On February 1-4, 2024, the Minister General, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, visited the friars in Sweden for the first time in his mandate.
Our friars have been present in this great Scandinavian country since 1990, when the Province of Gdańsk in Poland opened a mission in Jönköping. It was a symbolic choice since Jönköping was the same city where the first Conventual presence was established in 1283 and continued until the Protestant Reformation.
The first friars came to Sweden as early as 1233, to Visby, on the island of Gotland. Since 2019, the friars have been living in Motola, not far from Jönköping. Their filial house will soon become a friary. There are seven friars total living in Sweden. Six are from the Province of Gdańsk and one is from the General Custody of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Italy (Assisi). During his visit, the Minister General was accompanied by his Private Secretary, Friar Silvano BIANCO and the Assistant General for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF), Friar Igor SALMIČ. The visit began in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, where the Minister General was welcomed by the Delegate of the mission in Sweden, Friar Rafał ZARZYCKI. They next visited the historic city center, in particular, the site of our former friary (dated 1268), and the St. Francis Church, now Lutheran.
Next, they visited the friar community in Motola, where Friars Arkadiusz SKODOWSKI, Piotr ZACHAREWICZ and Marcin MAZUR reside. Their pastoral service consists of spiritual assistance to the Brigidine Nuns in Vadstena, a Catholic center in Sweden, and the Benedictine Sisters in Omberg. In addition, the friars offer pastoral assistance to the parish church in Linköping, upon which the church in Motola depends. Also significant was their trip to the ancient ruins in Alvastra, where the first monastery in Sweden was built, founded by the Cistercians in 1143.
On the afternoon of February 2, they visited the friar community in Jönköping, which is comprised of Friars Rafał ZARZYCKI, Joseph NILSSON, Władisław MĘŻYK, and Andrzej WALKOWIAK. They do pastoral ministry in a very busy parish that extends over a vast territory and includes other neighboring cities. The church in Jönköping is frequented by the faithful from different countries, such as Croatia, the Philippines, Poland and others. There are faithful representing different rites as well, such as the Chaldean and Syriac rites. The friars also celebrate Masses at another parish church in the nearby town of Nässjö. The parish in Jönköping has many active groups: a choir, a youth group, the Secular Franciscans, Caritas [a charitable works organization] and members of the Neocatechumenal Way. Liturgies are celebrated at the church with admirable care and dignity.
One of the special features of the work our friars do is maintaining a presence in social media. They run a thematic YouTube channel called Katolsk Horisont. It is capable of reaching many faithful and just as many new viewers who are attracted by the evangelical and Franciscan message. The church in Jönköping is the most visited in the Catholic church in Sweden; the same goes for its website, which offers a lot of content on Christian formation and evangelization: www.katolsk-horisont.net
The friars’ dedication to their pastoral ministry is very significant, as is the response from the Catholic faithful, who make up less than 2% of the population of Sweden. However, as in Finland, the Catholic flock in Sweden is growing and offers signs of hope for the Church in Europe.
We thank the friars for organizing everything so well and for their excellent hospitality.
Friar Igor SALMIČ