Today we especially celebrated the person of father Manfred Deselaers who celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination on September 24th 2023.

The celebration was opened by the Centre’s director fr Dariusz Chrostowski who greeted fr Manfred and the gathered guests among whom was the President of the City of Oświęcim Mr Janusz Chwierut, the Mayor of Oświęcim Mr Andrzej Skrzypiński, Consul General of Germany in Kraków Mr Holger Mahnicke, Ms Aleksandra Barchańska an employee of the Consulate General of Germany in Kraków, Mr Krzysztof Antończyk of the State Museum/Memorial Auschwitz – Birkenau, the President of the Board of the “Pomnik – Hospicjum” (Monument – Hospice) Foundation Ms Helena Wisła, the director of the city library Mr Leszek Palus, the director of the International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim Ms Joanna Klęczar, the President of the Roma association in Poland Mr Roman Kwiatkowski, in lieu of the director of the Remembrance Museum of Land of Oświęcim Residents Ms Aleksandra Bibrzycka, Deputy Commune Mayor Ms Halina Musiał, fr Łukasz Kamykowski, Ms Marta Titaniec, Ms Beata Pajest and Mr Marek Lewandowski, the employees of the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim and students of the Salesian School Complex with Ms Marta Chrapczyńska.

Next the students of the Vocational School Complex of the Salesian Society in Oświęcim operating in the Oratory of St. John Bosco in Oświęcim presented a pantomime titled “Chains” about the fight between good and evil in the life of every person. The exceptionally dynamic performance, though in the form of pantomime, did not need any words to convey this simple yet at the same time deep meaning.

After that Ms Beata Sereś of the education department of the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer, who has been working together with fr Manfred for many years, ‘introduced’ him to the gathered guests. In a short presentation she enumerated the most important aspects of fr Manfred’s service, pointing out his contact with witnesses of history, his work for the dialogue between Christians and Jews, reconciliation between Poland and Germany and openness to relations with the East. She underlined an innumerable amount of meetings with groups from all over the world, attending anniversaries and commemorations on the Land of Oświęcim, many conferences and Ways of the Cross in Birkenau.

Another address was made by the President of Oświęcim Mr Janusz Chwierut who thanked fr Manfred for years of involvement in the life of the whole city. He also presented fr Manfred with the Medal of the City of Oświęcim.

The next point of the meeting was a cello performance by Ms Elżbieta Koźbiał from the State Music School in Oświęcim, who performed “La Foi” by Georg Goltermann. The wonderfully performed piece added splendour to the entire ceremony.

Following that, father Manfred gave a short speech beginning with the words “this is not at all about me”. He thanked the gathered guests underlining that his path would not have been possible without the people he met along the way.

Then the directors of the Centre together with Ms Beata in their name and in the name of all the Centre’s employees gave fr Manfred a present – a memoir book with photos and guests’ well wishes and flowers.

Next also other guests gave their gifts and flowers: the mayor of Oświęcim Mr Andrzej Skrzypiński, on behalf of the Oświęcim commune Ms Halina Musiał deputy mayor of the commune, Ms Helena Wisła the President of the Board of the “Pomnik – Hospicjum” (Monument – Hospice) Foundation, Mr. Krzysztof Antończyk from the Auschwitz – Birkenau State Museum.

After the official part the guests could sample exquisite dishes prepared by the amazing staff of the Centre’s kitchen and talk in a less formal environment. The guests were also encouraged to take a book signed by fr Manfred.

We would like to convey our thanks to all the guest for coming, to the artists and everyone who joined in the preparations of this jubilee, especially the director of the Music School, Jolanta Brandys, for helping with the musical setting, the director of the Salesian School Complex, fr MSc. Andrzej Urbańczyk and fr Paweł Bróż, who takes care of the oratory and the group, and Ms Marta Chrapczyńska, who came with the group.

Photo gallery by Mr Wojciech Andrzejczak