Once upon a time there was an older man whose name was Michala. In the days of the communist persecution, he met with young Christians in a forest. They met often enough as to begin to feel part of a body. When the Communist regime fell apart, there was no reason to hide themselves anymore and then they discovered that Michala was actually a priest, a Redemptorist missionary. By living with freedom in their bodies and seeing it as an opportunity to create and discover new ways, missionary zeal began to break out. Under Michala’s influence (and after he took a course at a School of Evangelization in Poland), the desire to start over the famous popular missions of pre-communist times, of which some of the elders used to talk about, was born. No one really knew how to reactivate this Redemptorist tradition, but it was by the sharing of the audacity and dreams amidst this group of lay people lead by Michala, that the popular missions resumed. Today they form the River of Life community that remains an essential partner in the mission of the Redemptorists in Slovakia.

This was the story that Bohus told us one morning during a long conversation in his office, while we drank a cup of tea. Bohus is one of the lay people responsible for leading this community. His life is totally committed to the mission in which he shows great zeal and dedication. For us it is a privilege to get to know partners like him and learn from their testimony.

The day before we had the opportunity to be together in a moment of prayer and praise that takes place once a month in our church at Podolínec. It is the River of Life community who prepares and oversees this service. This time it was Father Peter Slobodník, Redemptorist missionary, who presided. There were only 5 minutes to go and the church was already full. The seats were all occupied, many young people were standing facing us, next to the altar table and many other people were standing in the aisles. About 500 people who came from everywhere. Some had made a 5 hour drive to get there and would have to make another 5 hours to return to their homes.

During the conversation with Bohus we realized that many of them come and seek these moments as a kind of follow up on the popular mission they have had in their town or city. In fact, it was precisely there where these meetings began. By request from people in the surrounding cities who felt they needed more, who wanted assistance in order to reach a closer relationship with God. While singing songs everyone knows and saying a few simple prayers, it is possible to create the favorable set up to listen to what God is whispering.

We were lucky enough to hear some of these God’s secrets as we sat at the table with Eva and Daniela. We were invited to have dinner at the house they both share in a building refurbished by the River of Life community, where there is plenty of space to organize youth summer camps and a garden for children to play freely all year round. At Eva and Daniela’s home we shared the meal in a fraternal atmosphere, traveling through each other’s missionary stories (we even made a leap to Kazakhstan where they both had been 3 years on a mission!).

And this is how we ended our experience in Slovakia: at a table of gathered Christians, all seeking new ways of faithfulness to the Gospel, with some differences, but with one common certainty: we cannot grow in faith without following Jesus and we cannot follow Jesus without community.

We’ll see you around,

Zé ku Teresa


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s