Welcome to the website of Camillians in Georgia. Father Akaki Chelidze, Father Paweł Dyl, Father Zygmunt NiedĽwiedĽ, Camillian Sisters, the Lay Camillian Family and volunteers from around the world serve the poor and the sick coming from that beautiful Caucasian country.
Father Pawel Szczepanek
Ojciec PAWEŁ SZCZEPANEK
He was born on the 12th of September 1961 in Kamienna Gora. He joined novitiate on the 14th of September 1987 in Tarciszow, his first monastic profession began on the 8th of September 1988 in Tarciszow as well. He took holy orders on the 22nd of May 1993 in Warsaw.
Since the 1st of August 1993 he worked as a curate in Biala. Later, in November 1995 he went to Rome to prepare himself for the mission in Georgia. There he broadened his knowledge of Italian, Russian, Georgian and Old Church Slavonic in order to be able to celebrate church services in Eastern Orthodox rite. He was also a student of the Pontifical Oriental Institute where he learned the spirituality and the liturgy of the Eastern Catholic Church. At the same time he worked in chaplaincy for Poles living in Rome and local Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service. On the 7th of April 1997 he went to Tbilisi. He worked in our centre Redemptor Hominis in Tbilisi - as chaplain in the clinic and the Hospice. He took also care of candidates for the Order and was the promoter of vocations. On the 2nd of May 1997 he became the parish priest of Xisabavra and Vargavi.
He died tragically on the 21st of July in Tbilisi at the age of 37.
May God reward him for all the good that he had done to so many people in need as well as to our order!
The corpse was brought from Georgia on the evening of the 29th of July on Okecie airport in Warsaw. The funeral took place in Kamienna Gora on the 31st of July 1999.
More pictures of Father Pawel can be found here.
Letter from Father Nino Martini, superior of House in Tbilisi - to Provincial Superior Father Ernest Szleger
Polyclinic "Redemptor Hominis" Tbilisi, 22nd of July 1999.
Dear Father Provincial, because of tragic circumstances I have to write this letter. Unfortunately, Father Pawel Szczepanek has departed from this world forever at about 9 o'clock on Wednesday, 21st of July this year. As a good and saintly person serving the sick he died when performing his ministry.
On Monday afternoon 19th of July he and a group of ten young leaders of Prayer and Christian Life Group went to Caucasus mountains (Druscati) to spend the next day there on prayers and pondering the word of God. They spent the nights of 19th/20th and 20th/21st in tents without any problems. On the 20th of July they celebrated Mass among the trees. Father Pawel was happy as usual and especially when he was with young people who worshipped him in a special way. He was like a brother, friend and father for them. The fruits of vocation are obvious for everyone. They have been entrusted to God's Grace and oriented to commitment to the Christian Life. Father Pawel was able to arouse it in young people and it was a gift for the whole Church. In the morning on the 21st of July at 8 o'clock he went back by car (Land Rover) together with 5 girls, behind him was a Niva with a driver and 5 boys. The road was a bit slippery because it rained at night but it did not seemed too dangerous. Besides, father Pawel was already an experienced driver; he drove a lot in different conditions when carrying out his Camillian and priest duties in parishes Xisabavra and Vargavi, 2000 meters above sea level.
We have no certainty what exactly happened after about 30 minutes after departure. They should get to Tbilisi in two hours' time and there was no need to hurry. Traffic police, who came to the place where the accident happened, came to following conclusions: when driving down, Father Pawel in his Land Rover lost control of the car, maybe because of falling asleep or another indisposition or a heart attack (the autopsy has not ended yet) and hit a truck coming from the opposite direction with large force. There are no tracks of using brakes or skid on the road; after the collision the car bounced 10 meters back. The Niva car that was just behind Father Pawel did not participate in that accident - it was 100 meters away on a winding road.
The rescuers noticed immediately Father Pawel's serious condition when they took him out from the Land Rover which became a pile of bent metal sheets. At that moment he was still breathing and his heart was beating very feebly. He was dead when they reached the nearest hospital.
We were immediately notified by phone about the accident and we went together with our doctors to a hospital less then one hour's drive away and unfortunately we saw father Pawel dead. Five girls that were with him were taken to the hospital but there is no direct life risk for them. When they will recover we will have an account of what they remember.
The autopsy conducted on the 21st after several hours from the accident showed that the liver broke to pieces, the spleen and the portal vein ruptured, six ribs and the backbone was broken as well. The heart was still examined whether there was a heart attack. Apart from this matter - of - fact description of what happened, dear Father, there is a witness of priest and Camillian life that Father Pawel could give in that country. A continuous procession of simple and poor people crying who visit him now, lying in his beautiful white habit in our house, is a telling evidence of what I have described above. Papal nuncio, bishop Zurbriggen, Apostolic Administrator bishop Pesotto, all diocesan clergy and the congregation bewail a great loss of their friend, brother and father. Young Camillian mission owes a lot to Father Pawel and now it can commend itself to his heavenly intercession. The emptiness that he left is possible to be filled in only thanks to faith, hope and certainty of God's help that He will not take the joy away from His sons forever if he will not give them a bigger one.
