Michal Tomaszewski, SVD
Seminarian Michal Tomaszewski, SVD was born in Bytom, Poland. He comes from a small family of four, having one older sister. Michal entered seminary formation in Poland in 2001 and professed First Vows as a Divine Word Missionary on September 29, 2002. He came to the United States to study English at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa in 2004. He completed two years of theology studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago before spending two years of practicum ministry experience in Papua New Guinea. He is now in the final two years of preparation for Final Vows and ordination, which is planned for May 2011. Michal would like to return to PNG after his ordination to serve the people he has come to love.
“May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word and the spirit of grace—And May the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all. Amen”
After years of prayerful reflection, this short prayer attributed to St. Arnold Janssen, the Founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, has become a program for my missionary journey.
I spent the last two years in Papua New Guinea (PNG) doing my Cross-Cultural Training Program as I repare for ordination to the priesthood. PNG is a culturally and geographically diverse country. There are about 800 different languages and only about 6 million people living there. Papuans are very socio-centric and tribal in their nature. Eighty percent of them still live very simply in houses made of bush material, and they garden or fish as their main source of livelihood (depending on the region). Customs and cultures vary from place to place. Two main regions which can be distinguished in PNG are the Highlands and the Coastland. The first missionaries arrived to the coast of PNG only in the 19th Century and to the Highlands in the mid-20th Century. Up to that time, the natives of that land were not known to the outside world and were living “in the Stone Age.”
Today, not too long since that time, primitive mentality, which is still much of their mindset, is mixed with the post-modern understandings and with everything that is called civilization. The same with the faith—there is much ambiguity in what they really believe and what they practice. Even though most Papuans claim themselves Christians today, their faith is still fresh and not deeply rooted. The same is true with living out their faith. One example is the traditional law of revenge (paying back) which certainly has stronger roots than Christian forgiveness or “turning the other cheek.” Devastating and harmful tribal fights are still very much part of their lives in many places. Domestic violence is another serious issue in PNG. So, much effort still must be made to teach the people about true Christian love.
As I reflect more deeply about this, I realize this task of Christian love is not only for PNG, but for peoples around the world. Wherever one looks, there is so much violence, misunderstandings, war, discrimination, jealousy and hatred. In the USA and my own native Poland—aren’t we mostly Christian? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we as Christians lived as we are called to live? I understood that mission is everywhere. So wherever I find myself, whether in the bush in Papua New Guinea, in the huge cities of the U.S., or anywhere else in the world, my primary missionary task is to inspire people to “fall in love” with Jesus so that truly “His heart may live in the hearts of all” just as St. Arnold prayed many years ago.