summer next year, when 3 priests reside there to definitely take care of the Baltic countries, of Belarus and Russia. But yet there is so much to do ... however we do not lose hope, because we will not count on our own, but on the almighty power of the Immaculata!

A hard trial shook Catholic Tradition in UKRAINE this year. One of our best friends, Father Lubomir, was punished in June with the great excommunication, just a month after having accompanied Rev. Mr. Wladimir to Zaitzkofen to become a deacon. To our big surprise almost all faithful were ... faithful to him, and that crying injustice made many others aware of the fact, that there are yet priests sticking firmly to Tradition. Now he celebrates the Divine Liturgy in a rented house, totally overcrowded with people on Sundays. The deacon newly ordained by bishop Williamson works along with Fr. Lubomir. Also the superior of the Society of Saint Josaphat, Fr. Basile, was strongly attacked. 3 years ago he was parish priest of 4 parishes, now one after the other had been taken away from him, so that he remains only in one parish. Another priest, Fr. Wolodymir, was destituted as parish priest and became curate of his own former modernist curate who replaced him: in the parish war! 2/3 of the people hold with the modernist, 1/3 (that means around 250 - 300 faithful) side with our friend, Fr. Wolodymir. It is just a question of time, before he is also ’condemned’, as Fr. Lubomir has been. In Ukraine the people are incredibly poor, and it will be a big problem, to find some place where to assemble such big numbers of traditional faithful, if one priest after the other gets thrown out. In former Soviet countries there is only one citizen hall, which cannot be used for religious purposes, there churches should urgently be built. The Basilian sisters have not yet moved into the planned new Noviciate house, because most of the donations have been spent for the seminary, the organization of retreats and recollections, and for the publication of newsletters and books (there is no traditional literature in Ukraine), these are at the moment the most urgent needs. As long as we have some impact on the parishes and therefore on about twenty thousand Byzantine Catholics, we must try to inform them and offer them retreats, prayer vigils and recollections, without which the people get lost because of lack of information and necessary spiritual renewal. We admire our Ukrainian fellow priests, who in spite of these trials and many dangers put all their confidence in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and hold on faithfully to Holy Tradition. The fruits: an increasing number of vocations. 3 years ago there were 5 Basilian sisters, now they are already 13, and in the underground seminary there are 15 seminarians, one of them a deacon to be ordained next year by one of the SSPX bishops.

Here in POLAND time has come to consolidate the beautiful work started 6 years ago, through an intensive spiritual life. Therefore we preach many retreats, invite faithful to prayer-nights in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, organize pilgrimages etc. On November 23rd Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has inaugurated our retreat house Bajerze (1/3 of Father Wesolek’s manor is now totally renovated - thanks to your generosity). The first retreat I preached there was a priests’ retreat, with the participation of some members of the SSPX and also two polish priests, one Franciscan and one Cistercian father. They seemed to be enthusiastic! Let us pray that their enthusiasm becomes reality. Furthermore Bishop Tissier blessed our new chapel in Torun. First, we had been located in a small rented room. Now the town council placed at our disposal an old abandoned hall, which we transformed into a real chapel. This is now (together with the priory chapel here) the second "true" and permanent SSPX chapel, which looks like a small church inside and outside (the other 10 polish chapels are located in provisory rented rooms or small halls). The faithful are mostly young families: in the first pews you can see young fathers and mothers with their babies in their arms: a truly ’fruitful’ chapel with more and more baptisms ... Furthermore we had to extend our Warsaw priory with another floor (on the top): the arrival of 2 oblate sisters, Sr. Ignatia and Sr. Maximiliana, made the establishment of an enclosure necessary. Brother Klaus made a brand-new altar for the chapel. Also for the male inmates we now have some kind of enclosure, where we have the rooms for 5 priests, 2 brothers (bro. Klaus and the Polish bro. Maximilian) and for our 2 pre-seminarians (probably within some weeks a third one will join us). The increasing number of participants for the retreats required a bigger conference room as well as more guest rooms. This was a hard work this year, and it’s not yet finished. Our financial resources were engaged for the important above-mentioned projects, so that our ’eternal’ construction of Gdansk had to wait again - you will understand: they already have a chapel there, and elsewhere there is more urgency. Finally, we could make a great step forward with our printed apostolate. Our publishing house became one of the leading Catholic publishers with the edition of about 4 books a month (e.g. encyclicals of the pre-conciliar popes), which doubled the interest in our publications during the last months. In this way many people could get acquainted with Catholic Tradition, and some of them found the way to the Eternal Sacrifice. Due to this fact we notice a slow, but constant increase of the number of our faithful.

To finish, let me say a word about the Militia Immaculatae of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, propagated in its traditional and primitive obedience, the spiritual heart of our work in Poland. The fidelity of our faithful is grounded especially in their commitment to the ideal of a Knight of the Immaculata. This year the girls’ movement made a good progress, always more girls are interested and join the fight for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Deo Gratias! From distant Eastern Europe I send you my priestly blessings and wish you from all my heart the special protection of the Immaculata for the upcoming new year.

Yours always thankful "beggar of the Immaculata"

Fr. Karl Stehlin