On November 28-29, 2021, Friar Igor SALMIČ, the Assistant General for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF) visited our confreres in Sweden. He was accompanied by Friar Tomislav CVETKO, Director of the mission in Denmark
In Sweden there are a total of seven friars living in two communities. One community is located in Jönköping and the other is in Motala. The mission in Sweden is a presence of the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in Poland (Gdańsk). The members of both communities belong to the same Jurisdiction in Poland, with the exception of Friar Joseph NILSSON, a friar of Swedish origin, who is a member of the General Custody of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Italy (Assisi).
The friars first arrived in Jönköping, Sweden, in 1990. For many years, Jönköping was the only presence. Then, in 2019, a second friary was erected in Motala.
There are three friars living in Jönköping, including Friar Rafał ZARZYCKI, the Director of the mission in Sweden. The friary is next to a parish church. Masses there are celebrated in Swedish, English, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian, and Vietnamese. They are also celebrated according to several different rites, namely, Latin, Chaldean, Syriac and Malabar. There are many communities of migrants and foreign workers in the city and its surroundings. Every Sunday, around a thousand faithful attend the Masses. The friars also hear confessions. In addition, the friars serve at another parish 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Jönköping. The number of active faithful is even more impressive if we consider that only 1% of the population in Sweden is Catholic. The entire country of Sweden is covered by one diocese headed by His Eminence, Anders Cardinal ARBORELIUS, Bishop of Stockholm. He was created a cardinal in 2017.
Historically, our friars have been present in Jönköping since 1282. In fact, they settled next to Munksjön Lake (Friars’ Lake) and remained there until the arrival of Protestantism in 1545. During this period of “pre-reformation” there were as many as thirty friaries in Sweden.
Motala, the location of the second community, lies 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Jönköping, on the shore of the immense Lake Vättern). The friary, which has four friars, was erected in 2019. The main reason for establishing a friary there was to provide spiritual assistance to the Brigidine Sisters of Vadstena and the Benedictine Sisters of Borensberg. Before the arrival of the friars, the Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe had been a Free Protestant church. Today, Masses in Motala are also celebrated in several languages.
On their way to Motala, the visiting friars stopped at two historically significant sites. The first was the Cistercian Abbey in Alvastra, founded in 1143. Today only its ruins remain. The abbey is considered the oldest monastery in Sweden. The second site was in Vadstena, the place where St. Bridget of Sweden founded an abbey. The 14th century complex is still partially preserved and there are Brigidine Sisters still living in Vadstena today.
Once again, we offer our profound thanks to the friars of the mission in Sweden for their fraternal welcome.
Friar Igor SALMIČ, Assistant General for the CEF Federation