After 10 years as a missionary in Kenya, Fr Mariusz Kubista SVD has arrived in Myanmar, saying he is keen to get to know the people and help establish the AUS Province’s new mission in the south-east Asian nation.
“My hope personally is to fulfil the will of God,” he says. “But for the mission started here, I would say my hope is to reach out to people in their local language, both in the written and spoken form.”
Fr Mariusz was born in 1972 in Tychy, Poland, but grew up in Katowice. After graduating from school, he studied to become a Transport Engineer and then worked for a computer company.
But, in 2000, his life took a turn when he responded to a vocational call to enter the Divine Word Missionaries in Poland. He took his final vows on September 29, 2007 and in April the following year he was awarded a Master of Art in Theology and was ordained a priest on May 10.
His first assignment was to the Kenya and Tanzania Province, but from September 2008 to March 2009, he studied English in the Philippines. He then went to Morogo, Tanzania to undertake a course in the Kiswahili language, after which, he worked in parishes in both Kenya and Tanzania.
“After spending almost 10 years in Ken/Tan Province, I realised that the situation of the Church in that part of Africa is well established, with plenty of local vocations, good structures in place, so I started to think about something else, where I could realise my missionary vocation, a place where the Church is in the process of building, where I can use my experience,” he says.
“It happened that in our Arnoldus Nota (the international newsletter of the SVD), I found an article about Myanmar, about the invitation from Cardinal Charles Bo for the SVD AUS Province to establish a mission there, and about our positive response.”
Fr Mariusz says he was immediately interested, and he wrote to AUS Provincial, Fr Henry Adler asking for a transfer to Myanmar.
He arrived in Myanmar, together with Fr Tuyen Nguyen SVD, in May this year and their first priority has been to begin learning the language and to continue working on the SVD house in Hmawbi.
“We were given a house by the bishop to further our ministry here, but the house needed a lot of renovation, which was done before we came here by Fr Truc and Fr John, and I have to day they did a great job.
“But my initial focus is to finish the house and the chapel and then to focus on what kind of ministry we can do with the house because at the moment we have just an empty hall and rooms.”
Fr Mariusz says he is learning the Burmese language at the University of Yangon and also working on setting up a website for the new mission.
“And I’m trying to be more and more involved in the parish activities, like English Masses, Bible sharing and so on, as well as participating in diocesan events to get to know the local priests and their roles and how the Church functions here.”
Preparations are also getting underway for the official blessing of the SVD house, which is planned for December 16.
He says that while there are plenty of challenges in setting up a new mission in a different country, his years in Kenya prepared him well to get through such challenges.
“It gave me a lot of experience in how to go through the things we don’t understand or that look strange to us,” he says.
“One of the biggest challenges is communication. Very few people speak English and the alphabet here is unique and sounds are unique, so reading, writing, speaking and listening is really a challenge.”
Despite the challenges, Fr Mariusz says he is already experiencing joy in his new assignment.
“I think for us who work between and with the people, the biggest joy is to see people being open to us, welcoming us; people who are ready to listen, to cooperate, who want to change and live better,” he says.
“In a country which is considered as one of the poorest in the world, to see such openness is not only a joy, but it gives us a lot of motivation and strength to get through the difficulties and to continue the job we have started.”
TOP RIGHT: Fr Mariusz (far left) with parishioners in Myanmar
BOTTOM LEFT: Fr Mariusz and confreres outside the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.