The parish of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Katowice, Poland, where Fr Szymon Jankowski OSA has been working for 20 years as parish priest and dean serving mainly Ukrainians of the Eastern Rite, celebrated its anniversary on 2nd September. The Mass was presided over by Włodzimierz Juszczak, Bishop of Wrocław-Koszalin
The modern history of Greek-Catholics in Upper Silesia (Poland) began in the 1920s and 1930s when, after several years of dramatic clashes on the Polish-German border, part of this region was granted to Poland. It is difficult to say exactly when the first Greek-Catholics appeared in Upper Silesia, but it is very likely that the intensive development of today's Katowice and adjacent towns, aided by a well-developed railway network at the beginning of the 20th century and the discovery of new fossil resources (hard coal and other minerals), encouraged the development of the region, and saw young people from poorer stretches of eastern Poland (where there were more Greek-Catholics) to flock to this prosperous place teeming with potential, forming a large community in the process which would eventually settle there.
In addition, during the Second World War and the subsequent Soviet occupation, large numbers of Ukrainians moved to the area, many as labourers, many others as part of the Soviet’s 1947 Operation Vistula forced resettlement process to its newly ‘Recovered Territory’. And as a result, an influx of Greek-Catholics arrived in Silesia at that time. The Bishop of Kraków identified the need to create a parish for this community in Katowice, and so at Christmas 1958 the first Greek-Catholic parish was opened in the city. Although it had no set location, many parish priests gave space in their parishes for the community to use for their liturgies and meetings.
The turn of this century brought with it the arrival of many seasonal workers who became permanent residents of Upper Silesia, and who attended the Sunday services of the Greek-Catholic liturgy. Just before the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, parishioner numbers had reached over 80 people for the Sunday liturgy. After the invasion, the number of regular worshippers has increased to between 130 and 180 each week .
The highest attendance figures are recorded during the major feast days: about 500 people participate in the Christmas liturgy, increasing to over 800 at Easter. Although many of the faithful who attend are Orthodox, due to their language and where they come from, they feel more comfortable in our community than in the Orthodox church in Sosnowiec, near Katowice.
The war and the current state of the community
The outbreak of war was a critical moment in the life of the community. Fr Szymon Piotr Jankowski OSA, who has been on the ground at the heart of the community for two decades, reports that, “We were on the front line from Day One, and parishioners are still raising funds each month to help in the conflict, mainly to finance medical assistance (such as several cars to transport wounded soldiers, as well as bandages, sleeping bags, cleaning products, and all necessary protection, for example). Also, parishioners pray at every Sunday Eucharist for the souls and families of the deceased, and for peace in the country.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that since 2017 the Greek-Catholic parish of Katowice has also been the seat of the new deanery of the Wrocław-Koszalin Eparchy of the Greek-Catholic Church in Poland. And Fr Szymon is the dean. As he says, “The creation of this deanery can also be seen as an appreciation and recognition of the faithful of this parish who, for almost one hundred years, have been able to not only maintain but effectively cultivate their faith, their cultural traditions, their language and their liturgy, creating a very well-coordinated group despite changes in times, people and external conditions.”