The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Trzebinia, Poland, proudly displayed the church’s universality during a three-hour live-streamed Mass on Polish Catholic television, to officially welcome Salvatorian Bishop Karol Kulczycki SDS as the 12th Bishop of Port Pirie (formerly Port Augusta) on 29 September 2020.
The Port Pirie Diocese is one of the largest in Australia stretching from Uluru to Port Lincoln and from the Western Australian border to the River Murray.
Bishop Kulczycki made history as the first priest to be ordained a Bishop from the Polish-Salvatorian province on Australian soil.
The Australian celebrations took place at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Port Pirie on 28 October, with the installation concelebrated by past and present bishops from the Adelaide Province.
“Due to COVID-19, I could not return to Australia for a while and instead God blessed me with two amazing celebrations, with many people from all over the world reaching out to me to express their prayers and support upon the announcement of my appointment – I honestly could not ask for more,” he said.
“It was extremely meaningful and emotional in the best way, a blessing to have the Mass at the basilica where I was first ordained to the priesthood in Trzebinia, back in 1994.
“Yes, there was much preparation and coordination to do in terms of organising the Mass, speaking to bishops for advice, guidance and support – which was a busy time for me and all who helped behind the scenes, but it was very important that I prepare myself spiritually. So, I dedicated one week, where I went away in private to the monastery to have the time to reflect, give thanks, pray and rely on God’s grace as I humbly accepted this new role,” Bishop Kulczycki added.
Born in Poland in 1966, Bishop Kulczycki previously spent 21 years as a missionary priest in the dioceses of Perth, Bunbury and Geraldton (from 1997), before returning to Poland in 2018 after being elected Vice-Provincial of the Polish province of the Society of the Divine Saviour.
Reflecting on his journey, Bishop Kulczycki shared that although he had always been a Church-going Catholic, it was a mere 15 minutes of deep contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament as an 18-year old, that would change his life forever.
“I attended a Salvatorian-run retreat, and like any other teenager, I took this as a time to spend time with friends, we celebrated Mass every morning, participating in all the activities planned without putting much thought into it.
“On one of the days, the priest challenged us to sit before the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes. I had never prayed for so long in my life, I thought to myself!
“For the first 15 minutes I was praying the traditional prayers and not really concentrating at times, but for the final 15 minutes, as I knelt there in silence, something amazing happened.
“I heard a strong call by God, calling me by name, and a voice asking me what I am going to do about it?”
Bishop Kulczycki left the retreat a changed man but vowed that he would give himself three years to complete his studies, before making any further decisions.
“There were times that I tried to make other plans for my future, but for those three years, everything I did always directed me back to the priesthood and it was then that I knew, there was nothing left to do, but to drop everything, and follow Him.
“I find it amazing to recount that after becoming a priest in the Salvatorian order, my first placement was at the vocations office, running retreats for young people, the same kind of retreats that led me to realise my very own vocation!
“It was at the vocations office that I also met many fellow priests from different countries, many who served in Australia – and another calling to serve God in another part of the world was answered – the rest was history!”
In a statement prior to the ceremony, Bishop Karol said God has always worked in “mysterious ways” in his life.
“Firstly, calling me unexpectedly to religious and priestly life; secondly, directing my heart to serve Him in Australia and now serving Him and His people in Port Pirie Diocese,” he said.
During the Australian installation service, Bishop Karol spoke of the three components of building a “family of families” – common home, common table and common goal.
“I relate how God is working in our daily life, by giving relating it to a relationship between an idealistic family-life. For me, these three factors are extremely important, as a family of God in His church – a place we can all call home, sit together at the same table (although sometimes challenging) is a step in building strong communities.
“Building our relationship with God, through the three components mentioned above. By understanding our human relationships and the importance, we can understand how God is working with us, and in us.
“My mission will always be to be opened to God’s call, to go wherever He leads, to serve His people,” he concluded.
By Amanda Murthy. Reproduced with permission from Issue 29 (February 2021) of The Record Magazine, the official news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.