Oblate Highlights: Fr. Mariusz Bosek, OMI
Father Mariusz Bosek, OMI is not a numbers guy. He’s a people person. How else to explain his dramatic ministry change.
After being ordained in 2003, Fr. Mariusz was assigned to St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Parish in Siedlce, Poland. The parish is one of the largest in Poland, with about 12,000 members. Every Sunday about 7,000 people attend Mass at the church.
Despite the vastness of his ministry, Fr. Mariusz felt isolated. There wasn’t much opportunity to work one-on-one with his parishioners. So Fr. Mariusz changed courses in a most dramatic way. He transferred to Uruguay. The number of people attending Sunday Mass at his parish there – about ten.
“It was definitely a culture shock,” said Fr. Mariusz. “My first Sunday in Uruguay I only saw 5 people. I was like, ‘What did I get myself into?’”
Father Mariusz’s journey to Uruguay began at age 17 when he attended an Oblate vocation retreat. He was attracted to the Oblates’ missionary life. After high school he entered the Oblate novitiate and was ordained in 2003.
Prior to his ordination, Fr. Mariusz and other Oblate seminarians were visited by an Oblate priest from Uruguay. He shared stories with the students about life in the missions in a far-off country. The stories had an impact on Fr. Mariusz who went to the chapel to pray about his future as a Missionary Oblate.
“I didn’t really think I wanted to go to Uruguay but while in prayer I kept thinking that this is where the Church needs me. I told myself I needed to go, it’s God’s wish,” said Fr. Mariusz.
After his ordination, Fr. Mariusz was asked by the Superior General to write down three locations where he would like to minister. Father Mariusz wrote down Uruguay on the first line, and left the other two blank.
Father Mariusz arrived in Uruguay in 2005. The first impressions weren’t very good. “They told me I didn’t need to bring a coat but when I got off the plane it was the coldest I had ever been in my life,” said Fr. Mariusz. “When I got to the house I went to take a shower and the biggest spider in the world was in there. It was like a horror movie.” But Fr. Mariusz wasn’t deterred.
“I told myself I could run away or I could fight. I’m a Missionary Oblate, so I stayed to fight,” said Fr. Mariusz. “There were even more spiders the next day but I wasn’t going to leave.”
Father Mariusz left one of the most Catholic countries in the world for one of the most secular. About one-percent of the population goes to church in Uruguay. Displaying one’s faith is almost taboo. If Fr. Mariusz went to a school he could not wear his collar or even a cross.
The Oblates have ministries in and around the capital city of Montevideo. They also have chapels outside of the city in rural areas where maybe a dozen people will attend Mass. Their ministries are focused less on formalities and more on building personal relationships.
When Fr. Mariusz arrived in Uruguay his neighbor, an atheist, was always calling the police saying the Catholics were too noisy with their singing and praying.
One day, the man’s son came to the church out of curiosity because he loves to sing and the “noisy” choir was practicing. The young man began to start coming regularly to sing along. He then started reading the Bible. Eventually, he began to attend Mass.
“He was an atheist like his dad but at our church he discovered that Jesus is alive,” said Fr. Mariusz. “Today that young man is an Oblate seminarian studying for the priesthood.”
After seven years in Uruguay, Fr. Mariusz returned to Poland, but he continued to be a missionary. He became the Assistant Director of the Oblates’ Mission Office, working to raise funds and awareness about Oblate missionaries around the world.
“Half of my heart is in Poland and half of my heart is still in Uruguay,” said Fr. Mariusz. Fortunately for the Oblates, Fr. Mariusz has a very big heart.
Original story & images provided by Mike Viola at Missionary Associates of Mary Immaculate.