Dear Father I am speaking about Father Pawel as if he were saint. During those two years that I spent with him, happy and full of enthusiasm, I could only admire his piety, goodness, availability, devotion, apostolic zealousness and complete dedication in his ministry of a Camillian priest. I do not know how you call such persons but I call them "saints" and I am sure that his help from heaven to this little Camillian mission will never end. I do not want to unnecessary prolong this letter. I will try to hand you over a copy of police report when it will be possible.
On Saturday 24th we will carry Father Pawel to his parish Xisabavra where the Apostle Administrator will celebrate funeral Mass at 12 o'clock with us, local priests and people that had the good fortune and privilege to experience his Camillian and priest ministry. On Monday 26th in St. Peter and Paul's church in Tbilisi at 15 o'clock with Papal Nuncio present we will celebrate memorial service. On Tuesday 27th body of Father Pawel will be transported by British Airways and the plane will land in Warsaw at about 20.50.
With eyes full of tears I am very close to you, dear Provincial Superior Father as well as to co - Brothers of such generous Polish Province that brings up so great Camillians. God certainly knows best how to repay you in his way sending you other holy vocations in his endless generosity.
Dearest Father please accept my deepest condolences, I also ask you to send it to Father Pawel's Family, adding that after going through such great pain they have honor and pride left that they gave the Order and the Church such a great son.
Joined in prayers together with warm and brotherly greetings
o. (Ivan) Nino Martini OSCam
Letter from father Antonio Menegon - Piedmont Provincial - to his co - brothers
Dearest co - brothers, I am writing to you from Tbilisi where I am waiting for transporting Father Pawel's body to Warsaw.
Since that memorable morning, on Wednesday 21st of July when I received the message about Father Pawel's tragic death, there have gathered many feelings in me, pervaded by pain and fright because of that tragedy that was so surprising to the Georgian mission, the Polish and our (Piedmont) Province and the whole Order. Why God? Why just him? Why now? "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my roads are not your roads, says Lord". But why can't we understand it?
He was a good man, simple, generous, full of joy and enthusiasm in his Camillian vocation. He was a man in love with God, with great faith, completely flexible for others. He handed over all his talents to young people in order to help them to choose the right life way. He sowed love and harvested love. Those passing days prove meaningfully how much Father Pawel loved and was loved by everybody. He was coming back from a day and nights dedicated to prayer with a group of leaders when, from still unknown reasons (his condition has suddenly deteriorated, a heart attack?), he lost control of the car, crashed into a truck coming from an opposite direction and died almost instantly.
Already Wednesday afternoon, on the 21st of July, the body of Father Pawel was brought to our house and a continuous procession of crying people who watched over and prayed for his dearest brother and father started immediately. I was deeply moved by such great evidence of faith and love. Boys and girls with eyes swollen from tears, praying day and night, reminded me of Jesus by Lazarus" grave: "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" (J 11, 33-36).
On Saturday 24th of July we moved the body of Father Pawel to his beloved parish in Chisabavra. The whole village was waiting for him, all of them crying. I am still emphasizing those tears because I have never seen anything like that, men used to hard work in the fields with eyes brimming with tears as if they were children! The coffin with Father Pawel was raised and as if triumphantly carried in procession to the church where the Eucharist was celebrated with Apostle Administrator, priests of this rising Georgian diocese and our Camillian co - brothers and sisters present. It was a long celebration where the pain because of Father Pawel's loss became songs, prayers, giving witness about the departed, a cry that did not end. These poor people after so many years, too many years of isolating them from God, had in Father Pawel, who came from far away, someone who did well, who paid attention to problems, fears, suffering of each of them. He was loved so much because he loved so much. On Monday in St. Peter and St. Paul's parish in Tbilisi with Papal Nuncio, Apostle Administrator, priests, monks, nuns and a crowd of people we celebrated funeral Mass.
Now, when I am writing to you, I am waiting for the formalities to be fixed to transfer the body of Father Pawel to his homeland where he will be buried. Father Pawel's stay in Georgia was rather short, only a bit over two years, but it was as a whole life. He could be loved by everyone, especially by the young people, as they were his life and he gave them everything. "He taught us how to live" said one of the girls to Father Giuseppe, Apostle Administrator. He was always smiled, full of God's love and always ready to serve everyone. It is a great loss for our Camillian mission, for the Georgian Church, for the Order, which will be difficult to fill in. The four candidates to the Order who are bewailing him in Italy are his first fruits and the joy of his heart that now beats for God only.
