“Dictatorships think in the name of their people. They don’t allow the people to think for themselves”, said Pope Francis in a general audience. But, the Church in Belarus has not stopped thinking, rather it calls constantly for peace and dialogue. Nor has Claretian Father Jerzy Wierzchowski, of Saint Anthony’s parish in Mahiljou, stopped thinking, but instead thinks constantly of his people’s salvation. Of how peace begins in the human heart, in the family and in the parish community. Of how the faithful can gather before God and celebrate the Eucharist together. Of how truth outlasts everything else.
He has been fundraising for years, mostly in his home country Poland, for a church where the faithful can find peace of soul. Construction began 13 years ago, but the congregation outgrew the building plans, and he now needs a church with seating for 150. There are already four Masses celebrated in the temporary chapel every Sunday, and they will need to hold just as many in the finished church. The outside shell is now complete, including the roof, but they still need money for heating, flooring, internal plastering, four windows, four doors, and of course the labour as well. But coronavirus has made travel and fundraising impossible, and at the moment Father Jerzy can no longer go back to Poland.
He himself fell ill with the virus and is only slowly recovering. But he’s not giving up. The parish is praying and, as he can no longer make trips to raise funds, all he can do is pray. But then he thought of us. We have helped him in recent years with the church’s pastoral centre, a soup kitchen and a small presbytery, not to mention an upstairs flat for three religious Sisters. We have promised him €50,000, so that this meeting place with God, this house of peace, can finally be completed.