A Polish priest based in Co. Dublin believes the Covid-19 pandemic is changing and deepening our understanding of what the Eucharist is about.
Fr Dominic Zwierzychowski OMI from Poznan says the faithful, despite being kept apart physically, are feeling a greater sense of togetherness during these difficult times.
In an interview with The Irish Catholic, the 28-year-old clergyman described his faith journey, his online outreach work with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Inchicore and how the real presence is driving a new community.
“I was ordained in 2018 in Poland and I worked there for one year as a pastoral assistant in one of the parishes close to Gdansk,” he says.
“After one year, I was then sent here to the Anglo-Irish province and I am now one of the priests in the Inchicore pastoral area.
“My task is to work together with others here and I also help out around Bluebell.
“We have the parish, two primary schools – a smaller and a bigger one, and are involved in the area in St John of Gods services for people who have many disabilities.
“I am trying to maintain that because in communications I am doing the website, Facebook account and also our daily Mass and different services around the Church beginning from the time of the pandemic.”
Fr Dominic says he went to Church regularly in high school growing up, but only discovered what real faith is once he went to a retreat in his school.
“I was touched very deeply by it and I was thinking from that moment on about myself and how Jesus is present in my life,” he recalls.
“I realised that all of this was faith and when I started in the retreat in our congregation (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) I was knowing the faith more and more.
“I was also asking myself ‘what would I like to do with my life?’ and at around the same time, I met the Oblates so I decided that I would try; I joined as a novitiate and decided ‘that’s it, that’s exactly it’.”
While living in his home country, Fr Dominic always wanted to work abroad and, through his family connections in the UK, decided that he wanted to work in Ireland.
He moved over here last year and is now a parish priest, and part of the communications team for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate where he combines his two roles to facilitate the order’s outreach programme to the community digitally.
“I thought that we could extend this presence to an online presence,” he says, “with things like articles, videos, Mass online as well to the parish level.
“This is part of my work, I just connected it together with my duties for and in the parish.”
The onset of Covid-19, according to Fr Dominic, has both “deepened” parishioners understanding of the Eucharist and brought them closer together.
This, he says, has allowed for there to be a real presence felt which is giving rise to a “new kind” of community.
“Over the course of this pandemic,” he says, “I have noticed that we are changing our way of understanding what the Eucharist is all about.
“Due to the coronavirus, I have had to think about this for my own sake, and for the parishioners that partake in the Eucharist, that it is not just simply Holy Communion in taking the Body and Blood of Christ; it is also the presence of the community.
“We have this presence of community in this special, proper moment of the day and we are gathering together as a real community and pray together.
“Jesus is present in this community and we really listen to the word of God every day; the Bible readings, Jesus and his presence in the Church, the Bible and the scriptures as well.
“As a result of the crisis, we were and we are still able to understand more deeply what the presence of the Lord is really all about in the Church, so we have deepened this understanding I would say.
“I feel that we are real community around the Eucharist,” Fr Dominic continues.
“Every day and every morning at 10:15am there are between 20-40 people who partake in this Eucharist together, so I feel the real existence and presence of this new kind of community.
“On one hand, I would say that we have found having Mass or whatever online… to be a struggle, particularly during this pandemic, as I am mostly alone and I don’t feel this physical presence in the Mass.
“On the other hand, I am very much inspired because now, after more than three months of our online presence, we have a huge and very vocal group of community.
“We are sending greetings to each other every day before and during the Mass and people are sending their intentions.”