On August 2-21, 2021, an ongoing formation course for confreres celebrating ten years of solemn profession was held at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Center in Harmęże, near Auschwitz, Poland. The course was organized by the Foederatio Europae Mediae et Orientalis (FEMO) and was directed by Friar Bogdan KOCAŃDA, OFM Conv.

Thirteen friars from four Jurisdictions participated. There were six friars from the Province of St. Anthony and Blessed James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow); three from the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in Poland (Gdańsk); two from the Province of the Immaculate Mother of God in Poland (Warsaw); and two from the Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M. in Slovakia. During the first two weeks of the course, the days began with the Conventual Mass and Morning Prayer. The mornings were devoted to lessons, which lasted until noon. The theme of the first week was mainly about human formation. Joanna MAZUREK, a psychologist from Żywiec, gave a presentation on emotional freedom in the context of human needs. Marek WÓJCIK, a marriage counselor from Bulowice, spoke about interpersonal communication. Friar Łukasz BUKSA, OFM, from Cracow, addressed the issue of contemporary challenges and threats, with particular emphasis on nomophobia (the fear of being disconnected from the mobile network) and the compulsive use of smartphones. Michał JURKIEWICZ, a family counselor and psychotherapist from Gliwice, spoke about existential and vocational crises.
The second week dealt with Franciscan themes and the topic of leadership. Friar Błażej STRZECHMIŃSKI, OFM Cap., from Tenczyn, spoke about the identity of religious in the Franciscan tradition. Friar Alojzy WAROT, OFM, from Cracow, outlined the contemporary image of the Friar Minor. Friar Marek FIAŁKOWSKI, OFM Conv., from Lublin, gave a presentation on “The Conventual Franciscan as a Formator for Catholic Laity.” The conferences of the second week culminated with the testimony of Rafał PIECH, the Mayor of Siemianowice Śląskie, and Michał ŁUKASIK, a retired police chief of the Żywiec District. They spoke about the service of leadership in the lay faithful. Finally, there was a lecture by Friar Bogdan KOCAŃDA, OFM Conv., on “The Service of Leadership in Imitation of Jesus in the Religious Community and in the Apostolate.” The afternoons and evenings were filled with fraternal activities. One highlight during this part of the day was the “fraternal round table” where the course participants were able to share their experiences in various areas. Leisure time was set aside for recreational activities, movies, hiking, biking or going for a drive. Day trips were organized so the friars could get to know the area better. During one of these outings, the friars visited Żywiec Castle and the “Golgotha of Beskidy”. Other destinations included Wadowice, Wisła, the Auschwitz museum and the trails on Mount Beskidy.
On August 8, the participants took part in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the confreres in Rychwałd, Poland. On August 14, the friars went to Harmęże to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe.
During the last week of the course, they took part in a spiritual retreat led by Friar Ireneusz TOCZYDŁOWSKI, OFM, Director of the Zacchaeus Community and School of New Evangelization in Cieszyn, Poland. In his catechesis and homilies, Friar Ireneusz focused on the person of the Holy Spirit and his action among human beings, with references to biblical images and the Franciscan tradition. The content of his lesson served as an introduction to Evening Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.