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Polish chaplain at home in the City of Churches

Local

The new chaplain of the Polish Catholic Community has travelled the world since his ordination, but Fr Michal Skiba SCHR says he is feeling at home here in Adelaide.

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Fr Skiba joined the Archdiocese in January and while sightseeing has been curtailed in recent months due to coronavirus restrictions, he has managed to enjoy some of what South Australia has to offer.

“I really like this place – I am glad to be living in the City of Churches,” he said.

“We have a beautiful cathedral, schools, universities and recreational areas here. I love walking in Mt Lofty and walking along the shores of St Vincent’s Gulf. I admire the beauty of nature and discover in it the presence of God.”

Fr Skiba said he was also enjoying getting to know the members of the 6000-strong Polish community in Adelaide.

“My greatest joy as chaplain is to celebrate Mass, to administer sacraments and to preach the gospel in my native language. I like meeting with my compatriots and having deep conversations about God and the Church,” he said.

Prior to taking up his appointment in Adelaide, Fr Skiba, 41, spent two years as the assistant chaplain in the Brisbane Archdiocese and he has also worked with Polish communities in the United States and Canada.

Ordained in 2006, Fr Skiba said his calling to the priesthood came after he finished high school. He joined the Society of Christ – an order devoted to the care of Polish migrants – and graduated with a Master’s degree in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Warsaw.

As chaplain in Adelaide, Fr Skiba is also custodian of the diocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy located at the Resurrection Church in Unley and is the superior of the Society of Christ’s religious house in Woodville West.

While the first Polish migrants in South Australia date back to 1856, when a group built a settlement and church at Polish Hill River, it was after World War II when large numbers started to arrive. There was another influx of a ‘new generation’ of migrants in the 1980s when Poland was under martial law.

Fr Skiba said the Polish community was proud of its Catholic faith and heritage and was proactive in passing on the language, culture and traditions to younger members.

Some of their religious celebrations include a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the church on the feast day of Corpus Christi; on Holy Saturday the blessing and hallowing of dishes for Easter breakfast; and on November 11 – the anniversary Poland regaining independence – the community praying together at a Mass for the homeland.

“Twice a year we also make a pilgrimage to Polish Hill River and there we pray for the Poles who first came to Australia,” he said.

Polish Mass is normally celebrated by the Society of Christ at Resurrection Church, Unley; St Margaret Mary’s Church, Croydon; and St Augustine’s Church, Salisbury. The Resurrection Fathers celebrate services at St Maximilian Kolbe Church, Ottoway; and Mary Help of Christians Church, Morphett Vale.

 

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