Dear co - brothers, I wanted to write this several lines to you to share with you my pain, as well as Father Nino's and Father Cesare's who participated together with me in Father Pawel's funeral. Now when Father Pawel contemplates God's smiled face, in Heavenly Father's embrace, he will surely pray for us all, for the Georgian mission, for his young people and he will continue his mission from heaven. Faith in Resurrection wins with death, the joy from evening's Passover ease our pain and that is why, although with difficulties, supported by our faith, we say together with Job: "the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Hi 1, 21).
Together with me, Father Nino, Father Cesare, Sister Maria, Elsi and Corina give you their greetings.
o. Antonio Menegon OSCam. Provincial
Tbilisi 27th of July 1999.
The sermon of Papal Nuncio in Georgia, Piotr Stefan Zurbriggen during funeral Mass in Tbilisi, 26th of July 1999
Dear brothers and sisters! My presence among you today, apart from being a sign of unity with those that knew and loved dear Father Pawel, is above all the presence of the One that I represent in Georgia - the Pope John Paul II. In His name I express the closeness of heart and mind of our Church Shepherd, the Pope, to all who bewail untimely death of Father Pawel Szczepanek. His prayer and His blessing are spiritual support and solace to our human heart that rebels and saddens when going through the secret of death in this moment of pain and sorrow. We know, in the light of the faith that we believe in, that the Father of mercy and all solace, who loves us the eternal love, turns the darkness of death into the morning star of life. His Son, Jesus Christ, defeated death when dying and restore us to life when he rose from the death. Jesus entrusted Peter and his successors with the mission of confirming brothers in their faith (Luke 22, 32). The Pope is with us today spiritually, he prays with us and confirms us in the Christian faith that sees a passage, Passover in death - personal meeting with Jesus, the "first - born" among those that were resurrected (1 Corinthians 15, 20-23) - in real participation in the secret of His death and resurrection and so in His Passover victory.
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the same day when God, in His mysterious will, called to Him His faithful servant - priest and monk Father Pawel - the Pope delivered a beautiful religious instruction on: "Heaven the best unity with God" during the General Audience in Vatican. It is just a pure coincidence? I believe not! I see in it a sign of God's mercy who, through the voice of the high priest, gives us an answer to our suffering and question: why? Why has this sudden death taken Father Pawel, dear to all, away from us, when we could expect so much from him?
In our pain because of Father Pawel's death we find in the Pope's words a light in sadness, confidence in doubts and strength to stand the suffering. The Pope's word comforts us, strengthens us, confirms us in the faith that death is not the end of everything but the birth to a new life. The Pope says: "Those that have taken God in their life and are honestly open to His love, will be able to joy in full communion with Him at the end in the moment of death". Besides, the Pope wanted to remember us that Heaven or Blessing are not abstract concepts or a physical place outside the clouds but " a relation experienced personally in unity with the Holy Trinity. Heaven is our meeting with Father that takes place in Resurrected Christ, in the Holy Spirit's communion." (General Audience, Wednesday 21st of July 1999) By these words, dear brothers and sisters, the Pope enlightens our faith, gives us solace and peace in faith, strengthens us and in that way He shows His participation in our pain. Once strengthened, we can live in faith and hope in pain because of Father Pawel's death since we believe that death is the coping stone of life, gradually transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that gives life.
From my heart of hearts I offer my condolences as well as a cordial closeness in prayer in the Pope's as well as my own name to everybody present here and in a special way to: Father Pawel's family in Poland, His monastic family, Fathers Camillians, provincial Father Antoni Menegon and father Cezary from Italy; Co - brothers: Father Nino Martini who shared „the burden of the day and scorching heat" with the departed and Father Mariano Florio from Ashotzk (Armenia); St. Camil's Daughters; the clinic "Redemptor hominis" staff, His Excellency bishop Giuseppe Pasotto who has lost a valuable associate and all Presbyterian ministers of Caucasus Latin Apostle Administration; the Xisabavra parish; children, young people who have found a real Camillian in Father Pawel, always ready for work, generous in preaching the Gospel and soothing both bodily as well as spiritual pain.
Father Provicial, I can testify that Father Pawel was a humble, noble and happy Camillian. St. Camil wants his sons to be like that; Father Pawel was like that and in that way we got to know him and loved him. We thank God for giving us Father Pawel! Let's pray so that God take Father Pawel, who followed the path of perfect love, to community of saints. May he always live, happy in full communion with Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Peter Stephan Zurbriggen
More pictures of Father Pawel can be found here.