Religious, New media

Religious: European meeting at Czestochowa This year, for the first time, the Union of European Conferences of Male and Female Superiors Major (UCESM) is holding its 14th General Assembly at Czestochowa in Poland from 8 to 14 February 2010. The participants will be the delegates of the 37 Conferences of Religious Life, members of the UCESM, from 25 countries of Europe that altogether represent some 400,000 male and female religious in the continent. The main speaker at the conference, Father José Cristo Rey García Paredes cmf, will invite the participants to reflect on the theme of hope as mission of the religious life in the European context. The theme of the Assembly is in fact: “Religious life in Europe: histories of hope, hope for history”. The well-known Polish historian Jerzy Kloczowski is convinced that religious communities open to the world and to others have a particularly important role for contemporary Christianity. The roots of our culture, he says, “can be traced to the Christian res publica whose model was created precisely by the religious orders present throughout Latin Europe since the year 1000″. In his view, the Rule of St. Benedict, declared Patron of united Europe, is in fact a first European constitution. Later, “precisely on this basis, a specifically Christian view of the free man was matured: man, who is made free by his faith, is equal to others and should therefore forge brotherly relations with them”. According to Bishop Wojciech Polak, auxiliary bishop of Gniezno, “the richness of the consecrated life consists not in what the religious orders, institutes or congregations do for the Church, but in the fact that consecrated persons are a clear sign of total dedication to Christ”. “Consecrated persons show to the world, in which individualism seems so great a value, that living in communion is possible and that, as members of the Church, we pilgrimage together along the path indicated to us by Jesus Christ”. In Poland, 61 male and 151 female congregations, as well as 35 secular institutes with a total of some 40,000 consecrated persons, are active today. Throughout the country, 73 new institutes of consecrated life began their activity after 1980s – a case unique of its kind. The number of their members not only has not declined, but has increased by 650 persons since 1998. The Missionary Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa, an order only recently established in Poland, has doubled its members over the last twelve years. In the mid-1990s consecrated persons in Poland ran some 1000 social, healthcare, educational and charitable institutions. Today they run double that number, including homes for spiritual exercises, schools of every kind and grade (over 800), nursing homes, surgeries, hospital centres (400) and in total 180 communication centres such as that of the Redemptorist Fathers directed by the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk. And while one of Poland’s television channels is owned by the Franciscans, Benedictine Father Leon Knabit has conducted his own talk show on State TV.New media: ever more digital parishesAt Radlino, a small town in the region of Silesia, thanks to facility of access to the internet, elderly and invalid people can now participate in liturgical celebrations. A telecamera installed inside the church permits all religious services to be transmitted on line. “We also have a web page updated in real time”, says the priest whose parish is one of the three finalists of the competition “The Digital Continent” held on the initiative of the Rev. Jozef Kloch, spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and director general of the Opoka Foundation (www.opoka.org), in cooperation with the weekly magazine Computerworld and one of Poland’s main cell phone operators (Polkomtel). The competition is aimed at identifying the parish that performs its mission of evangelization by using to the best the resources of the internet, and working on behalf of the local community. The title of Digital Parish 2009 was awarded, after an on-site inspection by the organizers of the competition, to the parish named after St. Stanislaw Kostka at Korytowo in the diocese of Stettin – Kamien Pomorski which, in spite of some difficulties in accessing the internet, has used digital means effectively to stimulate the local community and promote the use of the new media technologies. The parish centre of Caritas, active for eleven years, is dedicated to the support of disadvantaged families (especially as a result of the dismantling of the state-owned farms created in the time of the Communist regime); it helps to alleviate social exclusion and also combats digital exclusion by teaching the use of the web. Similar difficulties are encountered in the parish named after St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr at Szczecinki in north-east Poland, the third of the finalists in the competition. With the economic transformations now underway and the transition to a market economy, the unemployment rate in the territory of the parish has risen to over 20%. This brings with it grave and interconnected problems, such as alcoholism, alienation, marginalization and lack of prospects for the future, which lead in turn to aggressiveness, drug addiction and depression. The prizes will be awarded to the finalists at a ceremony at the Major Seminary of Tarnow on 25 February.

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