On May 15, 2021, the Franciscan Scientific Society of Cracow organized a symposium to answer the question: “Is the time during the pandemic a time of suffering and trial—or an opportunity to deepen one’s spiritual development and build interpersonal relationships? The speakers approached the issue from historical, pastoral, moral, spiritual and practical perspectives.
Friar Andrzej HEJNOWICZ explained the term “epidemic” and lectured on the history of epidemics in Europe during antiquity and in the Middle Ages. He spoke about the effects of epidemics, the search for their cause, the methods to combat them, and even the patrons saints who protect against them, such as the Mother of God and St. Sebastian.
Friar Jerzy BRUSIŁO lectured on modern epidemics. He spoke about the beginnings of SARS; the original repository of the virus; how the epidemic developed; why viruses exist in human life; the scientific approach to study an epidemic and the diseases resulting from infection; the attitudes towards an epidemic; the reactions of the Church and society to the Coronavirus; the measures taken to combat it; the moral problems associated with it; pastoral care during the pandemic; pastoral apostolates in the face of the epidemic; and the challenges it poses in carrying out pastoral ministry.
Friar Piotr CUBER, the Guardian of the St. Francis Friary in Cracow, described the progress of the pandemic in his own friary and analyzed the challenges the entire community faced. He talked about the decisions that were made at the time, the attitude of the friars, solidarity, and the use of outside help in order to supplement pastoral service at the basilica in Cracow, keeping it open that way for more than a year.
Friar Marian GOŁĄB, Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow), briefly summarized the period of the pandemic in the Province. He spoke about the charitable initiatives for the needy and the sick which the friars implemented; the mutual assistance that went on between the quarantined friaries in Cracow, Kalwaria Pacławska, and Sanok; the prayers proposed for this calamity; the broadcasting of liturgical functions, online Masses and pastoral group meetings; celebrating an Ordinary Provincial Chapter face to face and online; the “Adopt a Doctor” campaign; and the attitude of the missionaries who remained with the faithful.
In summarizing the symposium, Friar Zbigniew WÓJCIK noted that, along with the changes in the way society functioned in public, there were also changes in the way people participated in the sacraments and religious celebrations.
The symposium was led by Friar Marek FIAŁKOWSKI. He also gave a homily during the Mass which crowned the event.
Friar Jan M. SZEWEK