Fr. Krystian Golisz, S.D.S.
Krystian Golisz was born on February 11, 1958 in Toszek, Poland, a small town about 100km northwest of Krakow. He grew up as the youngest in a family of three children. Church was a central part of life, as for most families in Poland, and Krystian has fond memories of attending many Church-sponsored summer camps and retreats for youth. He came in contact with Salvatorian priests at these camps, many who had served in other countries. They often spoke of their missionary experiences around the world and these stories fired young Krystian's imagination. However, as a teenage he became a self describe "party animal". "I was quite wild", recalls Fr. Krystian, "Lots of girlfriends, and parties every Saturday night. So I had many inner struggles about my future." However, much to the disappointment of a few young ladies in Toszek, in 1977 the then 19 year old decided to go into the priesthood with the Salvatorian Order. He headed to Bagno the site of their Major Seminary. When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope in 1978 it uplifted the spirits and faith of the entire nation which was still under Communist rule.
Krystian was ordained with eight other priests in a small church in Krakow in 1984 with family members inside and friends and extended family members waiting patiently outside listening on speakers. The Communist government was not happy about the ordination of more priests. Many who were at the ordination did not think it was coincidence that just as the Mass began all power was cut off to the church.
The young priest was assigned to the Basilica of St. Jadwiga in Trzebnica, an enormous Romanesque church dating from the 13th century. As associate priest, along with two other young colleagues, he assisted the senior pastor who had been serving at the Basilica for over 50 years. He was, in Fr. Krystian's words, "A very wise and holy man." The huge parish of 20,000 people included many villages in the area. It was a busy time, but Fr. Krystian believes it was the best introduction to the priesthood that he could have had. However, his dream of being a missionary was still very much alive, and so in 1986 he was given permission to serve overseas. The first step was a few months in England taking a basic course in English, and then he headed off to Tanzania, Africa.
The poorest area of Tanzania is on the border with Mozambique, where drought is common, and this is where Fr. Krystian was assigned to serve. With very few resources, no power, and no running water, he and another experienced priest had to deal with many refugees coming across the border to escape the violent conflict in Mozambique at the time. Living in a village, they also travelled constantly to many mission stations in the bush to celebrate Mass, give catechism lessons, perform weddings and funerals, offer counselling and visit the sick. Education and health were also big concerns, and they helped to construct many bush churches, schools and clinics. Salvatorian Sisters were also ministering in the region, working in the clinics and schools.
Altogether, Fr. Krystian spent 10 years in this rural region, living in three different villages and becoming fluent in Swahili. During this time, he also was sent twice to India for six-month stints, where the Salvatorians were seeking to re-establish missions. Again, under very primitive conditions, he served the poor and helped with construction projects.
In 1996, Fr. Krystian was sent to a Formation House in Tanzania, where he was Superior for over 100 local young men from all over the country. After this he served for three years in another rural parish that was not in very good shape. While there, he helped to build a new church and kindergarten. Next he served in the capital city, Dar es Salaam, in a very large parish. He and his associate spent much of their time performing funerals and visiting the sick, as AIDS was a tragic and constant reality. Like many missionaries in Africa, Fr. Krystian suffered from numerous bouts of malaria, and also became very sick with typhoid, spending three months in the hospital thinking that he might be dying. He credits a Swiss nun, with whom he is still in touch, with nursing him back to health and saving his life.
During a holiday visiting a friend in Nanaimo, BC, Fr. Krystian was very impressed with Canada - especially the clean water, always in short supply in many parts of Tanzania. In 2000, he asked to be sent to Canada where he first served as associate priest at Holy Spirit Church in Calgary for six months. When St. Joseph's pastor moved to Edmonton Fr. Krystian became 'temporary' pastor at St. Joseph's and ended up staying for eight years. He and his little dog Watka became beloved fixtures in our parish. He remembers his years at St. Joseph's with much delight. "It was a fantastic experience," he recalls. "Such a beautiful community - I felt like I was part of a big family. There were so many ministries, social activities, great music, and people who really cared for each other." One of his favourite ministries was serving two Masses every Sunday afternoon at the Spy Hill Correctional Centre - as he puts it, "One Mass for the boys, and one for the girls."
From 2009 until 2012 Fr. Krystian served as pastor at St. Rita's Church in Rockyford and St. Mary's in Beiseker. Regularly travelling the 50km between the two towns, he regularly visited parishioners in villages and farms in between. He put many miles on his little car driving to Drumheller Penitentiary every week for his prison ministry.
The story of Fr. Krystian's last three years will continue as soon as he gives it to me....