It’s Sunday morning. After the Holy Mass for young families, 30-year-old Maciej quickly removes some biscuit crumbs with the vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hania is running around laughing happily and continuing to crumble. The vacuum cleaner is quiet – but its noise doesn’t fit into a church.
That’s not the only reason why those who like traditional things will feel quite lost in the church of the parish of Lacina. Even from the outside, the church of the youngest congregation in the city of Poznan (Posen) in western Poland looks very different from other Catholic churches: there is no steeple and no church bells, the portal is a glass door on the ground floor between a real estate dealer and a dentist’s office.
The interior of the former shop that houses the Church of Lacina is reminiscent of IKEA – but there is no smell of furniture or incense here, more like a normal apartment. The light is also very different from other churches, not dim but bright. There is a sofa against the wall of the prayer room. Next to it is a kitchenette with a sink and two ready-to-use coffee machines.
Cafe Latte or Cappuccino? No problem at all, just a quick push of a button for “Aunt Dominika”, as the community manager is affectionately called here. The 25-year-old, whose real name is Dominika Iwasiuta, takes care of everything from appointments to administrative matters to the guitar, which is the only musical instrument in the church. There are no municipal office hours because you can always come here, she tells DW.
Evangelism in the new development area
The new Lacina district is largely a construction site. In many places there are excavators and other machines, the parking lot and the access roads to the buildings are still unpaved, and building materials are piled up in front of the houses. Is this the right area to plant a new church?
“The Archbishop suggested that I evangelize this young community here, somehow bring the people of Lacina together,” says Pastor Radek Rakowski (38), pastor of the Catholic community that was founded in September 2022. There is no doubt that the new district, in which 21,000 people will live, will need its own priest: According to the Institute for Statistics of the Catholic Church in Poland, in 2021 91 percent of the people in the country were baptized Roman Catholics.
More and more non-religious
According to a survey by the Warsaw Center for Public Opinion Research (Centrum Badania Opinii Spolecznej, CBOS), 83 percent of Poles describe themselves as religious – a world record. But only 28 percent regularly attended Sunday mass – before the corona pandemic it was 36.9. And the proportion of those who describe themselves as non-religious has now reached a record eight percent.
“We found our way back to the church because of this congregation,” says Julia, little Hania’s mother and Maciej’s wife. The 26-year-old and her small family are obviously not the only people in Lacina who like Rakowski’s service: 20 minutes before the next service for families with school children begins, the prayer room is almost full again. There are no more free seats on the benches. In every corner someone is squatting, sitting or kneeling.
A pastor to touch
Pastor Radek checks to see if all the prams can get through to the church or if one got stuck in one of the potholes in front of his church building. And whether the clothes racks at the edge of the prayer room didn’t fall over under the weight of the visitors’ jackets. are they The priest puts the garments in a heap and hides them behind a curtain. He’s obviously used to improvising – and still manages to shake a lot of hands.
“It was my idea to rent an apartment in one of these blocks of flats in order to live among the people here, to share their fate – and thus to build up the community,” Radek tells DW. “People in Lacina came here from all over Poland to start over here.”
Catholic service in the shop
The moment when the Holy Mass begins gives even experienced churchgoers the certainty that they have not lost their way: a real Catholic service is being celebrated here. It is very tight in the former shop. And the ceiling is so low that the sound of the guitar barely carries, no matter how hard Aunt Dominika, who is also the church musician, tries.
Krzysiu, the acolyte, is nine years old. Here and there he still needs a little liturgical reference, but all in all things are going very well. His father, a professor of German at the University of Poznan, is sitting in the second row and is beaming with pride. “This is our parish,” he told DW.
The community is not currently looking for other premises. “Apart from the services, 30 to 40 people usually come together here, so the space fits,” explains Radek Rakowski. The unusual clergyman is known in Poznan like a sore thumb: many pedestrians know him as a fast cyclist, and he is also active on social media.
Radek Rakowski is not a “Reverend”, more of a buddy. The slight tummy and a hearty laugh testify to the fact that the pastor of Lacina feels comfortable among the people here in the new district, who come to his unusual church to pray, talk – and laugh with him.