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Westminster Record May 2013

The Slovakian Catholic Mission Cyril and Methodius

By Br Barnaby Johns The Church of Our Lady of La Salette and St Joseph sits in the shadow of the tallest building in the European Union, the Shard. Under this flagship of modernity the Church is home to the Slovakian Catholic Mission (SCM) who will this year celebrate the 1150th anniversary of Saints Cyril Methodius bringing and Christianity to the Slavonic people. Something old, something new. The chaplaincy is run by Fr Tibor Borovsky who came to London in 2010 without ever studying English. Fr Tibor, ordained in 1988 in Bratislava and keen on travel, sport and music, muses on the character of the Slovakians living here in London: “When we come here we try to learn the language first and then to get to know the native culture and integrate ourselves in it. However, there’s something special about being a Slovak so we preserve our own identity and culture and we are proud of being who we are. Most of the Slovaks living in the UK, especially our SCM, are young people. Each of us has our own story to tell why he or she came to the UK. Some people came without any knowledge of the language and felt down. Now most of them speak fluent English and they have good jobs. I would say that Slovaks are hard-working, ambitious, open-minded, reliable, responsible and very friendly people. That is why I think they make good employees. We cover quite a wide range of working spheres - IT, cooks, waitresses, doctors, nurses, lawyers, managers, builders, hairdressers.” The SCM carry out strong faith formation programmes outreach work. At present five children and 16 catechumens are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation. There are also several Bible groups, regular Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, lectures and retreats.

1150 Years of Christianity

Our Lady of La Salette and St. Joseph which is home to the Slovakian Catholic Mission

Those wishing to be confirmed by a visiting Slovakian bishop are on a two year preparation course. Although the main residence for the SCM is in London, there is a pastoral outreach for Slovak as well as Czech people throughout the whole Great Britain. At the moment they have a new centre for the Slovak community in Peterborough, one in Birmingham and one opening in Manchester on 18 May. The SCM had an early evolution. A Jesuit, Fr Jan Lang, established the Czech-Moravian-Slovak Catholic Mission in London in 1949. It wasn’t until 2004 that the first Slovak priest Fr Jozef Vojtek joined the Chaplaincy. In 2007 the new and independent Slovak Catholic Mission (SCM) was set up in London by the Bishops’ Conference in Slovakia out of necessity for the Slovaks living here. Now about 200 people attend Mass every Sunday and 600 are

regular visitors. On 6 May the Dioceses of Westminster, Brentwood and Southwark celebrate the Mass for Migrants at Westminster Cathedral in which the Slovak community will play a significant role in the opening banner procession joining other communities in singing and bringing the gifts in our national costumes. “The Mass of Migrants is a unique opportunity for people of all nations, cultures and language to praise and worship Our Lord in one voice and in one spirit and present their culture and tradition,” explains Fr Tibor, “Here we can see that the Holy Spirit has no boundaries and the SCM is proud of to be part of it.” “We are also hoping to organise the first conference of ethnic minorities in London called ‘The Mission’ in October at Westminster Hall. This conference aims to unite all the ethnic minorities in faith and it

The Slovak Catholic Mission welcoming party when Pope Benedict visited Britain in 2010

intends to create a platform where Catholics will be able to come together and share their missionrelated knowledge and experience. Then the big celebration of the year will be for Ss Cyril and Methodius between 28 June – 9 July. We have a visiting Slovak professor from Bratislava to talk to us about the Saints, as well as a group of talented young actors who are preparing a theatrical performance about the life of Ss Cyril and Methodius, which they are going to perform in English parishes as well. It is very exciting and all are looking forward to it. See the website (www.scmlondon.org) for more details.” The SCM has very much an atmosphere of being a family, which is summed up in their Family Picnic which they will be organizing for the second year running.

In the effort of gaining the greatest possible autonomy from the growing influence of the Kingdom of the East Franks Prince Rastislav, ruler of Great Moravia, decided to establish his own Church in Moravia. He asked Byzantine emperor Michael III to send out Christian missionaries having knowledge of the language of the Slavs. He was granted that request and in 863, two learned brothers from Greek Solun (present-day Thessaloniki) reached Great Moravia – Constantine (later he adopted the monastic name of Cyril) and Methodius. And thus an important chapter of Slovak history began to be written. Cyril and Methodius became teachers and they showed the Slavs the way to wisdom, by teaching them reading and writing. They put together the first Slavonic system of writing, the Glagolitic script, and based on Slavonic dialects Cyril created the ecclesiastical language – Old Church Slavonic. Into which both brothers translated important parts of the Bible. Thanks to these advances church services began to be conducted in the Old Church Slavonic. Thus, for the first time, Slavs could understand the words said during Mass because until then, priests said the Mass exclusively in Latin.

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Parish Profile - Slovakian Catholic Mission