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Monday, 16 March 2015 09:58

Waking up the world through consecrated life

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Fr Irek Czech sds 150Father Irek Czech sds, Polish Salvatorian and parish priest of St Lawrence and Mary Immaculate Parish in Balcatta, Perth, lives a life of contemplation and evangelisation which thoroughly answers Pope Francis’ recent call for religious sisters, brothers and priests to “wake up the world”.

Fr Irek’s journey into, and experience of, the Salvatorian Order began at the age of 16 when he was invited by a friend on a retreat with Salvatorians. Despite his many commitments at the time, including his involvement with different musical bands and professional volleyball team, he decided to go.

“Initially, I wanted to deepen my spirituality but I did not want to be a Salvatorian. However, at the age of 18/19 a thought would repeatedly come into my mind about becoming a priest within this community. After some time of pushing this thought aside, I said, ‘God, if you want me to enter the seminary, I will’.”

“When I said this loudly during prayer time, it was as if, you could say, this amazing presence of God and His love almost entered my body. Since then I have never thought of going back. I am very happy as a priest and as a Salvatorian.”

In line with the encouragement from the Salvatorian founder, Venerable Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan (1848-1918), to use all means available to spread the Gospel, Fr Irek has taken full advantage of social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter to evangelise. “We are not afraid of using these tools, we are not attached to them, they are not our God, we just use them to bring people to Christ. In today’s world, unfortunately, or fortunately, you also need them in order to have contact with people.”

As an ex-member of a Christian band, Fr Irek also uses his musical knowledge, song-writing abilities and guitar skills to spread the message of the Gospel.

Fr Irek is well aware that contemplative life is as important and fundamental to consecrated life as being active in the parish. “Fr Jordan said that you are active but you are contemplative as well. Without prayer, you cannot do much. For this reason, I set up a perpetual adoration chapel,” he said.

In specific reference to his Order, Fr Irek stated that “Salvator means saviour. I feel like an extended hand of Jesus who is the saviour. I am helping Him to save people. Each time I share my faith with Him, and see people open their hearts to God’s love and God’s mercy, I am like this extended hand of the saviour.”

The Society of the Divine Saviour (Societas Divini Salvatoris), popularly known as the Salvatorians, was founded in Rome on 8 December 1881, by the Venerable Francis Jordan.

Australia saw the arrival of the first Salvatorians in the year 1961, when the head of the Salvatorian society in Rome, Fr Bonaventura Schweizer, responded to then Archbishop of Perth Redmond Prendiville’s request for a priest. At the time, Fr Schweizer sent Fr Paul Keyt, who was asked to take care of the new parish of Bellevue, now St Anthony’s in Greenmount.

In the following years, more Salvatorians from the British Province joined Fr Paul and, in 1987, the Polish Province of Salvatorians officially took over from the British Province.

Today, there are over 20 Polish Salvatorians, like Fr Irek, sharing their lives and ministry in Australia.

In Western Australia, Salvatorians can be found in Carnarvon (St Mary Star of the Sea), Esperance (Our Lady Star of the Sea), Greenmount (St Anthony’s), Merredin (St Mary’s), Ocean Reef (St Simon Peter), Bruce Rock (St Mary’s) and Balcatta (St Lawrence).

The purpose of the Society is to strengthen, to defend and to spread the Catholic faith everywhere insofar as this is committed to it by Divine Providence

To find out more about Salvatorians in Australia, visit http://www.sds.org.au.

This article was first published ion 13 February 2015 at The Record, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Perth.